It’s a situation I find myself in often. I sit at my desk, fingers poised over the keyboard and ready to type furiously once creativity hits.

Only it doesn’t.

Instead of bursts of inspiration, my mind slips and slides around the topic. It dodges this way and that, more agile than the last person standing in a dodgeball match.

I’ve got writer’s block, and boy do I have it bad.

Does writer’s block exist?

Many successful writers will tell you there’s no such thing as writer’s block, only excuses.

And if like me, you’re still adamant that it’s a very real and very terrifying affliction, I’ve got news: psychologists think it’s all in your head too.

Well, crap.

Sometimes fear drives us to excuses.

No matter the topic, writing is a creative art. It requires us to put a very tender, delicate piece of ourselves out there for all to see. And I don’t just mean our written opinions.

We put our word flow, comma craft, and personal voice out there to inevitably be judged. It’s terrifying.

How do you beat an “excuse?”

A Black mean wearing a hat writes in a notebook
Photo by Brad Neathery on Unsplash

Ok, fine. I begrudgingly admit that my writer’s block is simply an excuse to avoid writing. But admitting that doesn’t make me feel better.

If writer’s block is just an excuse, it should be easy to shut it down and get back on track. Right?

Sadly, no. Because sometimes, no matter how much you pump yourself up with motivational TED talks or free write a new chapter in a Harry Potter fanfic, writer’s block clings tighter. It digs its claws in and refuses to let go.

What can you do when the beast has you in its grasp?

One thing that works for me almost every time is standing up and walking away.

No, this isn’t a “Bye, Felicia!” moment. Instead of staring blankly at a screen, I prefer to immerse myself in nature. Taking a stroll or sitting outside re-energizes my mind and body. I usually do some quick stretches too, which loosens up my stiff muscles.

The benefits of using nature to cure writer’s block

A wooden pathway with railings leads into a green forest where sunlight shines through the branches
Photo by Jan Huber on Unsplash

It turns out nature is also great at loosening up your mind muscles.

In 2013, a team of British researchers found that your mind enters a state of higher meditation while you’re in green spaces. And you retain a higher level of engagement even after you head inside and sit back down at your desk.

Nature also vacuums up that dusty cloud of mental fatigue orbiting your head. Instead of requiring you to concentrate actively, green spaces allow you to passively focus on the world outside — a mental state called “soft fascination.”

A clear head is great, and nature has even more benefits up its sleeve. When I need a boost of creativity or inspiration, the outdoors are my go-to remedy again.

You see, your prefrontal cortex gets going when you tackle organizational and executive tasks. And, if you’re like me, shutting down your prefrontal cortex is like trying to stop pedaling a bike after going really, really fast. The wheels keep spinning out of control.

But nature is a soothing balm for your overworked prefrontal cortex. And once it’s down for a nap, the creative side of your brain can take over. Turning off your prefrontal cortex shifts your attention to memories, new perspectives, and all-around imagination.

How to beat writer’s block when you can’t get outside

If you’re faced with writer’s block but don’t have access to green space, you still have options.

For one, adding greenery to your desk space is a great way to bring nature inside (and plants improve mood and productivity too). Plus, simple, automatic activities like showering and washing the dishes can turn your creativity switch back on as well.

Though you may not want to do some of those activities at work. (Just sayin’.)

What to avoid when writer’s block strikes

An Asian woman holds a cup of tea in front of her face and glances to the side
Photo by Yoab Anderson on Unsplash

Check out some other tricks to give your prefrontal cortex a break and turn on your brain’s creative mode:

  1. Avoid reading your email. Trust me; whatever it is, it can wait 15 minutes while you get some fresh air and rev your creative engine.
  2. And don’t check your phone. Since when did any of us have an “aha!” moment while snooping on Facebook? Or playing Candy Crush?
  3. Don’t reach for the caffeine. I know, some days are just that tiresome. But caffeine stimulates your brain when what you need to do is lower the stimulation — and it can even increase anxiety.
  4. Remind yourself you don’t need to be busy. We all lead fast-paced lives, but it’s important to pause and reflect. Take time to gather your thoughts — or let new perspectives come to you.
  5. Stop giving in to excuses. Fight back. Find your cure-all — it may be nature, or it may be running to the cafeteria for a quick snack. It may just be running. Whatever it is, wield it deftly, warrior writer.

So when writer’s block hits again, what do you do?

You don’t let it win. You find your way past the excuses — with nature, in the shower, doing the dishes. Reconnect with your creative mind.

You can do it. You can write it.

Originally published on Medium.
Featured image by Thought Catalog on Unsplash