I am a writer. That is who I am and I am proud of it. I enjoy selling ideas, thoughts, and perspectives on paper. I say selling because I believe there is a bit of persuasiveness in all types of writing. When we write, we are appealing to our audience to continue reading, to turn the page. I view writing as selling on paper.
As much as I enjoy writing, after I graduated in 2019 with my doctorate in education, I was mentally exhausted. I experienced the worst writer’s block that I could have ever imagined. The words simply stopped coming. I believe I had valuable things to share, but my thoughts were not coming together. Questioning my writing abilities, my only recourse was to self-diagnose my symptoms as a type of PTSD. After four years and seven months of a rigorous program and having a paper due every Sunday for two of those years, I felt traumatized.
I experienced this block for a full year and a half. It was not until Fall of 2020 that I was inspired to write an article about empathy. The world was going through the toils of a COVID Pandemic, and we were experiencing the racial tension amplified by the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others. I was in the shower on a Sunday morning and the idea to write about practical ways to show empathy came to mind. Well, by 10:00 A.M. the article was written, and I submitted it to the marketing team.
By Spring 2021 my writing mojo was back, new ideas began to flow and I was better able to express my thoughts clearly. Because of what I went through, I now have a greater appreciation for writing formulas and structure and I am owning my own style of writing. As I reflected on my time of writing drought, I learned some things about overcoming the writer’s block I had experienced.
Four Ways you May Overcome your Experience with Writer’s Block
For many years, I have kept a notebook near my bed. I wanted to be prepared to jot down thoughts and ideas at any time during the night. That was advice I heard at church one Sunday many years ago. I do not remember the sermon topic, but that advice really resonated and stuck with me. Well, the notebook has been replaced with a smartphone, but the purpose is still the same, to jot down precious thoughts and ideas. The notes app on my phone is filled with random tidbits, some developed and some half-baked. And that is okay. To overcome writer’s block, create space to capture new topics of interest to you, even if it’s 2:00 A.M.
Try not to get discouraged or stress yourself. Expect the ideas to come and be ready to record them when they do.
It feels as if someone told every software company that writer’s block is a thing. Now more than ever, there are many free tools, as well as some subscription based ones that offer a dictation or transcribing feature. I find the Dictation feature in Microsoft Word, the Office 365 version extremely helpful. As long as you are in a quiet space, this feature can be your friend. I have also used the transcription feature in Zoom. Your entire meeting will be transcribed, and time stamped within minutes, giving you a wonderful start to writing a masterpiece. I have also used Otter.ai, a voice recording software that can be used alone or added to a video conferencing app. There is a free version that gives 600 minutes of storage space. Setting up an account is easy, and I have used it directly on the web. Finally, I have used the dictation feature on my iPhone. Whether in the car or at home, I simply speak and allow my phone to turn the audio into text. After a little cleanup, I typically email the text to myself and then paste it into MS Word for later use.
Throughout the past year, I increased my reading time. With such a busy schedule, I did not have quiet time to sit down with a cup of tea and snuggle with an interesting read. So again, using my smartphone, I either listened to books via Audible or read quick articles on LinkedIn, Harvard Business Review, news channels or professional associations. I listened to Audible in the car or while cooking. At night or early in the morning, I read. I figured that if I could not write, perhaps I could support others who clearly were not experiencing writer’s block. I was also looking for inspiration. Perhaps something said or read would send me to the computer with my fingers itching to tell a story. On the worst day, I read or listened to a great article or book. And on the best day, I had great notes that could contribute to a future article.
Even though it may seem like a lifetime, writer’s block is temporary. It is almost like what older women tell younger couples who are trying to have a baby. The advice is often something like, “You’re trying too hard. Relax baby; it will happen.”
After my doctoral graduation in the Fall of 2019, I returned to Atlanta on Thursday and started working as a Principal Consultant for TiER1 Performance the next day. I did not give myself a break, and of course we all know what happened a few short months later. Yup, COVID-19. It was a stress fest for all of us. So, following the advice of wise women, I say to you, “Relax baby, it will happen.” The words will come when you free yourself of stress and anxiety.
So the next time you experience writer’s block or need inspiration for your coming masterpiece, try increasing your reading time, keeping notes, using dictation software, and most important of all, relaxing. It is a temporary condition. Hang in there and believe that you will come out on the other side better and stronger.