Six Tips for Bursting through a Creative Block
by Katie Sise
These are tips to stop procrastinating and bust through writer’s block (or any kind of creative block) that I wrote about in my first nonfiction book, CREATIVE GIRL: The Ultimate Guide for Turning Talent and Creativity into a Real Career. I applied them while writing THE BOYFRIEND APP, and I hope they’re helpful to you wherever you are in your writing process!
1) Take it Piece by Piece.
When you break down large creative tasks into smaller, more manageable ones, your work won’t seem as daunting. (Even when faced with the task of writing an entire novel.) There’s a great E.L. Doctorow quote about writing that’s applicable to all sorts of creative work. “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
If writing a novel by the seat of your pants sounds too scary, outlining is a great way to break down a novel into “smaller tasks.” A chapter-by-chapter outline is your roadmap in the fog. Sure, you’ll stray from it many times. But a general sense of where you’re going will keep you moving forward. I try to start every book with a 35-chapter outline. I’ll write about 3-4 sentences per chapter. I read that out loud and make sure there’s enough story there. If the outline itself doesn’t sound interesting enough, I’m back to the drawing board.
2) The Ten-Minute Rule
The next time you find yourself procrastinating, tell yourself you’ll work on the task you’ve been avoiding for just ten minutes. This little trick works for two reasons: First, almost anyone can do almost anything for ten minutes. You’ll often find that once you get started, the task isn’t so bad after all, and you’ll find yourself continuing your work past the allotted time. The second reason is the more significant of the two; starting a task is almost always the hardest part, so by continually doing this, you’re training yourself to get good at simply starting. Within a few weeks, it will become routine.
3) Enlist a Fellow Creative Type or Take a Class
If writing starts to feel too lonely (which can make it easier to procrastinate) grab a workmate. Having a partner in crime to collaborate with and answer to will automatically make you more accountable. Anyone you know who is also responsible for scheduling her own creative time may want to partner up at a table in your local coffee shop on weekday afternoons. The moral support will keep you buoyed when you’re tempted to ditch your writing and watch soap operas.
The best thing I ever did for my writing career was to take classes. I enrolled in several MediaBistro courses, and I swear those courses are the reason I’m published. I learned so much. And I had to be accountable each week to my teachers and my classmates: I had to turn pages in. Plus, it was a great way to learn both writing craft and about publishing as a business.
4) Get Out of the House and Get Inspired
If the home office is feeling claustrophobic, change your scenery. Sometimes, just going to grab coffee first thing in the morning and bringing your laptop to a coffee shop—which involves getting out of your pajamas, usually—can set you in the right frame of mind to write. There are creative, social work environments found at www.workatjelly.com.
And it’s okay to take a break for an afternoon movie every once in awhile, or visit an art museum, or do anything else that gets you inspired if you’re feeling blocked. For me, seeing a movie always jogs my brain and just makes me grateful that my job is to entertain people.
5) Keep to a Schedule and Protect Your Work Hours
Pay attention to when you feel the most energetic during the day and schedule your toughest work for those hours. Become protective of those hours. Turn off the internet—it’s a black hole for productivity. Don’t answer the phone calls you don’t urgently need to take. If your writing time is during a certain time each day, you can even ask the people you love (and are tempted to talk to) not to call for those few hours each day. Catch up later!
6) Volunteer: Get Out of Your Head and Put Your Writing in Perspective
It’s pretty hard to lose sight of what’s important in life when you make what’s important in life part of your life. There’s a creative side effect, too. Every time you switch up your surroundings, you creativity is stimulated. So leave your ego at the door and get out there and volunteer. There’s no better way in the world to remind yourself that it’s only a book, only a show, only a job, than to help people in need.
Bonus points if you can use your creativity while volunteering. Mentoring someone who benefits from your gifts reminds you of the innate goodness of your artistic pursuit.
Check out www.volunteermatch.org to find service work in your area.
Katie Sise is a New York City based author, jewelry designer, and television host. Her jewelry line has appeared in magazines like Vogue, W, Elle, Lucky, InStyle, People, Marie Claire, Allure, Teen Vogue, Seventeen, Us Weekly and Glamour, and has been worn by celebrities like Kate Winslet, Anne Hathaway, Cameron Diaz, and Beyonce Knowles. Katie has done design collaboration with outlets like Target, and has appeared as a style consultant on networks like HSN, Oxygen and Discovery. She can usually be found drinking coffee and spending time with her family while wearing Old Navy leggings. THE BOYFRIEND APP is her first novel.
Catch Katie at her website: http://www.katharinesise.com or on Twitter: @KatieSise. You can also find her and lots more about the book at Harper Teen.
About the Book
Computer whiz Audrey McCarthy feels most at home in a tech lab, surrounded by her fellow geeks. Once popular and fearless, she hasn't been the same since her dad died. And her ex–best friend, gorgeous queen bee Blake Dawkins, has turned into her worst nightmare. Audrey is counting the minutes until high school is over and she can get the hell out of Dodge and go to college—that is, if she can find a scholarship.
So when Public Corporation, a giant tech company, announces a contest for the best app developed by a high schooler—with $200,000 in prize money—Audrey is spurred into action. She comes up with an idea so simple, yet so brilliant, she can't believe it hasn't been done: the Boyfriend App.
With a simple touch of the screen, romance blooms among the unlikeliest couples at school, and people start to take notice. But it's not quite enough.
To beat out the competition, Audrey will have to dig deeper. And she does—right into a scandal that would rock Public to its core. Suddenly the Boyfriend App lands Audrey where she never expected to be: in the middle of the limelight, passionately kissed by the hottest guys in school, causing complete and utter mayhem. But can it bring her true love?