What to do when you’re stuck with nothing to write
When articles and tales simply refuse to type themselves
Every now and then we all get stuck. We stare at the computer screen, fingers poised on the keyboard but nothing comes out. Your mind remains blank, no matter how hard you try.
If you’re unlucky like me, a random song pops into your head and refuses to stop playing the chorus on repeat.
So what do you do? Wait for inspiration to strike? Surf the internet for a little bit? Go play a game or two?
From personal past experiences, the listed above rarely works. 99.9999999% of the time it doesn’t work at all. Here are some strategies I found that works quite effectively when I’m stuck for words.
It’s past 10pm and you’re feeling tired from a long day of commute, work, the kids and general housework. You decide to clock in an episode or two of your latest Netflix series.
By the time you go to bed, it’s some ridiculous hour — only to be up and out the door again the next day.
It’s not your fault you have so many things to do and sleep just isn’t your priority right now. That can wait another day. Maybe a Sunday.
You try to write but your brain decides to do a fart. You’ve got nothing — no matter how hard you try with your third cup of coffee. Maybe you’re just not cut out to a writer.
Or many you’re just so mentally and physically tired to feel the rushing sense of inspiration even if it hits you with a crowbar.
A study shows that sleep deprivation reduces your creativity, alertness, and ability to concentrate. Even after a good night sleep, there is still some latency in reducing the impacts of sleep deprivation.
On days where things just get too much and I become overtired, I skip everything and prioritize my sleep.
When I prioritize my sleep, I’m also prioritizing my writing goals.
Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.
— Abraham Lincoln
Our brain is our axe. Every now and then it becomes dull with constant and repetitive usage. If you want to remain fresh with ideas, sharpen it with the ideas of others.
When we read, we allow ourselves to absorb the experiences, emotions, intelligence, and wisdom of others.
Personally, I read non-fiction because I enjoy learning about the different perspectives that my chosen paperback gives me. When I get really stuck, I read — not your usual Facebook feed stuff — but actual real brain food that requires a bit of thinking and processing to digest.
Some are heavier than others.
Some have nothing to do with what I’m trying to write.
Some sit in the back of my mind, their ideas ready to be pulled out and reexamined when the time is ripe.
Sometimes the mind is groggy from all the non-activity.
You’re not physically tired. But mentally — you’re gone.
I find that walking helps rejuvenate me physically and mentally. Perhaps its something to do with the trees and the falling leaves. Perhaps its to do with the active form of meditation it brings.
When I walk, I think about nothing. I just walk with a mindfulness of the world around me and how my body feels. I focus on my breath and the sounds of the passing cars. I don’t bother to look at my phone.
I just walk.
According to researchers at New Mexico Highlands University, they found that the impact of the foot against the ground during walking sends “sends pressure waves through the arteries that significantly modify and can increase the supply of blood to the brain.”
Perhaps the increase blood flow and circulation is the reason why I often feel recharged after a mentally draining day.
Sometimes its dark and I just don’t feel like walking. Sometimes I just feel too yucky to write because I’m sticky from the sweat or grime of the day.
Sometimes I just need a shower to reset my mental state rather than try and slog through.
A relaxing shower can help release dopamine into your system.
Or if you’re feeling brave, a cold shower has been scientifically found to effectively increase your dopamine level. I’m not sure if it’s because you’re also just happy to be out of the cold afterwards.
But what I do know is that if I’m not physically tired from lack of sleep, then my brain usually clears up enough to write.
We often procrastinate when we get stuck for words. I find that if I consistently attach the act of writing with a positive feeling, then writing becomes easier.
If I’m tired — physically and mentally — I avoid writing and reschedule it for another time and day. If I’m just having a brain fart, then I give reading or taking a shower a go. When these things don’t work, I generally just go to sleep (if it’s night).
Sometimes the brain just needs time to come up with something. So I give my subconscious a little bit of a warning by telling it the exact time I’m going to need it to step up.
Everyone has their tactics. These are mine. I hope it helps in some way.