How To Write Forever By Doing The Impossible

Forever & Ever

Occasionally, I hit a spot where I just don’t feel like writing and nothing seems to flow. I’ll want to write forever, but I start 4 or 5 different pieces and they all end up incomplete. I can’t really get behind anything and every time I sit down to write and I’m just full of blah.

I hate those times but I know I’m not the only one that feels like that so instead of complaining, here are 5 ways I’ve found to break through writers block and the 1 question that helps me write forever.

Read Something Inspiring

One of the fastest ways to get inspired is to see other people do inspiring things. There’s something about watching other people do impossible things that makes you want to jump out of your seat and do something on your own.

You probably have your own inspiring people you follow but here are a few of my favorites:

It’s important to note, you need to be careful with this. Reading about inspiration or following inspiring people can be an addicting habit that distracts you from actually doing something inspiring [which is what we're really after].

Watch A TED Talk

Video does something words just can’t sometimes and TED talks are some of the best video resources on the web. TED is a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. They bring speakers & thought leaders to speak, record them and put them all on their website for free. Whatever you’re interested in, you can find a video that will challenge you and make you think. Did I mention the fact that it’s all free? I can’t say enough good things about TED. In fact, you might want to stop reading this post and start watching some TED talks now. Don’t worry, I’ll still be here when you come back.

Change Your Location

Stop writing in the same spot. Maybe a desk is the best place to write. Maybe it’s not. A desk is probably not the best place for you to write. Get a good writing chair. Find a couch. Get outside. A change of scenery snaps you out of “business as usual” and forces you to think differently and thinking differently is how new ideas are born.

Exercise

Get in the gym. Pump some iron. Go for a swim, a walk, a bike ride, just get some blood flowing. You’d be surprised how getting your body moving helps to get your mind moving as well. A moving mind has a lot of ideas. If you have 1 idea, you have something to write about. Then the only things left to do is…

Just Write The Stupid Thing

There’s a lot of talk about “finding your zone” and working when you work best and writing when you’re inspired, but sometimes you just have to write the stupid thing. Sit down, give yourself a deadline, and write it out. It’s a fight between you and the keyboard and don’t  stop until you win.

Runners run. Painters paint. Writers write. Just because writing is a”creative art” doesn’t mean you can neglect the discipline of practice. You have to do stuff you don’t always feel like doing. You got to suck it up and write it and press publish when you say you don’t feel like publishing. You’ve got to ship it.

The 1 Question That Will Let You Write Forever

If you’ve got writers block and none of the things above help, here’s a good question to ask yourself:

Are you doing anything worth writing about?

It’s a good question to ask yourself regularly anyways and something that I try to be mindful of as I write here. Are you doing something cool, something interesting, something meaningful, something impossible?

If I can’t honestly answer that question with a solid “yes”, I know it’s time to find something that challenges me or helps other [or both!]. At that moment, I can choose to pick something from the the impossible list [all of which are meaningful and challenging to me] and start working towards it immediately. Put another way:

If your life was made into a story, would you want to read it?

If you answered “yes” to that,  good job, you’re on the right track. Keep doing impossible things and you’ll find it gets easier to write when you’re doing something that deserves writing.  If you can’t answer “yes” without your conscience sounding an alarm, there’s one more question you need to ask yourself: What are you going to do about it?

Comments

  1. says

    Joel, “Just Write The Stupid Thing” really is the key, I suppose. Shipping is still hard, and I know the “start 4 or 5 post and finish none” phenomenon just too well. What I noted to be useful was to practice every single day – and make a commitment to edit stuff down. Editing takes far more time and effort than the initial writing, at least in my case. Since I acknowledged that, I now feel I’m getting better at the shipping part.

    Thanks for the mentions, too – glad to be one of the inspirators. You’re just too right though, that we shouldn’t get lost in inspiration! “Inspire, fire, ship.” That’s the best way to go, probably! :)

    • says

      Editing is the hard part. Unfortunately the hard parts are usually the parts you need to do the most.

      I think you’re on to something with that tagline – you just need one more word that rhymes – “inspire, fire, …retire?” :p

  2. says

    My two favorite block breakers: Exercise, and powering through. I wrote about how important exercise is to my creative process, although I’m not happy with how it came out. I’m sure I’ll revisit that, it’s key.

