#Creators is an amazing platform for countless fans, up-and-coming-writers and even celebrities to bring their thoughts from their minds to the public. Whether you are here to foster conversation, rant about our pop culture opinions, or explore your journalistic prowess, Creators is a great outlet for all of the above. Whatever your motivation may be, sometimes you can run into random slumps that can leave your inner monologue feeling like this...
Some days you feel like the article is writing itself and the words magically flow from your fingertips. Others you are sitting with a blank screen, a dozen sources to go through and yet an hour later you've spent more time watching Lip Sync Battle clips than working on your article. After a few occurrences of the aforementioned, you might be looking for ways to rectify your problems.
During my time as a Creator, I have noticed a pattern I would fall into when I hit that creative drought. In those moments, I have been given great advice from friends, family and self-help content that I thought I'd share. So if you're like me and need some reassurance that you're not alone in your endeavor, here are 7 struggles I have battled with during my writing process.
1. Lack of Time
I've said this in another article: time is the world's most valuable commodity; you can never have enough, and can never get it back (unless you have the DeLorean or TARDIS). As much as we'd all like to dedicate all of our time to our passion projects, life can get in the way. Between jobs, social life, house duties and more, there is just a lack of time most days to bust out a great article. A few hours here or there might open up but sometimes (often times) those sporadic moments are spent recovering for the next wave of obligations.
This is probably my biggest issue despite being the easiest one to thwart (in theory). If you're like me and have the need to unwind after a long day, try to optimize every minute before your tank official hits empty. Even with the busiest of schedules there are free minutes that could be utilized. If you have a long commute, use that time to brainstorm ideas or even knock out a paragraph. The time waiting for your dinner to heat up or your lives on Candy Crush to replenish can be spent on an outline. Those minutes add up after a while and when you find more time to sort out your thoughts, you at least have a jumping off point.
The main thing that has helped me push articles forward is making them a priority. Setting personal deadlines for articles makes the process more urgent than just an obscure "Eh, I'll get it done eventually." Also, breaking the article into parts makes the process seem a lot less daunting. Saying to yourself "Hey, let's finish this part tonight" sounds much better than "I still have to start the last two sections, redo the intro, make ALL the GIF's, etc." It's better to complete one small task than stress over multiple and getting nothing done.
2. Writer's Block
Assuming you have found time to write, here comes possibly the worst thing to deal. Every person who has ventured into anything creative or wrote a paper for school has suffered writer's block. There are times where I stare at my screen for so long it feels like my eyes will start crying tears of blood. Racking my brain to no avail turns into banging my head on the table and a gigantic headache.
Personally, I tackle writer's block one of two ways. Option A: create something anyway. Regardless of quality, throwing random ideas onto paper makes it much easier to organize thoughts as opposed to "brain soup." Nothing has to be set in stone the first time around and maybe the fifth draft will produce something of which you can be proud. If you need a good starting point, listen to a good podcast or interview. There's a good probability you will hear something intriguing that could be the basis of an article.
If the first tactic hasn't worked as I hoped, there's always Option B: take a step back for a while. A quick distraction can help relieve stress and feel less overwhelmed. As a bonus, try to kill two birds with one stone. The beauty of writing about entertainment is that research can be a lot of fun! Watching things on YouTube, playing a video game or streaming Netflix can not only be a break from writing but also spark a new idea. If that still doesn't work, walk away completely. Best option: do something physical. Not only do you get a nice work out but the added adrenaline and endorphin can put you in a better head space for clearer thoughts.
3. Constant Distractions
Amidst the attempts to break through writer's block, there is a big chance you could lose focus and spend precious time on other options. Between TV, streaming sites, games and social media, there seems to be an endless supply of constant distractions. One minute you're looking up information for your article, the next you're memorizing the lyrics to "One Week" by Barenaked Ladies because.... reasons. It would be nice to have a personal Admiral Ackbar to warn us that we are about to fall into a time sink...
Alas that cannot be the case and we have to be our own warning system. The Devil Kronk on your shoulder will always be there to persuade you into do anything else. Luckily, there is normally a Jiminy Cricket to point you in the right direction (provided he hasn't been eaten by a whale). All this really boils down to how much will power you have to avoid disturbances. Here are a few things that I've found helpful over the years:
- Go somewhere in your home that has the least amount of distractions. A room without a television, keeping your phone in the other room, and being away from other people are a few simple ways you can limit interruptions. If you want to avoid nearly everything, grab a notebook and write what you can without the internet. You can always double check your facts later when you transfer what you wrote from paper to screen.
- Change your location and be in a public space. I've noticed my productivity level is much higher when I'm not writing at home. Tapping back into my college years, I've found libraries are always a safe option. A nice coffee shop can really set a productive atmosphere as well. Other patrons are plugging way on their laptops or reading a book and the added bonus of a caffeine boost if things get rough definitely helps!
- Use a website blocker for social media sites. Unless you need one of these sites for research/resource purposes, have a friend/family member block certain sites until you're finished with the days work. Sure you can do it yourself but the temptation to lift the block can be really enticing when you hit a wall. If you're by yourself most of the time, there are also plugins you can download to limit how much time you can spend on certain sites.
- Set a target completion deadline. Yes, I have said this before in the 'lack of time' section but this tip applies here as well! Knowing you have limited time to finish an article often gives you a sense of urgency. Just make sure you don't readjust your conditions to give yourself more time to goof off. Remember: WILL POWER!!!
Let's say you finally get on track. You have an exciting new topic to explore and then you run into another problem....
