6 Ways to Combat Writer's Block

6 Ways (4)
6 Ways (4)

Maybe you love the idea of blogging but the idea of writing on a regular basis seems daunting. Have you ever started a blog and abandoned it? Or told yourself you'd blog weekly and then, whoops, 4 months go by? I get you. Today I want to share a few ideas for writing consistently whether you're writing blogs, articles or the great American novel.

1. Keep a notebook (or notes app on your phone) nearby at all times. When inspiration strikes jot it down. I can't tell you how many blog outlines I've created while running on trails. They may be inspired by a podcast I'm listening to or just come together when I link two separate ideas I've been mulling over. They always go in my notes app and they eventually show up here.

2. Set aside a Creative Think Day once a quarter. Every three months (or more often if you're lucky) hammer out as many ideas as you can possibly think of. Don't feel overwhelmed--we're just talking headlines or key concepts. No need to stress over the finished product or what your five points will be. You're just gathering stones.

3. Put yourself in your readers' shoes. What are their pain points? What can you help distill for them? What are the consistent questions you get asked both online and off line? This is your starting point. Your writing should be of interest to you but it should always have deliverables for your audience. You are serving them.

4. Take the ideas you've aggregated and plug them into an editorial calendar. And just like that, you've got a plan for the next several months. The next time it's time to publish a post, you're not starting from scratch. You already have an idea you've been mulling over. Mark Twain said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”

5. Read up. Ideas come to those who are voraciously digesting other people's thoughts. A ton of what I write comes from an idea that I formulated after reading other people's work.  Samuel Johnson said, “The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.”

6. Sit in the chair. The least sexy of all the tips--sometimes you just have to sit there until you create something. The disciplined habit of showing up is half the battle! If you want to write consistently you have to make it a priority. Sit there until you create something. Listen to Maya Angelou: “What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat.’ And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come.’”

We all wrestle with what to write from time to time. Having a strategy in place to combat those times will always help you get pen to paper. Do you have your own tips for overcoming writer's block? What is your biggest writing challenge?  I'd love to hear what you work most to overcome and how you do it.

30 Creative Pursuits of My 30th Year

30 Creative Pursuits
30 Creative Pursuits

So let's cut right to where my head's at:

This is the last week of my twenties.

And as such it is time to finally share with you about my 30 Creative Pursuits of My 30th Year.

Back when I turned 29 last year I had a real moment where I was overwhelmed at the thought of that decade winding down (yes, I still had a whole year to go). What had I done? What did I want to do? Was I being as intentional as I needed to be? I'm not one of those people freaking out because 30 is "old." It's just crazy to me that I so vividly remember turning 20 (what was going on, what I was thinking and feeling) and that was a decade ago. Life moves swiftly--especially as we get older. This pace is speeding up and I need to pay attention to all of it.

In 2013 my friend Megan did this uber interesting #30to30 challenge--thirty things she wanted to cross off her bucket list to usher in her 30th birthday. It was this awesome eclectic mix of like riding 500 miles on her bike and reading Dostoevsky and giving blood and other artsy things too. As I tried to totally copy her and make a list of my own I realized my short-term bucket list just didn't get me jazzed and I definitely couldn't come up with 30 eclectic items. Really what I wanted was more intentional creativity in my life. Thus, 30 Creative Pursuits of My 30th Year was born.

I made a list of 30 things I wanted to do around creative enrichment, experiences and output in the last year of my twenties. I've crossed many off my list: put 2 (better) musical theatre clips on Youtube, implement bimonthly HSL Creative Retreat Days for creativity and thinking, performer in a musical or play, start some sort of writing, creativity, thinkers or reading club (meet at least once), take at least one voice lesson, come up with ten book ideas, go to an industry conference. All of these intentional pursuits have been crazy fulfilling and/or inspiring and I wish I had been this intentional before I came toe-to-toe with 30.

Others on the list I've simply not completed yet or I've avoided them: read On Writing by Stephen King, see Gone with the Wind, write three songs, complete a book proposal, write one work of fiction. I'm not sure why these items got put off to the end. Update: I started the audiobook of On Writing and I just can't seem to get into it. Somehow Stephen King has made even a book about writing a little gory. Perhaps if I was a fan of his novels I would appreciate his style more. I still haven't seen Gone with the Wind but have high hopes to do so in the next week. I worked on some song lyrics last week but an actual song, they are not. The book proposal is simply a matter of blocking off time to flesh it out. The book is in my head.  I just haven't written the proposal because other things seem to be more urgent.

