Feb 06 2018

Steer around writing blocks with relief projects

Writing through Trauma to Truth teacher Shawna Ayoub Ainslie wants to help blocked writers get some relief–and keep the creative energy flowing–with relief projects.

Stuck in a story/poem/essay? This post has you covered.

Here’s what you need to do: instead of hammering away at going nowhere until your writing world cracks and you fall into the void of doubt, wonder why you even try, and burn your laptop in a bonfire, shortcut negative self-talk by writing something completely different.

I call this act of self-preservation a relief project; it’s a life vest in troubled waters, a compass on a convoluted hike with no cell service. Your purpose in pursuing it will be to direct your thoughts away from your “stuck” writing. Why? At the risk of sounding like a fortune cookie, walking on a new path will reveal unexpected wonders.

With that said, your relief project might look like you writing in a different voice or character’s point of view. It might be you engaging a completely different genre of writing or art. And that’s ok, even optimal–but how to go about it?

I tend to write on topics that are emotionally challenging. In order to give myself a break, I write a relief project based on a moment of joy. In essence, choose a relief topic which serves to contrast your main project topic. Then, when you get stuck, switch gears from tough writing to light writing, nonfiction to fiction, poetry to painting or comedy to horror. This will help your brain to push your main writing to the background and turn it over passively, ultimately clearing your creative path and allowing you to stay productive.

Because let’s face it: most of the negative self-talk we writers dispense is about how we aren’t getting words on the page. And it’s not just the right words; it’s the word count. It’s possible to serve your writing intentions for a particular project by veering away from that project but continuing to write. Instead of submitting to a closed-door assertion that “I have writer’s block,” steer around the block with a relief project and keep your creative energy connected to action.

Whatever you choose, a relief project is an opportunity to restore balance in your writing practice by relieving the pressure of writing the “right” thing and replenishing your creative energy by focusing on something new.

Will you or do you use relief projects when stuck or overwhelmed? Share with us in the comments!

Related reading: 5 techniques for accessing your creative flow and 3 steps to banish blocks through expressive writing

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Comments on ... Steer around writing blocks with relief projects

  1. While I’ve never thought of them as “relief projects”, I do juggle more than one writing project at a time–novel, essays, and contest entries. This was my buffer from feeling like a failure, or at least to not feel stuck. I’ve also read advice that one should put all energy into the novel or you won’t finish. For me, though, the balance helps and I return to the big project with a fresh perspective. E