Use These Zen Strategies to Defeat Your Biggest Writing Demon


Will Newman

Anyone who's done any writing has to face this demon …

The demon of the blank page.

The blankness on the page mirrors the blankness in our brains as we try to dig up good ideas.

Some days, as hard as we try, words refuse to come.

And this problem can raise its nasty face any place in our writing … from trying to come up with the compelling idea at the beginning to how to get from one part of the writing to the next.

How do I overcome what some writers call “writer’s block?”

First of all, I refuse to believe in writer’s block.

When you say “writer’s block,” you're concentrating on the problem and not the solution. Most professional writers — including Stephen King — agree with me.

Even so, the demon’s threat still remains.

The starting point for defeating the demon …

When the words refuse to come, realize you don't yet have a good idea. You might have some general sense about what you're writing. But your solid, compelling idea is missing.

Where can you find that idea?

What not to do …

Wouldn't it be great if we could close the door … turn off all distractions … flip a switch, dance a ritual dance, pray to our muse, and sit down in front of the computer (or pad of lined yellow paper) … and concentrate very hard on giving birth to the idea?

Warning! This is the worst possible way to fight this demon. The best strategy, the one I use, is to adopt a “Zen approach” to solving the problem.

Ideas build in the recesses of your brain when other things are occupying your attention. This isn’t my idea. It’s been the conclusion of researchers over the past 25 years.

Good ideas develop when you’re not actively pursuing them.

That’s not to say when you’re trying to come up with a good idea, you mustn’t think about it. Not at all. What you need to do is …

Prime the pump:
Start off thinking what you want the idea for …

Before “turning off your brain,” spend time thinking deeply about everything related to your writing. Think about the subject. Think about the benefits (if you’re writing promotional copy).

Think about the format you’ll use. Is it an article like this one? Or web copy? A long-form sales letter? Or short form?

Have paper in front of you while you’re thinking. Maybe that great idea will jump into your head. If so, write it down.

But if you’re like most writers, that isn’t going to happen. In this “most likely of circumstances,” you need to move away from your notes, and …

Do something entirely different …

When you’re stuck for an idea, turn away from that problem and stop looking.

Here are some effective ways of turning away that work for me. I call them Zen strategies …

  • Walking, running, swimming (or doing water aerobics like I do)
  • Falling asleep or waking up (take a nap and “sleep on it”)
  • Exercising
  • Talking with friends
  • Listening to podcasts or audio books
  • Showering
  • And my most reliable strategy … Meditating

Was it just coincidence that I came up with the idea for this article while meditating this morning?

Not by a long shot.

I'd primed my pump and gone through some of my other rituals for coming up with a good idea. But none of them seemed to help.

I wasn't worried. I counted on my most reliable idea-generating ritual to come through with a good idea.

And as you can tell because I'm sitting here writing this article … It worked.

So, your takeaway today: If you’re stuck anyplace in your writing for more than a few minutes, use one of my blank page demon-busting strategies.

And — like me — you may want to turn to meditation as your “Big Gun” strategy when all else fails.

What’s your most productive idea-generating strategy? Let us know by commenting below.

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Published: August 1, 2016

12 Responses to “Use These Zen Strategies to Defeat Your Biggest Writing Demon”

  1. Good morning Will, I often faced the situation

    jennieAugust 1, 2016 at 12:59 pm

  2. Hello Will, I deal with the"blankness"by :
    -playing the piano
    -listen to classical music
    -close the window. Sit in the dark room.Cross my legs and go deep into meditation for 1 hour.
    After that, I regain my thinking for writing.
    Thank you. God Bless.
    Jennie

    jennieAugust 1, 2016 at 1:06 pm

  3. Hello! Thank you! for the free tips on writers block! It is easer for you because you speak good english and you can spell the words! Sometimes it is so hard to relax and just start writing! I find again just to go for a walk are do some gardening makes a differen and doing something physical realeases the mental blocks that is so common. Wow! Wow! I am so inspired, A Sermon i heard one sundy morning at a local church; it was about a famous wrier who escape prision and got so fed-up with the complaining about a lacl of food, being frosen at night, without any woman, that he decided to leave prison are die in the process, he pook the first step, and the second step, and he kept on walkin

    Guest (michael g)August 1, 2016 at 2:57 pm

  4. Hi Will, I've used meditation off and on. I decided to check out the AWAI Meditation for Writers and do the 21-Day Meditation Challenge. I like that you and Katie and Rebecca all use it...you all are very persuasive!! Maybe I should print your letters out & copy them by hand...lol. Seriously, when I have used meditation, it's helped calm me & helped me focus. To be part of a 21-day Challenge--I like challenges, & I also like forming new habits.
    Thanks!
    Erika

    ErikaAugust 1, 2016 at 5:28 pm

  5. before i start writing, i think it all over, and allow the thoughts to gather, then i scribble it on paper.if the thoughts hangs and would'nt flow any further, will rest my head a little by allowing my mind to wander on something else for a while, sometimes i just take a walk outside and when i return to the page, my mind is fresh and new words and ides comes to mind and the ink flows once more, then at the end i surely edit then, line by line, for perfection.

    Guest (Wilfred Ndubuisi)August 2, 2016 at 3:44 am

  6. Hi, Will. Blank screens and paper is struggle for me too.

    A few things I do to get ideas flowing:

    1. - write poem/journal (calming the inner voice. whatever your thinking or feeling...helps me calm the 'silent noise' within me.

    2. - watch a funny movie

    3. -play with children

    4. -play relaxing game TV TRIVIA, PC and etc.

    5. -Read for relaxation or niche;

    6. -Research updates on your hobbies or interests.

    7. -sit quietly outside, close eyes, listen 30 min.

    Guest (Lisa Brock)August 2, 2016 at 5:26 am

  7. Thank you for the article; indeed, I know the mussed up business with a muse that mopes.As an Artist as well as a writer, my two creative outlets mope at different speeds; for painting, it is the lack of visual stimuli, For writing it is the lack of passionate feelings;also, as with painting, a range of emotion is needed; seems writing shares the same antidote, a lot of emoton;The great Albert Einstien once said." logic will get you from A to B,imagination will get you everywhere."

    Guest (Ima J Pastula PhD)August 2, 2016 at 7:18 am

  8. Thanx for the tip Will But what I've found out is that if you sit in front of a pad and paper long enough and just start writing out anything eventually you begin to form words and words into sentences. My mind may be at a loss for words on the first or even the second day but I make a commitment that on the third day that I will put pen to paper and just start writing out sentences and worry if they make sense later. Making the commitment seems to work for me.

    Guest (steven lane)August 2, 2016 at 4:01 pm

  9. Good morning will.When the white page (deamon) rears its head ,what works for me is music and a long walk.My way of...unpluging.

    Guest (cynthia young)August 3, 2016 at 12:34 pm

  10. I have used meditation for many years. Once I can clear my mind and sit in silence, the ideas seem to flow. I also walk or run. Just being outside and feeling the sun on my face gives me a renewed focus on the project I'm working on at the moment...or ideas for new projects!

    Julie LAugust 3, 2016 at 5:33 pm

  11. When stuck, I endeavor to turn off time. And let thoughts travel faster than light.

    Contemplatively examining a sketch I did -- 40yrs ago -- of a palazzo in Venice, e.g., I can feel the very sunlight from which its bent had rendered mass; the very smell of the coffee being grounded at a nearby café; and the very tingling whence each and every line had successfully come together transcribing the best possible architecture atypically defiant to constancy's preclusion of anything complete.

    Guest (Chris Morris)August 3, 2016 at 6:22 pm


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