Manufacturing Creativity to Get Past Writer’s Block

Finding creativity when you’re stuck in the swamp

Writer’s block is the white-knuckle nightmare of writers everywhere. The problem is not the getting stuck but how debilitating it is. The more you stress, the more you’re stuck. If you’re a small business owner using content marketing as your online strategy, who has time for all this drama when you’re out there pounding the pavement?

I’m going to share a secret with you. Manufacturing creativity is a powerful antidote to writer’s block – every single time. In fact, I’ll argue there’s really no such thing as writer’s block…

Prolific writers are made, not born

are you stuck in a box?I’ve written more than 2,000 blog posts, bylined articles in national newspapers and magazines like the Boston Globe and Women’s Health and contributed to countless anthologies, guidebooks and regional publications. And that’s not including the fiction book hiding on a hard drive in my basement or the countless essays and articles that will never be ready for public consumption.

Yes, I’m a writer but the writing process has never been easy for me. Like many writers, I’m wildly insecure about my writing and being published rarely reassures me. In fact, it pushes me to produce more and stretch further, like a race with a million way points. For me, manufacturing creativity is hard work and takes an extraordinary amount of energy but without it my creativity would be dead in the water.

Concentrated effort

My muse is a lot like Miley Cyrus – she performs better with bon-bons and liquor and lots and lots of immediate attention from her peeps. Trouble is the window of creativity is pretty small once alcohol becomes part of the equation – and hiring your own cheerleading squad is not exactly work-friendly.

To get around my muse (read: shut the tramp up), I’ve created a routine that fires a signal to my brain that it’s time to work. It’s a constant reminder that yes, creativity is work. If you’ve read anything about forming a new habit, it takes almost a full (painful) month for it to settle itself in your brain. The good news is that if you’re diligent, you’ll be manufacturing creativity on a daily basis and writer’s block will be in your rear view mirror.

how do you spark your muse?Everyone’s creative process is different and depending on the medium you’re working in, you’ll need different tools and triggers to fire yours in the direction you want to go. These are mine…

  • Set the stage – Dedicate a spot that’s just for your creative process. If you normally sit at a desk, move to an armchair or sofa maybe. Or if you’re in a cubicle, move to a lounge area – just find a more secluded spot so you’re not bothered every couple of minutes.
  • Go to the bathroom – It might sound silly but making sure you’re physically comfortable lets you concentrate on the work at hand. While you’re at it grab yourself a (non-alcoholic) drink so your brain stays hydrated while under pressure.
  • Turn off all distractions – Shut down email, Twitter, Facebook and whatever else drags your attention away from creating. Every time your brain swerves away from producing, you’re losing efficiency. Procrastinating with social media is creativity-killing habit.
  • Just do it – Duct tape your editor and just write. Ignore grammar, punctuation, spelling mistakes – all of it. If you focus on the details, you’re allowing that trampy muse to win. Just let yourself write.
  • Edit like a drill sergeant – While free-writing creates the gravy-train of content production, editing distills it something digestible. Your blog posts represent you online and ensuring that your thought process is on-target and your content is mistake-free will set you apart from the hobbyists. I don’t know about you, but I’m in business to make a living.
  • Invest in tools – Writing compelling content is only the first step. Invest in an editorial calendar, SEO, social media and a kick-ass web presence that signals to search engines and searches that you know what you’re talking about. All of that combined lets your customers know you’re the right company to invest in for their needs – and that’s a beautiful thing.

Are you ready to rock your content marketing strategy and put writer’s block in your rear view mirror forever? I would love to hear how you do it and if any of my tips helped. Of course, if you have any to share, I’ll be eternally grateful as well – I can use all the help I can get!

Let’s continue the conversation on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn (whichever one works best for you) or leave a comment below.

4 Responses to “Manufacturing Creativity to Get Past Writer’s Block”

  1. Darleen says:

    I am still practising and have not been published publicly as much as you, but due to age probably have similar amount of writing completed. A lot buried, or hiding, and other as blog posts, journals, technical documents, newsletters, and newspaper editorials.

    Yes, I think being stuck, and staring at the blank page or writers block, is very common. Or we make excuses as why this is not a good time to write. To get past I have posted on Facebook about writing course I am currently taking, that deals with this along the way of building blocks required to be in place to write. The idea of Manufactured Creativity I can certainly agree with partially – the setup of writing area for sure. You need to be prepared for how to combat the self defeat and monster sabotage of ” I suck” … Which can be reversed, by writing for yourself. As for just writing, I think there should be some structure to start and then write without editing – The Shitty First Draft.

    As for how to be creative or muse or whatever, I find reading is my muse. And then writing itself, opens my mind to creativity that abounds in my world. A chance meeting in a parking lot, or conversation about messy hallway are all tidbits to pull out at the right time. Writing even crap, often gets the juices going again. Other suggestions have been to be part of a writers group. I have read about some authors, such as Stephen King, that have had to take breaks to cottage or feed the other senses somehow, to be able to get back to writing.

    Another final point – I was stuck with writing due to a topic being stuck in my mind, that I thought I wanted, had to write about. The issue was it is not a topic that I felt comfortable sharing with the world. I got past it, by writing about it for myself only. It is now off my brain, and maybe I will go back to it, or maybe not, but I am released.

    • Julia Rosien says:

      Hi Darleen, I think hit the nail on the head – we make excuses why this isn’t a good time to write or why we’re not good enough. I’ve taught creative writing at the college level, in online courses and in a prison and “writers” are pretty much the same everywhere. Most of us are so riddled with insecurity, it can be debilitating. The good news is that a strict process can help eliminate that insecurity. When writing becomes a habit, it’s easier to shut down the negativity before it takes hold.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the writing process and what works well for you – some great gems in there!

  2. Daniel says:

    Hi Julia,

    Great post. I love the idea of manufacturing creativity. I do my serious writing first thing in the morning. I think it helps that I work from home. I find that when I start writing even before the sleep has left my head completely allows me to tap into my creative mind before the rest of my (more rational) brain wakes up and spoils the party. I can do this for 2-4 hours straight (I wake up very early!) It’s a strange thing but even wondering what to have for breakfast or what to wear just sends me into a spiral that completely diminishes access to any creativity.

    Thanks again for getting me thinking with this post.

    Dan

  3. Gautam Hans says:

    Loved the idea of no writer’s block. I too believe if you clear ur mind and set it free, u will get something. Even if it is bad, it can be polished by editing and adding supporting media.
    Reading and reading helps a lot for me. Some of my posts get inspiration from the books i have read or the newspaper.
    I also try a few writing tricks like mind-mapping and jotting down keywords and building post ideas around it.


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