4. Never Ending Searches & Fact Checking
Depending on the topic, you might need to look up even more information and this stage of the writing process can really drain time. But with all the talk about "fake news" as of late, creators have to be even more diligent in the information they present. Thus, we jump down the rabbit hole that is the internet and tackle the never ending searches and fact checking. This comes in many forms: confirming previous knowledge is correct, looking for credible sources or news stories, assuring that your source isn't just an opinion piece, the list goes on!
If you're trying to cover "breaking news" and need some help, Creators has made a whole lesson about it in their Academy to become a verified creator. Personally, I end up waiting till later in the day when more information has surfaced. Being able to compile everything with accuracy makes me feel better as a writer although my read count might take a hit for waiting. Also working a different angle or adding your own opinion helps give your article something unique and not just a normal news story.
Looking past information, I also have a tendency to spend a decent amount of time finding the perfect pictures and videos to enhance my article. Partly because my mind tends to wander (see struggle 3) but the other part is that I get very particular with what I'm trying to use. 90% of the time I end up making my own if I can't find exactly what I'm looking for. It is more work on your part but at least this way you can modify and change things to your specific desires. There are tons of GIF generators but I prefer imgflip for the individual GIF creations and ezgif and online image editor if I need to combine multiple.
5. Your Idea Has Been Done
At some point during your research phase you have made a soul crushing discovery: your idea has been done. Maybe you forgot to see if someone has already covered your news story. Or maybe you missed the article the first time around and now you have a duplicate of someone else's ideas. Or even worse, you find an opinion article that opposes yours and you have been persuaded to the other side of the argument.
This has happened to me on more than one occasion and it is possibly the most frustrating struggle out of the whole list. All the time and energy you have put into this new thought turns out to be not so new. So if this ever happens to you in the future, here are some things to help you get through those difficult times...
- Keep a leveled head - Your initial reaction could be to slam your hands down on your keyboard, scream at the screen and then waste the remainder of your downtime releasing stress on Super Smash Bros. As enticing as that all sounds, your energy could be spent in a more productive manner. Take a deep breath and think of a way that you can salvage something out of the work you have already put in.
- Find another angle - Whether you are doing a trailer breakdown, review of a recent episode, or covering a new story, there are other directions you can take your article. Sure it might not be what you initially planned, but a back up plan can sometimes be even more fulfilling than the easy, obvious topic with which you started.
- Save some ideas for the future - This is worst case scenario but is nevertheless an option. It's always a bit of a shame when you have to scrap an idea you're passionate about but it doesn't mean everything has to be sent to the Phantom Zone. Chances are you will be talking about *insert fandom here* sooner or later and those discarded concepts could be helpful down the line!
6. Writing Gibberish
Let's say you were lucky enough to escape the last few pitfalls. You're on a roll; fingers dancing across the keys and you're writing like you're running out of time. You take a brief moment to proofread the awesomeness that you have just created and you realize: you've been writing gibberish. In this sense I'm not strictly talking about typos and poor grammar but also your train of thought has gone in a weird direction. The combination of the three is so bad that even you are confused... and they are your words!
Fixing typos and grammar is fairly simple and getting feedback from an outside source can help tremendously in that department. Streamlining your thoughts is another story and the methods I use have been said in previous sections. Like I said before in the writer's block section, just because you wrote it, doesn't mean you have to keep it. Read over the section in question a few more times and refocus the content to get your main point across. What you wrote could be incredibly creative and poetic but sometimes less can be more (watch the two videos and you'll get the idea).
7. Second Guessing Your Ideas
Might have broken my streak of GIF's but the audio is really needed to sell this last struggle: second guessing your ideas. This may sound counter-intuitive to the last point but there is a case to be made of being too self-critical. Whether you are a rookie or a seasoned veteran, we all have our bouts with self doubt. How many people will actually read this article? Do my original ideas and/or analysis even make sense? Am I forgetting something crucial that a troll will undoubtedly call me out on?
Some of the best advice that helps me keep things in perspective came from Chris Hardwick (host of @midnight, Talking Dead, The Wall, Nerdist Podcast and more). Arguably the biggest nerd in pop culture nowadays, he has definitely been one of my inspirations and having his voice in my head goes a long way. His book, The Nerdist Way: How to Reach the Next Level (In Real Life), covers a slew of topics including "seizing your inner monologue":
Go easy on yourself. External forces trying to attack you in this world can be difficult enough. Don't add to them by attacking yourself. Not only will you get that 'never clean' feeling, but you'll sabotage all the good things that you are working for and absolutely deserve.
- Chris Hardwick
My biggest take away from this is remember to have fun with what you're doing. Adding some levity and silliness to your process can really flip the self doubt on its head. I've noticed that once I look at writing an article as an obligation or another job, I become a lot more stressed. That stress would manifest itself into one of the struggles above and my creative process would go nowhere. Reminding myself that writing is more of a privilege and recalling the great experiences I've had since I started helps clear my head enough to get a few thoughts down on paper. Despite what can feel like constant up hill battle, the sheer enjoyment from writing keeps me moving at the end of the day.
Yes, a lot of what I said may seem like common sense. But sometimes hearing or reading things from an outside source can be really beneficial. For me personally, some friendly words of wisdom or even just words of encouragement can turn my attitude around. Luckily for Creators, there are chat rooms and Facebook groups full of like-minded individuals who can lend a helping hand. We all have unique opinions and experiences and we're all here to share them. But don't just take my word for it....