Thursday, February 7, 2013

How to Beat Writer's Block - My Version

Inbox Art
Creative Commons licensed image by user Beck Tench

Today, I'm suffering writer's block. I write for fun. I write for work. I read others' writing for work. I cannot escape writing, so trying to find another job to do in the meantime just doesn't work.

Do you have days like this?

When this happens, I go into WRAP mode. A WRAP plan is a Wellness Recovery Action Plan for people who experience mental health changes. Mary Ellen Copeland, who came up with this idea, probably doesn't list writer's block as a mental health change, but I am here to tell you that writer's block affects my mental health.

How about yours?

Here's the deal. WRAP is for people who have real crises, and I don't want to underplay the importance of Copeland's work. I believe this plan really helps people, and my version of it does not do justice to the thought and research behind Copeland's work. Plans can be simple or complex, depending on each person's needs.

I believe Copeland's ideas can help writers, too, though, because being creative is a brain function, and when the words don't flow, it's a problem. At least for me. I started life as a gymnast, and in that mode, when something feels stuck or doesn't work, you get up and try again. That effort is hard to replicate when writing. Try what again? Sitting at the keyboard? Staring down an electronic stack of PDFs that need reading?

So, WRAP is the plan that triggers action when I've hit a block. My plan is fairly simple.

Check for pain. Something is always hurting from my former athletic life, so sometimes, that pain can be annoying me more than I realize. So checking to see if I can't concentrate because I'm sending all my energy to a knee that's annoyed, then I get some heat on it, or stretch, or take something, or all of it. Twinges are part of my life, and most of the time, they're minor and not that noticeable. Other days, they are big and bold and a distraction.

Straighten my desk. It's physical. I like a straight desk. And it gets me started.

Make a list. Let's face it, the list is just a procrastination technique, but it gets me to sit down and focus on something.

Work on an inbox. I have a physical inbox and an email inbox. I pick one and spend about an hour on it.

And then, magically, I can write. If I can't, I start over and straighten my desk again.

What do you do to stop writer's block?

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