How I Got Past Writer's Block

I’m not Stephen King, but I enjoy posting regularly. Somewhere between SQLCruise, consulting work with BrentOzar PLF, and moving to Portland, I got stuck.

It wasn’t exactly writer’s block, it was more like blogging block. I could get down ideas and a few notes, and even big chunks of posts, but I couldn’t post anything. I couldn’t finish stuff up, I couldn’t be satisfied.

Maybe it’s that I got overwhelmed and my brain prioritized for me. Maybe I just got confused about which blog to write for. I did succeed at prioritizing my time for other things, but I didn’t schedule my time properly for blogging.

How I Got Back to Popsicles and Sunshine

I devoted some time this week to getting my writing problem fixed. Here’s what I did:

  1. I spent 10 minutes listing topics that I knew would be easy to write about. These are things I’ve already been thinking over for a long time and largely have figured out. Since I’ve been having trouble getting words down, I didn’t want to mix research into the project.
  2. I used the Pomodoro technique. I downloaded a free timer and put in some tasks, then followed the advice on the Pomodoro Cheat Sheet. I found this really helped me focus. (Thanks @BuckWoody for sharing this tip on SQLCruise!)
  3. I stayed away from Twitter and email while doing my Pomodoros, and only looked at them in my longer breaks. That’s kinda the point, after all.
  4. I listened to my “Pop That Makes You Want To Throw Up” station on Pandora. Turns out Ke$ha helps me write. Who knew?
  5. I started taking at least one long walk each day. Walking helps me think and it generally helps me feel better. And the weather’s gorgeous.

And there you have it. I’ve churned four blog posts into my queues (here and at BrentOzar.com) doing Pomodoro iterations over the last few days, and I have no visible bruises to show for it. (Editor’s note: eight total now– updated since this was drafted.)

What do I like about the Pomodoro technique? It helps me give the same focus I naturally give to client work to other projects– whatever they are. It helps me estimate my work and track how I do. It also lets me log interruptions, whether they come from my own restlessness or from things that need taking care of.

This all combines into a system where I can make good progress, then leave something for a few minutes or a few iterations. When I come back, I’m in a better position to ask, “am I done yet?”