What I learned trying to cure my writer’s block

Every week in my team meeting we take it in turn to present “The Challenge”, a personal challenge that we do the week before, sharing the journey and the knowledge that we learned along the way.

When the idea was first pitched, I was hesitant. Surrounded by a bunch of confident and outgoing people, I wondered if I would have to throw myself out of a plane to keep up? High risk challenges aside, there is something terrifying about being vulnerable in front of your colleagues.  

Thankfully, The Challenge turned out to involve a series of small (ie no skydiving!) but meaningful challenges that my team members shared. When I started thinking about what I would do, one thing immediately came to mind… I wanted to challenge myself to cure my writer’s block.

I decided that this would be my goal over a month ago, but like the months of writer’s block that plagued me before, every attempt failed. I had to devise a plan. I also wanted to make sure that this wasn’t just another blip… that it actually led to action and would reconnect me with something that I used to love.

So I picked myself up again, and decided that I would do attack this challenge in a number of small steps or tasks that would hopefully get me to my goal.

I thought about my content consumption

This year, my goal is to read 50 books… putting down my phone and easy distractions like Instagram. While I had started the year off well, I was starting to fall behind where I needed to be to achieve my goal.  

This is important because I know I’m more inspired to write when I’m consuming quality, thought-provoking content or taking the time to focus on my book. A mentor once told me that when he was struggling to write, he would refocus by reading long form journalism like the New Yorker Magazine. Content that inspired me helped light the spark.

I pushed through the false starts

“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great” – Zig Ziglar

One of the biggest challenges for me was struggling at something that used to come much more easily. Every sentence I wrote felt clunky. Every idea felt like I wasn’t adding anything of value to the conversation.

Pushing through was the hardest part of the challenge. I had to rip the band aid off, because I know that action breeds inspiration. The more I write, the more inspired I feel. I had to learn not to let myself give up every time I felt like I wasn’t making progress, and to give my ideas the time and space they needed to develop. I brainstormed, day dreamed, wrote countless notes and sticky notes hoping to develop a critical mass. 

I found support and new opportunities

I decided to take it up a notch. Because I didn’t want this to be a challenge that I simply do for a week to tick a box, I wanted to try new things and resist falling back on old ideas, and the rut that probably started my writer’s block.  

To ensure that I continue my writing beyond the challenge, I need to start rebuilding my networks… and building new ones. To do this, I needed to push myself out of my comfort zone. I emailed and met Melissa Sheddon, the Executive Editor of whimn.com.au to ask for her advice on what makes a great story, and how I can get my voice heard. I signed up as a contributor to a Cooperative on Medium that I regularly follow. I reconnected with old contacts and started brainstorming different pitches. Watch this space!

So, what did I learn curing my writer’s block?

There was no easy fix! If it were easy, it wouldn’t have been a challenge in the first place!

I had to put aside my ego, and the voice inside my head that was telling me that my ideas sucked. I also had to put aside my fear of letting my ideas out into the world!

It’s easy to let perfectionism and fear hold you back. Over the last year I read countless articles that said “just do it!”, “80% is good enough!”, “things don’t actually have to be perfect, just publish!”… and you know what? They are right. You can’t gain momentum if you can’t simply get your ideas out and hit publish.  

Which gets me to my final point… like everything in life, you can’t fake the hard work you have to put in to get an outcome that you are proud of. But now I’ve started I’m on a roll… 

Here’s to new conversations, new ideas and new stories. Hope to see you back here again soon!