When Chaos Creates Writer's Block - Is Your Life More Hectic Than It Needs to Be?

When Chaos Creates Writer’s Block—Is Your Life More Hectic Than It Needs to Be?

Note: The winners of Chrystle Fiedler’s book A Scent to Kill are Alicia Rades and E.M. Bahnsen. Congrats!

Organization may be difficult for the naturally creative person. Often, when we’re swept up in our latest creation, everything else falls to the wayside. Time spent cleaning is clearly not time spent writing. And if you have little kids in the house, cleaning can become an endless cycle that perpetually zaps any extra time you may have. But what if your clutter and daunting chore list were actually impairing your ability to write?

Organize to Free Your Creative Mind and Prevent Writer’s Block

Scientists and psychologists alike have found that stimuli compete for the brain’s attention. When your eyes detect objects in your surroundings, your brain is forced to process what your eyes have found. If you’re distracted whenever you sit down to write, take a look around. Is your desk covered with papers? Are there piles of laundry to fold? Even bright posters on walls can be over-stimulating when you’re trying to focus. Create a “safe” place to write:

  • Paint your office a soft, neutral color.
  • Remove family photos. Even though you love your family to pieces, their photographs may become a distraction. At a glance, you may remember everything else you need to do for them, or you may miss them enough to wander back downstairs. Instead, hang calming watercolor paintings (flowers, the ocean, a sunset) on the walls.
  • Attempt to keep things tidy, if only in your office. Keeping the entire house in order all of the time is not realistic. But your office should be a no-go zone, except when you’re writing. This will limit the mess and make it a more inviting place to work.

Make a To-Do List to Keep From Feeling Overwhelmed

If that nagging voice inside your head (Oh, shoot! I need to . . . I still haven’t . . . When was I supposed to . . .) continues to disrupt writing sessions, it needs to be addressed. Feeling like you have a million things to accomplish without being entirely sure where to start is never good. Don’t let chores loom over you—attack them! Create a list and figure out when you can realistically accomplish each item. Though you may still have a million things to do after you create this list, you will at least feel more on top of everything and better equipped to accomplish it all.

Enroll in Online Banking to Simplify Paying

One click. Paid. Instead of putting bill payment off because you don’t have any more stamps and you really can’t/don’t want to go to the grocery store with screaming kids, just set up accounts online. This is a huge to-do list “phantom” for most people. If you know it is painless to pay your bills, maybe you won’t put it off. That’s one less phantom that can haunt you.

Take Care of Trash and Recycling to Help Unclutter

Writers love pens and paper. That doesn’t mean you need to keep every single one of them. Break your habit of collecting piles of paper. That stuff can stack up quickly and hide the things you actually do need. When you go to the mailbox or open your child’s backpack, assess items on the spot. If a paper isn’t something you need to read, toss in the recycling bin. The same goes for pens. How many times have you reached for that same, dried-up pen, remembered it didn’t work, then put it back in the coffee mug with the others? Recycle it! Garbage is a huge clutter contributor.

Use Reminders on Your Phone to Unclutter Your Memory

I don’t know why this took me so long to do. Why I ever thought I would remember deadlines months in advance between work, writing, family and friends, and the kids’ school is beyond me. I’m far less delusional now. Making use of that little phone calendar (which beeps to remind you of the event) is very handy. This is another way you can help yourself feel more organized, in control, and able to free your mind for writing.

After all of this, if you should you find you’re still stuck on page twenty of your manuscript and you just can’t get past the block . . .

Get a Life . . . or Less of One

When we get right down to it, the reasons you’re restless at writing time probably come down to only two: Either you spend too much time indoors, hissing at the sunlight and avoiding social interaction—or you have nothing left to give at the end of a jam-packed day. For you, dear reader, I hope you find balance. I’m definitely still working on this one.

Tell me your opinion: How do you organize the rest of your life to make writing less stressful?

When Chaos Creates Writer's Block - Is Your Life More Hectic Than It Needs to Be?

