Tools in the fight against the self-inflicted misery of writer’s block

There’s not many things I hate. Years of consideration have revealed that, while I get frustrated, dislike, or even despise, various people, places, objects, or ideas, hate is a powerful emotion that doesn’t often enter my psyche. Until there’s a blinking cursor, that is.

Whether it was in the newsroom on deadline, or at home with a notebook, getting writer’s block is a painful, and powerful misery that you have to experience to believe. Imagine being a mechanic, and suddenly not being able to reach any of your wrenches, or a musician who can’t find middle C. In my experience, the news writing (or blog writing) variety of block is extra painful, since the information is all there in notes, or interviews, it’s a matter of putting it together in a cohesive manner.

While avoiding writing by talking to a friend on Facebook (not technically a type of writer’s block), I brought this up – and realized there’s some crossover between writer’s block and anxiety for me. Both can involve cyclical thoughts and catastrophizing, both can leave me feeling frustrated with myself, and both make me rather irritating to be around.

On that same thread of thought was an interesting idea: the tools I use for anxiety can work for writer’s block, and the tools I use for writer’s block could work for anxiety. Here’s a few of them:

  • Just breathe. I love short, guided meditations like body scans, and ASMR. The audio of brief clips can be very relaxing to me and I’ve used them with success to calm down when I start to excessively worry. Today, when trying to kickstart a bit of writing for work, I tried the same tool – and it worked!
  • Hug a puppy. My work can sometimes be depressing (part of working for a wildlife protection group). That’s when sitting and patting or cuddling one of my dogs becomes a tool for self-care. I find it helps me feel whatever it is I’m experiencing, and let it go. It may be a way to release some of that frustration from writer’s block, and help clear away the clouds.
  • Play with a puppy. The dogs in my home don’t play, they PLAY. My wife trains them in agility, and getting outside to toss a frisbee or fetch Chuck-it balls for 15 minutes is great at relieving writer’s block. It includes fresh air, a bit of physical exercise, and the pleasure of watching the dogs do something they absolutely love. While anxiety makes me want to curl up, pushing myself to get outside with the dogs could be a big gamechanger on a rough day.
  • Walk away. I don’t mean avoidance – intentionally not doing something because it makes me uncomfortable. I mean when I’m writing and can’t quite get it, or I’m trying to move numbers around in a bank account and growing worried, I walk away, do something else, and come back at it without the cyclical thoughts about the task at hand floating about.

Of course, these don’t always work. No one tool works all the time for every problem. But I’m kind of excited to try crossing over strategies and see how it works out – and I’m REALLY excited to hear what tools you use to break away from writer’s block (or your version of it) and anxiety in the comments below!

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