How Projects & Podcasts Can Help Writer’s Block

Ugh! Writer’s block. We’ve all gone through it, and if we keep writing, it’ll probably be part of every WIP we create. Typically, we beat ourselves up about it. Stress over it. Granted, for those on deadlines it becomes much more crucial to break out of writers block than those who aren’t.

There are loads of reasons why writer’s block happens. Author Kelley Armstrong has said that if you haven’t given your MC enough hurdle to overcome, you might find yourself stalled, especially somewhere around a third of the way through the book. That’s very true. Of course, you could have too much going on and can’t wrap your head around it. Or, it’s just fatigue. Maybe you’ve been writing at such a furious pace your muse has fallen asleep at the keyboard. Despite staring blankly at the screen and becoming even more frustrated, I’ve found something that helps. Projects and podcasts.

“What do you mean?” you shout. “I don’t have time to write much less take on something else. I don’t have time to listen to podcasts. I’ve already got an audio book reading list the size of the public library!”

Chill. Just chill. This is precisely why your creative writing brain has stopped functioning and your muse has gone zombie on you. You’re really stressed out. Too stressed. And when you can’t write, everything else in your world crashes down on you too, which makes matters worse. Writer’s block leads to severe procrastination. Which leads to depression. Which leads to frustration. Which leads to rants such as, “I give up! I’ll never finish. I should never have started writing! I suck!”

So, switch gears. Step away from the computer. Stop reading. Stop listening to audio books. Don’t even turn on the TV. You’ll only watch mindless shows on the year in the life of amoebas, or try to analyze plot lines from reruns of Third Rock From the Sun and how it relates to your latest story on grim reapers. Instead, why not give your brain a real sense of accomplishment and weed out the garden, clean out closets, paint a room. Pick a project you’ve been meaning to do. Maybe even clean the house. How long has it been since you’ve dusted? I’m pleading the fifth on that one. Anyway, while you’re working away at reorganizing your sock drawer or cleaning out the fish tank (the one sitting empty because the fish died while you were at the keyboard), listen to some podcasts.

I did this bit of therapy this past spring when I couldn’t come up with an idea for another unique WIP. At least, nothing that truly excited me. So, I downloaded a few podcasts, slapped on some headphones, and stained the back deck. I chose an outside project because there was too much dust in the house and the air quality was better with all the spring pollen. By day number three, I’d not only come up with a brilliant new story idea, but I’d worked through a good portion of the high-level outline. It worked out better this way because I had time to mull things over in my head rather than chasing fires and throwing down ideas and words that wouldn’t work later.

When I got stuck just 10K away from finishing the first draft, I decided to engage in re-doing the filing cabinet. Hubby has been complaining about it for about a year now. Let’s just say that re-doing the cabinet has been torture to my muse and Brutal Brutus is ready to get back at things. It was an evil, hideous task, but I have to admit that it looks awesome and I can find things now.

What podcasts do I recommend? Anything that floats your boat, but I picked: Grammar Girl’s Quick & Dirty Tips for Better Writing, Get-It-Done Guy’s Quick & Dirty Tips To Work Less & Do More, and Roy’s Writing Tools. I felt each of these helped with both my attitude and with my writing. All are usually less than 10 minutes an episode, which I think is also beneficial. Short podcasts are choosey on words. They cram a lot of information into a short period of time. Roy’s Writing Tools is the driest of the bunch, but the information is dead-on and indispensable (I saved every episode for future reference). The reason I listen to Grammar Girl is probably pretty obvious — it never hurts to brush up or learn something new. Get-It-Done Guy, while not on writing, is an often humorous podcast with creative and easy ways to accomplish those other pesky life things that get in the way of writing. For those of you who are super excited and chomping at the bit to re-do their filing cabinets check out some of GIDG’s episodes. Then consider getting out more. You and your muse have been stuck staring at the screen far, far too much.

And about all that dust? I’m calling it lucky pixie dust that’s been sprinkled around the house for good writing luck.

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6 thoughts on “How Projects & Podcasts Can Help Writer’s Block

  1. Pixie dust, huh? Do you have a pretty euphemism for dog hair? When the Princess first came to live with me, we had hardwood floors. Now — ugh — builder-beige plush carpets. And they need raking.

    (On the up side: the writing is going fairly well.)

    • Actually, I do! LOL! I have an Akita and a Shikoku, so hair is pretty much a condiment in our house. I call the excess hair tumbleweeds because that’s what the balls of hair that collect resemble. I swear, I’m always vacuuming.

  2. I totally hear you on doing something else that is unrelated to writing. Not sure how podcasts would work for me, I tend to lean toward music instead, but NOT the soundtrack for whatever I’m writing. For me, a piece of music I’ve listened to a million times can suddenly (when I’m occupied by other tasks, like weeding or cleaning) inspire me with a plot point or a bit of dialogue. I’m afraid that personally, I’d pay too much attention to the podcast and my mind wouldn’t wander as it needs to. But that’s just me, and I’m glad you found something that works for you 😀

    • Music works for me too. But it doesn’t always take my mind off the WIP, which I sometimes need in order to come back to it fresh.

      I agree about the playlists though. I steer clear of anything I might have put into a WIP playlist. It only reminds me that I’m stuck.

  3. I always do my podcasts when I’m driving, and I often feel like rushing home because I feel inspired!
    My favourite writing-related podcast: The Writing Show. But I also love Travel with Rick Steves, and CraftyPod 🙂

  4. I’m all for turning off my brain for awhile and just letting it float. Sometimes I just hit a wall and have to stop. On those days, I don’t even turn on the computer. I sleep mostly, because I live in a world of sleep deprivation these days, but I read, I go to the coffee shop and relax instead of typing away on the laptop.

    And some of my very best ideas come to me in the shower when I’m thinking of nothing at all.

    DBR

    PS I’m thinking of hiring someone to come in and dust and vacuum every other week. It’s getting dangerous around here.

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