    Powering through (just write the stupid thing) works too. Getting something, anything down gives me a place to start with later, so I don’t end up staring at a blank screen all over again.

    Thanks, Joel! It’s good to know the ways other people work through that inevitable moment when you just don’t feel inspired. I like the idea of asking if I’m doing anything worth writing about, too. If I’m not, then I need to change that.

  3. says

    Here’s what I do: just accept this isn’t the best time for writing and go do something else. I find that ideas flow all day long—except when I’m trying to force them. There doesn’t have to be any tension between getting in the zone and shipping it. There’s plenty of time for both. I’m curious if the posts that you have to ‘power through’ end up being the ones you’re most satisfied with?

    • says

      Lach – back with the questions :) haha.

      I don’t know if they’re the one’s I’m most satisfied with, but I think writing them is essential to allowing me to write the posts that I feel satisfied with. If I didn’t write when I didn’t feel like writing, I would probably never write because I’m not a natural “writer”, but by posting when I don’t feel like it, I keep practicing & keep my pen moving which allows me to be ready for the days when I inspiration DOES strike.

      It’s like exercise. I don’t always feel like exercising, but by doing it anyways even when I don’t always feel like it, I stay flexible and in shape which makes me ready for race days or adventures that require me to be in shape. Does that make sense?

      • says

        Yes, that’s interesting Joel; and it does make a certain amount of sense. I still think the ideal is to work when the inspiration is there because I think it’s when creativity is effortless that the results are best. But you’re certainly right about cultivating the habit to do it daily. When the practice is there, you’re more likely to have ideas flowing.

  4. says

    Great thoughts Joel. I think the point about overdoing the inspiration is really key. We need to focus on producing more than we consume.

    In the end, you just have to power through the slump. Sometimes our task is just not fun right now but it still has to get done. Even The Master, Tim Ferris, “works” 4 hours…

    • says

      Still amazing to me how many people think Tim Ferriss never actually “works.” Did you see the effort he put into his book launch lately? The guy works harder than a LOT of people out there.

  5. says

    “Reading about inspiration or following inspiring people can be an addicting habit that distracts you from actually doing something inspiring [which is what we're really after].”

    This has always been my biggest issue. I think Sean mentioned this too in “Are you Consuming or Creating.” It’s hard to strike a balance with so many interesting people and ideas, but at some point, you’ve got to take a chance and start giving back to the community by producing/creating/inspiring others.

    Enjoyed our chat the other day. Joel Runyon FTW.

    ap

  6. says

    Love it! I like the concept of a TED talk as inspiration; Ross Hudgens did that (http://www.rosshudgens.com/notes-ted-talks-engagement) and wrote a massive post on what he watched. Awesome!

    But most importantly, I love the fact that you say to just do it! Forcing yourself to not have an option to get out of something is often the best motivation to just figure it out. You might even say it’s a good way to do the impossible.

    Hmm…you should write a blog about that.

  7. says

    I’m definitely in the “go do something else” camp.

    If I’m having a hard time coming up with something interesting to write, it’s usually because I haven’t been doing anything interesting that’s worth writing about.

    “Doing” makes “writing” a lot easier for me.

  8. says

    Great points on how to break the concentration and urgency to force yourself to be creative. I have found, that for me to write effectively, it does not always happen the first time. Many times I will find myself writing and re-writing the same section of blog for an hour at a time.

    What really works for me is to power through the process, much like you wrote about, however, for me, sometimes a problematic section of writing seems to “work itself out” upon a first edit, as I am not one of those writers that sits down and knows EXACTLY how everything will flow from beginning to end. Most times, the flow that I have created throughout the blog will be apparent to me by the end of writing, and a quick re-read/edit is exactly what the doctor ordered.

    Thanks again for the great tips on “how to write a blog.” For those of us who are not professional authors by trade, it is a welcome sight to see others talking about how they write.

    • says

      I don’t think most people know exactly how everything flows when they set out (I know I don’t). Most of the time like you said, the piece will “work itself out” after a bit.

  9. says

    Joel,

    The subject of writing is one that’s always of interest to me since there are so many different perspectives on how to do it most effectively. I definitely thing that you have some great ideas here. For , I do my best writing at two times, right after a solid surf session and right when I wake up in the morning. In fact I write before I do anything else. Of course the TED talks are definitely awesome. I love TEd.com and hopefully I’ll be one of those talks someday. HAHA.

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