This is a guest post by Karl Staib.
Thoughts, creativity, and writing should flow freely and without tension. As I was writing an article a few months ago I noticed the strain in my stomach, neck, and jaw. I was straining to get the thoughts out. As if tensing my muscles would actually help me focus or even create something helpful to my readers.
My writing was strained because I was uptight through the process. The tension was creating pain and I knew that I needed to fix the way I wrote my blogs. I ignored it in the past because I thought it was normal, sprinting through my thoughts until I began to stumble, hoping that after the first push of energy was over I would have something concrete to work with. And even when I ended up with a minor headache it was okay because I accomplished the work I set out to do. This cycle couldn’t continue and I needed a system.
1. Outline, Outline, Outline
Writing was usually a chase for me. I would chase after the perfect sentences. A lot of times I would only have a flicker of a thought and begin writing – no planning, just bulldozing ahead, hoping it would all come out into something readable. Now I write a small outline to make sure I know where I’m going with the topic. The outline has reduced my tension because I can see the larger picture. When I get stuck, I check my outline and find myself getting back on track with minimal stress.
You may be a seasoned blogger that laughs at the idea of writing an outline, but if you are good at writing articles it’s because you lay out everything in your head. You may not physically write out an outline, but you probably do in your head. That’s what is important. You have a starting point, an argument that brings people to your side, and a conclusion that ties a neat bow on everything, leaving your audience wanting just a little more.
2. Watch How Your Body Reacts When Frustrated
The first thing I did when I couldn’t figure out how to flush out an idea was tense my stomach. I was building an internal wall instead of a bridge to my next thought. I would get upset because the process wasn’t smooth and I would tense my muscles in my neck and jaw, which caused tension headaches. When I would strain my stomach, my first reaction was to strain my neck and press my fingers on to my eyes. I’ve watched countless co-workers do this because they had stopped relaxing as they were working. My body was telling me I wasn’t acting with intelligence.
As one or any of these indications ping your consciousness you should instantly slow down and breathe into your stomach. Deep breathing usually helps me let go of my frustration. If that doesn’t work I take a break and come back to the article after I have cleared my head. This usually allows me to take a fresh perspective that helps me communicate my message with more clarity.
Your body reacts differently than your favorite bloggers or your friends. If these ideas don’t work for you then try a technique that may work for you. Maybe push-ups or a glass of herbal tea, but regardless of what techniques you use, you need to release your frustration quickly, so you can get back to writing that great post that your readers will love. A blogger that works happy can be felt by the reader.
3. Redirecting Your Thoughts
Sometimes we can let go of frustration, but we still can’t write. We try to push out ideas that just aren’t there. This tension needs to be replaced with a smarter habit. So I use the boomerang effect. When I hit a wall and the flow of thoughts are heading away from my goal of a cohesive piece I redirect my thoughts back to my subject. You can do this by asking yourself the simple question, “Where do I really want this to go?” If you are becoming confused and don’t know what you want to say then go back to your outline and your first paragraph and get a grasp or your original intent. Delete all the stuff that doesn’t fit in with your initial idea. Don’t try to make it fit, just delete it and get back to the core topic. By redirecting your thoughts toward your original idea you’ll create a more coherent piece of work.
Many times you’ll begin writing with just an idea and your keyboard, and hope for the best. If you do this your message is probably going to come out fractured. Always have a plan, and if you get frustrated just let the feelings go and come back to the reason you began the piece. Never be afraid to just scrap what you have and rewrite your game plan because you’ll end up with a better message than if you try to salvage a wreck of a blog.
This three step process will work with any writing project, so if you are writing a history paper or a magazine article then give it a try. You’ll notice that writing is much more enjoyable when you stop letting tension dictate how you operate during your creative process.
What is your favorite stress relief when you get frustrated?
Karl Staib writes about unlocking and kicking open the door to working happy at his own blog: Work Happy Now! If you enjoyed this article, you can also subscribe to his RSS feed.
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