Creative Ways to Combat Writer’s Block

I started this blog with a few intentions in mind. As someone in the technology startup industry I felt somewhat inadequate for not having my own, personal internet real estate that I could claim as wholly mine – especially as a developer whose job it is to craft applications on the web. In this age of social media and personal branding,

I also wanted to attempt crafting my online persona through longer-form posts on (hopefully) interesting things. Things that would captivate and also add value to others and shed light on who I am and what I think. With less than 10 posts to date in the year that I’ve setup this site, in my opinion, I’ve fallen short of fully realizing both of these goals – particularly the second one. Why? Writing is hard for me. As much as I’d (reservedly) enjoy the ego trip of shamelessly plugging my own posts on social networks shouting “Hey! Look at this thing I wrote!” I have not got into a rhythm of creating them. Writer’s block has, for the most part, impeded my ability to write. It’s a terrible feeling to want to create but lack the inspiration, that internal conviction, to punch out some words in order to claim your place on the internet, form your online identity and maybe even impart some new knowledge on others. In an effort for me to get over this silly writer’s block phenomenon (and also get a publishable post out of draft status), I’ve jotted down a quick list of personal suggestions for getting over writer’s block.

Ask Friends

The idea for this particular post came from a friend of mine, Brian Breslin, via Facebook. (Feel free to praise/chastise him for it.)

Brian's post suggestion
Brian’s post suggestion
In one of my occasional bouts of self pity for not blogging more I posted to Facebook and Twitter. At first I thought Brian’s suggestion was amusing, ironic and very dismissible. Being the overthinking that I am, however, I mulled the idea over somewhat and realized it was probably a good place to start. Such a post, I thought, would be dual-purpose. First off, it would cause me to consider ways of getting over my own mental roadblocks and secondly produce a post out of it as a result – provided that I put the effort into writing them down. I believe this is a great example of how friends or even the people around you can be a good source for inspiration. Consider tapping them for external influence on what could help spark the drive for that new piece you could write about. Specifically asking friends could be very useful since they may end up filling the role of your personal Pandora for ideas – given that they can leverage knowledge of you and your experiences that you may not give much credit to. Hear them out!

Note the Obvious

Every so often I become pleasantly captive to simple content online. These times affirm for me that a post/content doesn’t have to be complex or long to be interesting and worthy of sharing. As I write this, I remember one particular image I came across on Twitter sometime ago:

Metadata contained in a tweet
Tweet metadata
That is a visualization of the metadata stored with the creation of each tweet (found here). I’ve played with the Twitter API firsthand to a limited extent, have seen all of this data (if not more since the image was published) but thought nothing of sharing this knowledge. I took it for granted and it’s easy to gloss over. After all, as a developer, this data isn’t ever really my end goal in writing an application. The end goal tends to be what’s done with it, how its presented or manipulated that is more interesting. I, however, found some novelty in this visualization when looking at it in the context of wrapping a single tweet. At most a tweet contains the infamous 140 characters but as you can see it can say so much more behind the scenes. Remember that not everyone knows what you know. Don’t underestimate your knowledge. Consider examining things that seem mundane and blatantly obvious to you in order to find something to explain or teach to others from your perspective and presented differently from the norm. It could prove to be useful to someone else who has yet to come across what you know. Embrace writing the “stupid stuff”.

Consider What You Do For Fun

Go Kart Racing with a friend at K1 Speed
What do you do for fun or as a hobby? What are you pretty good at or maybe even struggling to learn? What are you doing on the side?  Do things, write about it. Consider sharing the story of your journey to where you are skills-wise in what you do. What about mentioning goals you’ve set and/or demolished? Share tips from what you’ve learned. Why do you like what you do? What motivates you? Someone, somewhere out on the interwebz will appreciate your perspective and may even be driven to get started on creating their version of it or help better your own efforts at it. Sharing is caring they say.

Give Up (Temporarily)

Programming often entails quite a bit of logical thinking to account for a multitude of possible scenarios in a program. Even if you have a mental game plan of what needs to be done to complete your task, sometimes your brain isn’t up for actually executing on it. Worse if you don’t know what you need to do, or in the case of this post, write about. When that happens consider dropping the task completely and allow your mind to wander. Get up, walk around, chat with a friend/coworker, check Twitter, start another task, listen to music, stop listening to music. Anything. On encountering a ‘idk what is supposed to happen here?’ kind of moment on the job, I find that disconnecting from that unproductive mental context and engaging another one oddly enough sometimes results in awesome “ah-ha!” revelations produced from the subconscious. Such a suggestion seems counter-productive but is worth the effort. Give your brain a chance to relax on the immediate issue you’re stuck on and refresh itself for a comeback!

Hopefully some of these ideas help spur your creative process enabling you to put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard/screen, whatever) or help you come up with your own means of getting inspired. By the way, I’m well aware that I didn’t give you 10 ways to combat writer’s block as Brian originally suggested.  Let’s just say that if I tried to force myself to come up with more than I wrote about above this post would be banished to draft status purgatory forever. And yes. That is a thing because I said so on the internet. Happy writing!