Articles

Tackle Writer’s Block With This Down & Dirty Tip

John Tucker

09/20/2019

Learn how “down and dirty” journaling can help you break free from writer’s rut.

We’ve all been there. Stuck in front of a blank page or screen that stares back at us with a baleful stink- eye.

You thought words were your friends, but in this time of need, they have deserted their posts, leaving you to muster a ragtag band of incoherent words to battle the block: writer’s block.

I know the feeling. I was born with graphophobia, an irrational fear of writing or handwriting.  My poor mother reports that as a baby, the sight of a pencil, pen, crayon or even a piece of chalk would give me the skeevies. A blank piece of lined paper or a blinking cursor on a wordless Word file would fill me with despair.

There was plenty of hand-wringing from my parents. How would their son make his mark on life without the ability to write, even to mark an “X” on a college financial-aid application?

If you’re reading this, I’m happy to tell you that I eventually tamed my fear by immersing myself in writing until either my pen ran dry, the pencil snapped, or my paper ran out.

And while I now have a grip on my graphophobia, I continue to grapple with writer’s block. The block frequently hampers my ability to start writing and keep writing, a problem exacerbated by the fact that I work in marketing communications and words pay my bills. The power of the pen doesn’t exist if the pen is stuck in park.

Journaling is the Juice

I’ve discovered that journaling helps me battle writer’s block. Sitting down with a journal and a pen and pushing that pen around on a page provides me with a creative outlet. Here, I can write freely without worrying about following normal writing conventions or having to run my copy through an approval mill.

But, I’d like to share another idea that has increased my word output whether I’m journaling or writing for work.

It involves lying back and putting your feet up. Yes, you read that right.   

Through a series of experiments – some of them off-the-wall – I’ve discovered that words flow better from within when I’m lying on the ground, my back propped against a pillow and my feet planted firmly on a wall. There’s high probability this “down and dirty” journaling has nothing to do with juicing my writing but it focuses my attention on the act of writing. I liken it to a warmup routine that a baseball pitcher goes through to prepare to face batters in a real game.

White Socks and a Blank Wall

I always wear socks (neatness counts in writing and housekeeping) preferably white athletic socks free of stripes, logos, or cute designs. Similarly, I favor a blank backdrop – no electrical outlets, scuff marks or mouse holes on the wall to divert attention. Finally, I plop down and put pen or pencil to paper, or fingers to the keyboard. It’s still hard work, but I find I don’t notice it as much when I’m down and dirty.

This position also lends itself to doing the occasional stomach crunch, which is an added health benefit while you’re working out the words.

Next time you’re stuck in a writing rut, try getting down with pen in hand and feet on the wall. I can’t promise it will work, but if nothing else it will reframe your perspective and could kick up some creativity.

For me, the journal of a thousand words begins with three steps: recline, put both feet on a wall and write.

John Tucker

About John Tucker

John C. Tucker is a marketing communications professional based in Phoenix.