The Blank Screen of Death

No, I’m not talking computer viruses… I’m talking that other dreadful predicament that faces every writer at one point or another: the old brain freeze. Drawing a blank.

The bad kind of Writer's Block.

The bad kind of Writer’s Block.

Writer’s block.

Despite a mind that’s full of ideas, always mulling over something, I sat down at the computer to write this post and I had… nothing. Nothing, I tell you. This was doomed to be the Seinfeld of blog posts. So, like my old writing teacher used to say: write what you know! Which means, today I’ll look at some of my favorite ways to battle the Blank Screen of Death (before ending up like that unfortunate follow there on the right…).

  • Step away from the Internet. I repeat, put down that mouse and back away slowly!
    Yeah, you know what I’m talking about, right? You flip open the laptop, chug back some coffee, fire up MS Word… and there’s that little Safari icon, beckoning. Like a junkie, you figure — just one click. One. That’s all. I’ll check my email, pop over to Twitter, maybe a quick Facebook status update (clearly I’m working if I tell everyone I am, right?!?). Next thing you know, you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of Yahoo! News (Kim Kardashian wore what? where?) and you’re Googling how to make homemade body scrub (handful of coffee grounds, sea salt, brown sugar and some olive or coconut oil — total mess, but exfoliates like a dream!). Short of engaging in electro-shock therapy (or buying that software that shuts down your web connection entirely), I simply tell myself I’m not allowed to make that click until I’ve achieved some sort of objective. Nothing like the burning need to read yet another friend’s “Some eCard” to get me going, which leads me to…
  • Reward yourself.
    Back in my corporate days, there were always little pats on the back for a job well done. Office parties. Performance reviews. Bonuses. Being self-employed doesn’t mean we stopped deserving recognition. In fact, we may need it even more now — cause if we don’t do it, who will? So I set goals for myself — finish one chapter, get a mocha at Starbucks; polish off a whole book, time for a pedicure and new shoes to show it off! Of course, if that doesn’t work, sometimes it’s necessary to…
  • Change the scenery.
    Amazing how a good drive, walk, trip to the gym or nice hot shower can clear the mind and get those creative juices flowing. In fact, I often get my best ideas while in motion or surrounded by steam. (Needless to say, thanks to my writing endeavors, I’m quite fit. And clean. And lately, smelling an awful lot like a Frappuccino. The dog won’t stop licking me.) And when all else fails…
  • Just Do It!
    I like to imagine whoever came up with that Nike slogan was some poor stumped advertising exec who, after staring at the Blank Screen of Death for too long, simply banged his or her head against the desk and yelled “Just DO IT already!!!” — and a legend was born. Because sometimes, just doing it is the only thing you can do. There comes a point when it’s time to stop over-thinking things and put a word on paper. Type something — anything. Getting that first word out is often like pulling your finger from the proverbial hole in the dam. Boom! The rest of the words start flowing. Suddenly, there’s an outline. A chapter. A story… A, ahem, blog post.MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Yep, I think now I’ve earned one of these:

So, tell me — how do you battle writer’s block? Let me know in the comments below. And then, for Pete’s sake, quit procrastinating and get back to work… ;).

Jan Gangsei has become such a regular at her neighborhood Starbucks, the baristas not only have her coffee ready the minute she walks in — they’ve also been known to deliver it to her if she happens to be in the shop next door. She’s beginning to think perhaps she rewards herself a little too much…

Jan Gangsei
  1. Thanks for the post–these were great! As for what works for me, a change of scenery is a must, but I also like to try something new. Go stargazing with telescopes, check out a pupet show at the library, or try a kind of food I’ve been wary of. It also works to do something again that I haven’t for a long time–like do a canonball into the pool, or go horseback riding. The farther outside my comfort zone, the better!

  2. thanks for putting into words what I was thinking…

  3. Love the post, Jan! I too find that walking and taking a hot shower seem to get the ideas flowing. And listening to music!