That's the interesting thing about this whole list. Easily none of it could have gotten done if I didn't prioritize it. These aren't things that were urgent or that one of my clients or bosses needed me to do. These weren't going to impress anyone or really greatly benefit my family or friends. They were kind of just for my own enrichment and enjoyment. So they were easily avoidable and easy to put on the back burner.

On the other hand, some of the greatest highlights of the last year came as a result of these items. I absolutely adored reading the Artist's Way with Erica and Whitney (and sometimes others who joined in). If it weren't for that, Enchanting Entertainment wouldn't be here and I wouldn't have led a workshop at Toolry. HSL Creative Retreat Days were a refreshing opportunity to put daily work on pause and check in with myself. Was I heading in the direction that felt most right? Was I pleased with the content I was writing? I stopped once every other month and instead of working from my home office like normal, I explored new locations and incorporated the outdoors into my experience for the day. (Click these links for photo proof.) I hiked Candler's Mountain and fell in love with Percival's Island. I found my perfect study place in Liberty's Library. I tried the Bean Tree Cafe for the first time. All experiences were enriching, pleasant and helped me recalibrate. I've done some of my best thinking and writing on HSL Creative Retreat Days.

As a result of 30 Creative Pursuits I pushed myself to attend the Internet Summit in Raleigh, NC. I attended a conference solo while most everyone else who was in attendance came on their employer's dime. I heard from some of the greatest minds in social media and content marketing. I wrote a million notes and began to imagine myself as a keynote speaker. Could I encapsulate what is cool about social media and dual careers and being a female solopreneur and being a millennial and inspire someone through a talk about those things? I began to imagine.

In voice lessons with David Hahn not only did I gain a friend and an advocate but I also found new layers in my voice and began to really grasp the "less is more" of singing. I loved working steadily on the craft of vocal performance. It was a big part of my life in college and I hadn't studied with a voice teacher consistently in about four years. Music does something for the soul unlike anything else.

29 has been a creative, intentional year of growth. It's pushed me to a place of embracing "no" to things that are good and saying "yes" to opportunities I didn't predict. I really hope that I find the inspiration to live so intentionally every year whether it's a milestone birthday or not. I know my life has been better this year for intentionally carving out time to be creative, both outwardly creative and inwardly.

I encourage you to embrace your creativity this year. Whether you're drawn to visual arts, poetry, cooking or rearranging your furniture, taking time out to create something, to reflect more deeply or just to consciously inject change into your daily life can catapult you into a place where you see things quite differently and you connect dots that you didn't see before. I'm so glad I made this weird list last year. I think I will make another for my 31st year. It's too good to stop now.

I'd love to know, will you take me up on my challenge? What is one creative thing you will make time for this year? 

Hilary is a writer, a performer, a social media nerd, and digital strategist.

HSL Around the Web: March 2014

HSL Creative Around the Web
HSL Creative Around the Web

March brought a lot of excitement to HSL. Hilary embarked on teaching a social media course at Southern New Hampshire University, had a full month of rehearsals for Alluvion Stage Company’s Mary Poppins, continued to work on website content for the new Virginia’s Region 2000 Local Government Council website and continued her work as a social media manager for Spotco and Kicker. This month brought two Broadway openings for ROCKY and MOTHERS & SONS so it was a busy and exciting month indeed. Here’s a few places we’ve been around the web: 

The HSL Creative Blog

5 Lessons We Can Learn from the Most Retweeted Selfie of All Time
How to Make Your Website Content Sing (Like a Blockbuster Musical)
How to Launch Dual Careers

The Clutch Guide

My first issue of Clutch as Managing Editor 
The Clutch Guide: Places Please! Hilary’s Picks
Roanoke Children’s Theatre

Kicker

Day in 10: March 5, 2014 | Relax Chipotle guacamole lovers
Day in 10: March 13, 2014 | Throwback Selfie FTW
Day in 10: March 20, 2014 | First Day of Spring!
Day in 10: March 27, 2014

Hispanic Executive Magazine

A Premium on People: Dell’s Ed Loya attracts and keeps talent for the tech powerhouse

Our Lynchburg

Our Lynchburg: Hilary Sutton