Tuesday, June 11, 2013

How I Got Over Writer's Block

Outside of illustration, I like to write. I often write because it helps with my creativity and I like to share ideas. Writing has become another way to communicate outside of making images. It makes me feel part of something larger than my four walls in an effort to contribute. 

Like many talented folks before me, I developed writers block. I must confess, I didn't fully understand this affliction right way. The thing about me is, I am always "on" and I definitely do not suffer from boredom. I knew the ideas were there-I just couldn't get them out.  

So how did this happen? 

I think it was a combination of not being physically well for a while which caused lack of energy in combination with a busy life. Not a good mix for creativity right? I hear you, I could use a vacation.

Even though I was unable to write, I still felt the need to put words together. It didn't really make sense to me so I stepped away for a while. I decided to do a little experiment to see what could work to help me move through this word blockade. The following list are some ideas that helped me through it.   

1. Watching stand-up comedy-
Laughter can be the smartest way to distract yourself. Not only does it lift your mood, it releases all those happy chemicals in your big brain to open up the hand of thought. Laughing is not a waste of time. It truly is amazing how the littlest things about life can be constructed on stage in a very side-splitting way!

Best part: it's contagious. It lets you forget about your long to-do lists so you can escape for a while. Odd observations and comical life issues have a funny way of making you feel human and grateful that we make it in this world everyday!

2. Watching TED Talks-
I found when I watched TED talks on creativity and new ways to do things it motivated me to take action; any action. I enjoy the process behind success and ideas. I love how people can just get up on stage and talk about their experiences in very inspiring ways. These talks gave me tips, advice and made me feel that just doing and trying are the best parts. 

Best parts: I got to watch these talks-
Shawn Achor-The happy secret to better work. 
Amanda Palmer- The Art Of Asking.
• Jane McGonigal: The game that can give you 10 extra years of life.
• Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are.

3. Listening to webinars and podcasts-
On the rare days I do not want to listen to music as I illustrate, I will listen to podcasts or web chats. I listened to creativity, social networking, business, writing and some on the concept of being happy. I tried to grab something that could be useful from everything I listened to. 

Best part: It has motivated me to want to have my own podcast! 

4. Taking a break from writing-
Yes, like I mentioned earlier I walked away from it for awhile. I still made notes and jotted down ideas but the main task of writing was temporally ignored. Forcing ideas and pushing against that stubborn wall was not going to happen. Having any type of creative block in my opinion is your brain trying to tell you something. It's often a sign that you need a break. The problem is, we don't always stop long enough to pay attention to find out whats wrong. 

Best part: I got over the need to be working all the time. It's one of those personal permissions I always go on about. Yes, we need to work to pay bills and we need to take breaks for our health too!

5. Reading lyrics-
We have all sorts of reasons why we listen to the kind of music we do. With that said, how often do look at the lyrics or even have a true understanding of what these songs are about? When you stop and look at a song you see that lyrics are written in haiku like snippets and parts but not always in full sentences. These snippets are subtle, metaphorical and often times very cryptic. When you find a good one, the words can be very visual and useful. 

Best part: I got to update my infinite work play list. Also, I gained many new ideas for new portfolio work. That is a huge bonus because I am currently having my website redesigned!  

6. Writing down ideas in point form- 
When you feel blocked, just making a paragraph happen can seem like one great big army crawl. Jotting notes down is a liberating exercise to just make ideas happen but without all the control. Who cares that you left out a period or you spelled a word wrong. Just get it down. Chances are, you will be the only person deciphering it later anyway. If it ends up reading like Klingon mixed with Ikea furniture instructions, you might want to pull back and have it more legible. 

Best part: I am able to now get ideas down faster without the worry of having to add every little detail. 

7. Poring over magazines and books on creativity- 
Similar to your note making, magazines use buzz words and short headline sentences. This is a good training ground to sum up your ideas. Your brain may feel like one big run on sentence, but your writing does not need to be. 

Books on creativity help because they focus on the whole point of your career; making stuff! Of course you will get endless lessons out of it. 

Best part: I picked up new books for my office library and it gave me more and more ideas for illustrations. 

8. Hooking up with words! 
I love thesaurus.com. I spend a lot of time looking up words, their meaning, and spelling just because words are cool. Illustration is linked heavily to narrative so it makes sense to jump into that. 

Best part: I have a full notebook of ideas for work, a new book proposal, and many blog post ideas.  

9. Sleeping more- 
It's good to be be lazy. Who knew? We are never okay when we are overtired. Not enough sleep, too much coffee, lack of light and feeling rushed can be a real creative downer. At some point, coffee stops working when you've hit a certain level of exhaustion. 

Best part: My insomnia is gone plus I am getting up earlier. This extra quiet time helps lengthen my day before the kids get up. 

10. Focusing on health-
How you physically feel really does affect everything you do. Similar to creative block; it reminds you to pay attention when you are not feeling a hundred percent. So proper hydration and eating better can seem basic but we often lose sight of it. I also make myself get up from my desk more often to give my eyes a break.  

Best part: Very few headaches and less eye strain. I also get to include my kids in exercise. I never have to give them an excuse to jump about and play loud music. Also, I'm starting to feel like old self again. 

11. Using my smart phone for voice memos- 
My neighbours probably think I'm nuts when I chat at my phone while not necessarily having it up to my ear. I should mention I do this at the bus stop. Why do these ideas happen there? I have no idea. I'm just going to go ahead and say it's like the shower effect for many. You step away, you get busy and then bang!...all the ideas hit you at once leaving you scrambling to save them somewhere!

Best part: I'm not losing anymore thoughts or ideas when I am doing the Mum thing!

12. Changing my morning routine.
By nature, I work best when I get up early. I no longer want to get online right away. I am making a conscious effort to steer clear of negative energy or images as I wake up. I try to read something motivating, watch something inspiring or I sit quietly with my coffee and let ideas just percolate. I never gave much thought about waking up differently or better. Now that I am older, I am realizing how waking up well can effect your whole day. 

Best part: My energy seems to be on an even keel. I notice when something inspires me, that theme carries on all day like an archaeological dig by making me going deeper with it. This jump starts the learning process and that makes me a happy girl!

Hope some of these ideas help. Of course, many of these ideas can be applied to illustration too. Have a great week. Happy creating!
-Holly 

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