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About Alythia Brown

Alythia Brown is an author and young mother, who decided she wanted to pursue publication when she became pregnant as a teen. She blogs about books, publishing, literary agents, and the querying process at AlythiaBrown.com.

Comments

  1. Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Alythia!

  2. Steve Mathisen says

    Alythia, thank you for these creative and concrete suggestions. They are very helpful. My office is a mess right now and could benefit from your suggestions.

    • Thanks, Steve! Truth be told, the inspiration to write this article came to me because we were putting new floors in our house, everything was chaotic and I couldn’t think!

  3. I tend to clear my desk and do any looming chores/homework before I actually sit down to write. I can’t focus on writing if there are other things that need to be done. Attacking them is usually the best option. To-do lists are also my best friend. As I check each task off, it gets me more and more pumped for writing, as something I look forward to and not a chore, like everything else. Procrastination and avoidance of those things just makes me waste more time. But if I spend time doing things I need to do (even if I don’t get all of it done) I tend to feel much better and less guilty about taking time to write. Thanks for the wonderful post, Alythia! =)

  4. Your last point really hit home. I have both problems: nothing left to give on weekdays, therefore avoiding sunlight and social interaction on weekends to make up for it. And still I never feel like I’ve accomplished enough when Monday morning rolls around again. I’ve been taking stock of my non-writing pursuits in order to decide where to cut back on the busy-busy, but so far I’ve yet to make any changes. What I really need is three-day weekends. If only I could convince my boss…

    • I feel your pain, Abby. Honestly, a lot of these points came to mind because I personally have struggled with all of them and I’m constantly striving to do better. There is always SOMETHING you could badger yourself over for failing to complete, but it wont make you happy. Narrow the focus and create smaller weekend goals. Baby steps are worth celebrating!

  5. Great post! Life has been very hectic of late (something I work very hard at to avoid but heck, life happens) and if it weren’t for my ironclad schedule of writing something first thing every morning, I would not have gotten anywhere. As it so happens, I am under a deadline to write a chapter and all hell broke lose as soon as that deadline appeared. Go figure. BUT, because of my commitment to writing after that first cup of coffee early in the morning, my chapter is nearly finished despite all the busyness. That habit of writing flips the switch, so to speak, so that I can immediately get into the zone when I enter my special room to write. AND, it has a wonderful way of calming down my mind and bringing me peace in the midst of chaos. Gotta love writing. 🙂

    • That’s perfect, Susan! I am such a night owl that waking up any earlier than I already do to get kids to school sounds terrible. But, I have to admit, I actually feel more productive and at peace throughout the day if I’ve gone to bed early (well, earlier) and gotten up earlier than all of the kids. I don’t like to talk for a good half hour when I first wake up and kids want to talk from sun up to sun down. Thanks for the great ideas! I think you’re peer pressuring me to rethink my writing schedule!

  6. First, Woohoo! I won something! How do I claim the book?

    Second, this is a great article, one that I think a lot of writers need. To stay organized, I keep a running to-do list. I write out when assignments (for work and school) are due and what days I will do them. I add cleaning/grocery shopping/etc. to the list on days that seem a little more free. I think that’s one of the best ways to keep on top of things.

    • K.M. Weiland says

      I’ve forwarded your email to Chrystle (the author of the book you won). She should be contacting you directly for details on how to send you the book. Congrats!

    • Alicia, lists are my favorite! Over the years I’ve learned to stop adding unreasonable tasks to the list because, ultimately, I fail to complete everything and thereby feel like a failure. Feeling like a failure leads to feeling unmotivated and feeling unmotivated turns my world into a fuzzy haze of madness. And then I’m trapped in the vicious cycle of trying to keep up. My husband actually helped me with this. He used to look at my list and break down how long each task would take, making me realize that I had planned a 12 hour day for myself in chores alone. I’ve learned to tighten the focus to feel more successful. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Trackbacks

  1. […] though they are not YA. Productivity is key to success in today’s market. Alythia Brown tells us how to beat writer’s block by clearing the chaos in our lives; Julia Gifford proves that standing desks create better productivity; and K.M. Weiland shares 3 […]

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