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Want to Beat Writer’s Block? You Need to Unplug

The concept of “writer’s block” existed long before social media — but I strongly believe that social media is making it worse.

Here’s the thing about social media and writing: it has provided us with so many more opportunities and platforms where we can get creative, connect with other writers, challenge ourselves, and share our work.

But if you’re mindlessly scrolling throughout the day, you’re simply skimming through other people’s words and ideas, and wasting time that you could be using to write and develop your own unique voice or read books, articles, and poems that could inspire you.

Sure, there are some in-depth Twitter threads out there, photographers who spend a lot of time crafting insightful captions to go with their work on Instagram, and spoken word poets who post beautiful performances on YouTube. I don’t want to generalize every piece of writing on social media. But for the most part, briefly scanning the average tweet, caption, or Facebook status will not benefit you like sitting down with a well-written novel, self-help book, or collection of poems.

And while reading regularly is a very important habit for writers, nothing, absolutely nothing, will replace sitting down with a pen and a blank sheet of paper (or, more likely, a blank Word document).

Constantly checking social media is just one way that we lose ourselves in the millions of voices trying to get our attention. Instead of learning to sit in silence with our own thoughts, even the uncomfortable ones, we drown them out with the white noise of notifications, refreshing apps, or reading someone else’s silly Facebook fight.

And when we’re always tuned in to other people’s thoughts — or, at least, the highlights that they’re comfortable with the world seeing — we begin to forget what our own voice sounds like.

We don’t stop to think about how we really feel about an issue — instead, when something happens, we immediately read what a hundred other people think about it and then form our opinion based off that.

As writers, we need to sit back and observe our own thoughts — meditation and practicing mindfulness will help with this. And in order to do that, we need to spend time unplugged.

We need to spend time cut off from the endless tide of opinions and outrage on social media.

Social media can become an addiction.

This is because it has the power to numb us from our painful thoughts and emotions by distracting us momentarily. But if we want to write words that connect with others and truly move them, we need to learn how to process those feelings and put them on the page — not push them away.

And we need to be critical thinkers — we can’t just allow ourselves to stop at retweeting some hashtag about a huge problem and then scroll on. How can we put out thought-provoking work if we let ourselves become a sponge for other people’s opinions?

I’ve caught myself hearing about an event or political development and immediately thinking, “Hmmm, how does (insert other writer/journalist/activist) feel about this?”

Before I even take a few minutes to read about and reflect on what I’ve heard, I’ll click over to their page, look at their posts, and catch myself agreeing or disagreeing with them, even though I lack a thorough understanding of what’s happening. I’ve been making a conscious effort to break this habit, and while it’s embarrassing to admit, I know I can’t be the only person who needs to work on this.

There’s no denying that social media is an important tool for writers these days. We can find calls for pitches through Twitter, we can tag our favorite authors under a picture of their book on Instagram, we can share our work on Facebook and allow our friends to share it with their friends. But when we spend too much time on these apps, we can end up stunting our creativity if we’re not careful.

For some of us, spending even twenty-four hours away from social media can be a challenge, but you may be amazed at the ideas you come up with during this time. If you have writer’s block, it’s time to unplug.

Get away from all the white noise, and see what happens when you can finally hear yourself think.

Helping each other write better.
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