It was well over twenty years ago that I bought that pink notebook. I would write stuff going through my head at the time and would quote guys like Albert Einstein, Victor Hugo, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Khalil Gibran. I started writing in my teenage years, way before Facebook, Penelope Trunk or James Altucher’s spectacular blog. But for some reason I stopped writing altogether, I knew I’ll eventually start writing again. I just didn’t have a deadline. I hate pink but I still have that pink notebook.
After setting up a website and a blog -and twenty something years later- I was finally ready to start writing again. On that day, I sat at my computer and opened my editor’s page, I had no idea what it was going to happen and that’s exactly what happened, I stared at a blank page for endless minutes hoping for something to cross my mind. Then the next day same thing and the day after that one. I did this for almost a week. My neck and back were in pain from all that tension, the stress that I needed to produce something and fast! By the end of the week I could barely sleep at night, which it didn’t help the next day when it was time to sit at the computer again and another blank page to stare at.
Nothing was happening, why? I started doubting myself, maybe I don’t have anything to say or maybe I’m just not a good writer, is that even possible to be an awful writer before writing anything? But one day everything came. Here are six tips to help you write when your brain says no.
Give up: Play by your own rules which means no rules. Treat your brain as a child, don’t force it to produce anything, don’t corner it. I know the times in my life that I have felt cornered, I’ve ran away, so let it flow. Be flexible. Take no pressure. It wasn’t until I completely surrendered and took the pressure off my shoulders that the right combination of words came up. Eventually your brain will get the message that is time to put thoughts in order and it will start talking, which takes me to the next point.
Listen: Let your brain decides when and what to write. For me, it was usually when I was doing the dishes at night and all of the sudden, it would come like a light bolt, my computer is always on so I would rush from the kitchen to the computer to write. I did that for a few days and ended up with about fifteen half way posts the first week. Just make sure you don’t ignore it, you want to encourage the writing so pay attention to everything that goes through your mind. I wrote anything my mind said, even if it was just a few sentences, an idea, a topic, anything goes. No questions asked. No judging. Just writing. Do that for a few weeks. At the beginning you are creating the habit of writing so don’t worry about forcing the brain into a particular time to write. I went from having a blank mind to having a mind filled with ideas and stories to tell. I finally got it, my brain was willing to cooperate with me as long as I didn’t put any pressure on it.
Keep a log: I keep a three-subject notebook. Part one is for general ideas, two is for blog topics and three for business ideas and questions for James Altucher. This green thing is an unlimited source of ideas (as long as I keep adding) It works. When I panic about not having anything to write I go back and read some of my previous ideas or questions or topics and then expand. Some of them are crappy ideas but who cares? My brain is getting a full workout, I’ve had written entire posts now that came from this source -the green notebook.
Don’t set goals: I used to say something like, by the end of today I’m going to have one entire post of 1500 words, that approach NEVER worked. I was blank. So get off those goals, forget about them. Just write whatever your brain tells you. Write every day, even if is only one sentence, eventually you’ll write more, guaranteed. It’s important to exercise your brain, keep it lubed by letting it get used to writing producing ideas and putting them on paper (or on a blog per say).
Time slot: Now that you have stimulated your brain enough it’s time to create a time slot to write. The brain is like a child, when a baby says “mommy” for the first time everybody is ecstatic, that feeling goes away when you hear “mommy” at three in the morning -everyday. Same thing here, after a few weeks of being used to writing at any time, I would wake up in the middle of the night with ideas for posts, businesses, questions, topics, a complete nightmare! As much as I wanted to go back to sleep I couldn’t, write, write, write, I could hear my brain telling me. I even bought a laptop cart so I could write in the middle of the night without having to turn on my PC and wake up my son with keyword clicks.
So avoid this by creating a time slot to write, for me now is around five in the morning. Don’t succumb to the urge to write at a time that is not convenient for you, unless you want that to become a habit. If you wake up at three in the morning and you don’t want to write then just don’t, doing so will just reinforce that behavior. If going back to sleep is not an option (because your mind is racing) then try to do an activity that bores you, for me is meditation (more on this on another post). Kick your brain in the butt and this will become your writing routine.
When everything else fails: Try coffee and Jazz. Jazz inspires me, I could probably write for a long time just by listening to Jazz. iTunes has an excellent radio station: Jazz-New Orleans 89.9, pure bliss 24/7. I’m listening to it as I’m writing this. Coffee gets me on fire, it brings the most exciting and bold ideas out of me. So find something that motivates you, it could be music or a magazine or a book, maybe even some yoga and incorporate that into your writing routine.