Four strategies to tackle writer’s block (and crack time management too).

‘Getting started, keeping going, getting started again — in art and in life, it seems to me this is the essential rhythm not only of achievement but of survival Seamus Heaney

Many bloggers hit a writing road block now and again. I can certainly identify with that. While I tend towards spontaneous, occasional bursts of inspiration to get a post underway, I have lately come to realise the value of a planned approach to blogging, to writing, and to content creation. This strategy can even be applied more broadly to work and life on a daily basis.

For my part, the origin of my writer’s block lies in the realm of cognitive freeze and a sense of overwhelm – those days when you have so much to do, or so many ideas clamouring for attention, that you don’t know where to start, so you distract yourself with anything and everything bar the task in hand. Or you sit and stare at the wall, out the window, or the blank screen or page, or bury your head in your hands.

As our sage poet Seamus Heaney reflects in his wise and wonderful words in the introduction, this is indeed a common challenge, where the key to it all is getting started, and re-started, over and over again. While procrastination is ubiquitous, and tends towards a self-feeding dynamic, it can be overcome, with a little self-training and an awareness of the need for balance between work and play.

So I’ve done some research on how to tackle procrastination, artists’, writers’, creative and general life action block, get the activity, the work, the words flowing again, and grow new momentum-building habits.

To get the work flowing again and overcome overwhelm, it’s a balancing act between time out to play, relax and recharge, interspersed with planned work stints or sprints.

Schedule, schedule, schedule, repeat.

Schedule in the play times as well as the work times.

Ensure there are some physical activities in the mix to burn the energy, boost the serotonin and grow the brain.

We often think ourselves into and out of taking action, so with this insight, I’ve cobbled together a few resources and motivators that are helping me beat the block and I want to share them.

Four strategies for getting started, keeping going, and getting started again

1. Freewriting

This technique is essentially a kind of raw, fast expressive outpouring of thoughts and feelings as they come to you. Sometimes the content isn’t even consciously thought until you see it written on the page and reading over these notes can be revealing as well as full of ideas for further writing. The practice of Freewriting  came to me by way of author and motivator Orna Ross whose website is a treasure trove of inspirational resources for writers.

2. Journaling prompts

The internet is awash with sites full of journaling ideas and prompts. Some are geared towards self-healing, anxiety management, health and fitness, all manner of life activities. For writers and artists, journaling is an all round source of motivation, idea generation and creativity sparkler. Here is just one site: called Develop Good Habits, I have found their posts helpful for habit growing tips, one of which is, of course, regular journaling. 

3. A walk in the woods (or any other natural space)

On the Creative Live blog, Hannah Brookes Olsen explains how nature refreshes the body-mind. It’s not just the time out, but the space and environment in which to idle, to induce an almost meditative state within the more natural tones and rhythms of nature. My experience is that you switch into a different mode and gain a calmness which allows ideas and memories to sift and sort themselves, with the most important or promising developing a clarity of focus that points the way forward. In addition, the physical restoration can only be good for the creativity muscle.

4. Time Management Tools

Since I started to produce strategic marketing plans and content for small businesses and freelancers, I quickly realised the necessity for forward planning to stay on top of a complex of work and personal responsibilities. My search for a workable solution led me to the website and resources of time management guru Laura Vanderkam. First and foremost, we must track what we are doing now with time, and only then can we hone in on spots and openings that can be developed into more fulfilling activity. Of course, planning ahead is crucial but again, remember to schedule in some R&R time too.

So Keep Going Guys, and Have Fun too!

NOTE: I have no affiliation with any sites mentioned or linked. These are just resources that I have found helpful going forward in my life and work. 

Citations:

Grammarist on writer’s block:

https://grammarist.com/usage/writers-block/

Image:

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Leonid_Pasternak_-_The_Passion_of_creation.jpg

Seamus Heaney quote:

https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/01/19/seamus-heaney-commencement/

Debating Diagnosis and DSM-5 : Guest Post on Mental Health Chat

Guest Post on Mental Health Chat

Debating Diagnosis and DSM-5

 

The new ‘psychiatry bible’ DSM-5 has come under a lot of fire since it’s recent launch. One vociferous critic is Duke University’s Professor Allen Frances, himself a renowned psychiatrist who helped shape the (some say more valid) previous versions DSM-IV and DSM-IV-TR.

 

image of two volumes of DSM

DSM-5 and its predecessor DSM-IV-TR

Mental Health is a broad church and psychiatry only one faction within it, but it cannot be denied it is a major faction, with a very strong voice, perhaps the strongest to date. There are, nevertheless, many other voices – psychology, nursing, social work, therapists of various persuasions, neuroscientists, social scientists and most importantly, service users. There have, undoubtedly, been major advances in the understanding of mental suffering, mental health and well-being emerging from all of these camps, including psychiatry. The perhaps unexpected flak that has recently been directed at psychiatry as a body of knowledge has been generated by concern over what has been termed ‘hyper-inflated diagnosis’ and the seemingly relentless drive to medicalise every aspect of human life, including ‘normal’ sadness and grief (Frances 2013). Diagnosis is at the centre of the debate.

There is no doubt that people suffer. There is also no doubt that patterns can be identified in the forms that suffering may take. Furthermore, people often need a name for suffering, as a way of finding some understanding and therefore possible solutions. So diagnosis may well have a positive role to play in the future of mental health care and promotion, provided there are adequate and effective responses available. But does diagnosis really call forth effective treatments? Some would argue that the answer is No, not at all. The question “What does help?” will underpin my contributions here to the Mental Health Chat blog. Suggestions, points for discussion and leads to relevant studies will also be most welcome in the comments section. For now, here’s a link to the recent Maudsley debate [click on “48th Maudsley Debate: Diagnosis: Enabling or Labelling?”] on the issue of diagnosis. Those in favour [Prof Norman Sartorius and Prof Anthony David] talk about diagnoses as heuristic tools to guide research and practice, while those against [Dr Felicity Callard and Dr Pat Bracken] argue that diagnosis is a sticky label with little to offer therapeutically and too many social sequelae to be considered useful.

What do you think? What is your personal or professional experience? What are the alternatives?

Thanks for looking in, Roberta McDonnell

link and citation for DSM image: http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/DSM-5

Mental Health Chat 

is an online open access community with a weekly mental health twitter chat every Wednesday at 8:00 PM GMT / 3:00 PM ET / 12:00 PT. The hashtag for the twitter chat @MHchat is #MHchat  Mental Health Chat is dedicated to promoting and advancing the interdisciplinary understanding of mental health and mental illness.

Thank you to all my friends who liked, commented or just looked in 2013

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,700 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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