'Writing blocks and what to do about them'
Don't writing blocks absolutely suck? I always find that they come out of nowhere as well, which never helps, since it's not like it's something you can see coming. Several times I've had all these plans in my head about how productive I need to be that day, and things just don't go according to plan no matter how badly I need them to. Has this ever happened to you? Maybe you're one of those lucky people that doesn't get affected by a writing block at an inopportune time, or maybe you're like me where you don't get them very often, but when you get them, oh boy do you get them. Either way, this little guide here is for you. Here's three things you can do about writing blocks!
One: take a step back.
I mean this literally as much as figuratively. Many a time, I have sat down to work only to feel like cement has filled up my brain and that I cannot make anything useful happen. After a walk by the sea though, my favourite destress tactic it has to be said, I often find that my stress levels have reduced, which makes putting fingers to computer that much easier. A lot of the time, I find it's my stressing about the invisible block that made working so much harder in the first place. Once the stress goes away, the ability to write normally returns, since I my knowledge and skill never left, it was just a case that something threw off my groove.
Second: rebuild that thought.
What are most writing blocks caused by? In my case, as I said, stress is what forces me into an unproductive corner. However, this stress is caused in the first place by a weird underestimation of my subject matter, where I create a loose plan about what I want that script to be, and then when I go to write, I find that there's so much more to it than I had thought, and that the sources I had originally relied upon don't go far enough. What do I do in that situation? Well normally I see option one, since going for a walk and leaving that computer screen behind is always important for headspace. Let me put it this way - I've never had an epiphany while staring at my computer.
Once I walk away, that's when things get interesting. I take it back to the basics - what am I trying to say in this episode, and what key problems am I facing that make writing this script so difficult today? Answering both these questions requires being a bit real with yourself, and accepting, as I have done, that I wasn't as prepared as I thought in the first place. I break out that notepad and write down what I want to cover, and what I feel is the problem. This helps me visualise what I already imagined was holding me back. Then, with the problems identified, solutions can also be identified for each problem.
This might sound simplistic, but think about how much more overwhelming everything feels when it's all swimming around in your head. Only when you knock that mountain down to the molehill that it actually is will you be able to identify the problem, and whether that's down to a lack of course material, a need for more in depth research before you actually sit down to write, or just a lack of attention span this particular day, you'll never be able to find the solution if you just sit there stubbornly and refuse to accept that unlike yesterday, something is going wrong.
Now I can guess your next question - 'but Zack, what if I don't find the solution and I just sit there like a lemon?' Well that's ok history friend - you don't need to be a difference maker every day. Maybe today just isn't a day that you write a few hundred or thousand words, and maybe today is a day that you read about the topic in more detail, and you take a few notes. This is the nitty gritty detective work which isn't always fun to do, but you can make it fun by going easy on yourself, getting a drink, your book or phone or what have you, and taking a few notes, building up the episode you want to write, so that it flows onto the pages when you actually go to write it.
Third: own that block by beating it with another exercise.
My wife is a genius (sometimes). It was her idea, on one occasion where I literally could not write a sensible word and it was 'script day', to get rid of the idea of script day and instead make today 'record and edit day'. That way, as she said, you might not have produced a script, but you're still being productive because you're still making something. You're getting work done which you had put off for a while (website maintenance, looking at you), you replied to those emails you ignored for several weeks (I'll be right with you all I swear..) and maybe, just maybe, you said to heck with it all, and made today your day of rest rather than Saturday, or Wednesday, or whatever day it normally is.
My point is, my wife's point was, you need to flexible when you're a podcaster, and the best way to beat a writing block is to beat it over the head with evidence that, actually, you did kill it today, just not in the theatre of production you expected to kill it in. That's ok, and in the future, when you have those episodes recorded which you decided to record instead of sitting around and moping, you'll be all the happier for it. This was incredibly hard for me to accept, since I like planning, and I hate changing my plans, but as my wife repeatedly reiterates, a plan is no use if it cannot be altered.
Who knows what might happen in an hour's time, tomorrow or next week - we have to be flexible, especially if you're part of the real world and have a day job in addition to your podcasting hobby. Sometimes writing blocks are just with you for the day, for whatever reason, but rather than be consumed by stress, own that writing block by taking the opportunity to shine your attentions onto something you've neglected for a while now. Surely there's SOMETHING else you could do which would help you, other than write a script?
On one occasion, rather than write a script I couldn't seem to write, I wrote a blog post which I was interested in. I then decided to make it into a script and an actual podcast episode since I was having such a good time, and lo and behold, this episode of WDF THINKS was born. Sometimes, rather than a complete and utter pain, writing blocks can be a silver lining, so embrace them, don't run in fear.
Hopefully this has been of some use to you guys. If you genuinely suffer from a lack of productivity, the main thing to remember is not to stress out - you are doing a service by podcasting full stop, so don't worry about it. The content will come, and your listeners will be there when that time comes too. Make sure and share this advice around if you found it useful history friends. Until next time, thanksss for reading and I'll be seeing you all soon.