A Surefire Way to Beat Writer’s Block (or Artist’s Block)

It’s hard for me to write with everything going on in the world. On one hand, I knew our current state of the world—the pursuit of capitalism above all else—couldn’t continue forever, but I never imagined the world as we know it would come to a screeching halt in my lifetime.

Yet here we are, and I’m unprepared. I’m far more unprepared than I’d imagined I’d be. I had plans to prepare for a potential apocalypse in America. I envisioned a homestead where my extended family could come live: we’d live off the land—off the grid. And all would be well in our corner of the country. But when you constantly put things off for the future, it never happens.

Anyway, my writing—blogging especially—screeched to a halt right before all the COVID-19 business blew up, when I was doing our taxes at the beginning of March. We had an issue with an HSA and even the IRS couldn’t provide assistance. They’d eliminated the call center department for HSAs! I was so stressed out, I stopped writing. My mind (and free time) became all-consumed with our HSA and filing taxes. And now that that’s done, I’m consumed with the coronavirus issue: worrying about getting supplies, staying healthy, and maintaining our sanity.

Watching Trump give his little talks on TV, on C-SPAN, minus all the talking heads, provided real insight into the world, what his and the government’s priorities are. Words, for me, can’t capture it. I mean, they could. But I feel that the rest of the liberal news media would be saying the same thing. Maybe I’m not blocked. I just don’t want to write about it.

And writing about the planned topics for my blog (What is speculative fiction? What is Afrofuturism? Can you/should you write a character of a different race? among many others) seems like a waste of time. Like who cares about that right now?

The issues I care about and like to write about: growing up as a minority, having white values thrust upon me, adopting them, living a life that is a lie, low self-esteem because of racial/color politics in this country, seems irrelevant. We just want to survive.

So, my solution to writer’s block?

Cross-training. For me, that means drawing. Working out my thoughts about this country and Trump visually on paper. It gets out something I can’t express with words.

I am not trained in the visual arts, but drawing is something I always wanted to learn to do.

In the past when I got stuck with my writing, I started drawing to continue to flex my creative muscles without wearing myself out. It works a different part of my brain. It gives me a chance to step back from a project and continue to be creative. I can draw for the sheer pleasure of it—there is no ulterior motive, like finishing or selling the final project.

According to VeryWellFit, cross-training for athletes

  • Reduces exercise boredom
  • Allows you to be flexible with your training needs and plans (if the pool is closed, you can go for a run instead).
  • Produces a higher level of all-around conditioning
  • Conditions the entire body, not just specific muscle groups
  • Reduces the risk of injury
  • Works some muscles while others rest and recover
  • Can continue to train while injured
  • Improves your skill, agility, and balance

Why wouldn’t most of these apply to writers and artists? Here’s the same list, retrofitted for writers and artists:

  • Reduce boredom with long projects
  • Allows you to be flexible—you can continue to work creatively even if you aren’t in front of your preferred medium
  • Produces a higher level of all-around creativity that can be used in other avenues of creating or promoting your work. Become a better all-around writer/artist. Mixed media, anyone?
  • Conditions neural pathways of other creative, but less often used, skills and not just one specific skill
  • Reduces the risk of burnout
  • Works other creative skills, while allowing time and space away from main projects—return with a new and fresh perspective
  • Can continue to work creatively between major projects
  • Improves your skill, ability to brainstorm and think outside the box

Maybe you aren’t artistically inclined and would prefer cross-training by writing poems and essays. Or maybe you can sing or play an instrument. Or maybe you make beats.

Getting creative in a way completely different from your usual artistic pursuits takes the mental stress off of one long-term project. Simultaneously, you’ll still work your creative muscles and maintain creative fitness. After the time away, but still working creatively, you’ll come back with new insight.

Writers/artists, how do you cross-train?

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