I think this can be especially difficult for introverts. We love that rich, inner world of ideas. But when the ideas all start talking to you at the same time, it can be tough to get a new thought in edgewise.
Here are a few things you can try out when you’re ready to write.
Reduce the input
If you’re trying to write in your work or home office, there are probably plenty of distractions. Bills to be paid, reports to be read, items to be filed – a thousand things all calling for your attention.
For introverts, this is all input. Each one of those things is demanding to be processed, whether you realize it or not. Try to reduce your input as much as you can. If you can, move everything out of the way. If you can’t, you might want to consider writing somewhere other than your desk.
And if you’re writing on a computer or laptop, beware the HUGE distraction that is social media. I highly recommend closing your email and social media apps while you are trying to write. There’s nothing going on that can’t wait until you get back.
Establish a ritual
If you’d like to write on a regular basis, consider establishing a ritual that will get you into the right frame of mind. Maybe it’s grabbing a favorite cup of tea and listening to some quiet music. Or maybe it’s going to your favorite coffee shop.
The ritual will help set the stage. After you’ve done this a few times, your mind will start to understand: She’s making the tea and getting ready to write so I have to be quiet for awhile.
I took a meditation course a few years ago through my local adult and community education program and I wished I remembered more of it. I remember enjoying it but I didn’t practice enough after the class was over to get into a steady habit.
But you don’t need to take a course to get some of the benefits of meditation. Set a clock or time for five minutes. And during that five minutes, just concentrate on your breathing. Feel the breath going in and out. Feel your lungs expanding and contracting. Don’t think about anything else except your breathing.
Don’t get flustered or irritated when your mind wanders. It will happen. Just go back to focusing on your breathing again. As with your special writing ritual, this exercise will create new pathways in your brain for getting into the proper frame of mind for writing.
Read something inspiring
Although it sounds counter-intuitive, you may want to try some specific input that gets you where you want to go. Sometimes I want to write but my thoughts are a bit scattered or I’m not even sure what I want to write. I’ll frequently pick up a book that inspires me – Marty Laney’s The Introvert Advantage. It was the first book I ever read about introversion and it provided so many “a ha” moments.
My brain associates reading that book with thinking new thoughts about introversion – which helps get me inspired to write about introversion.
Give this a try the next time you’re feeling a bit stuck. It could work for fiction too – pick up a favorite author to get inspired.
Catch and release
Another trick is to give in to the thoughts running through your brain. Yep, allow every last thought swirling in your head to have free rein. But write them all down as they occur to you. Capture every last thought on a piece of paper – and then let them go.
You’ve caught those ideas so they won’t take up any more space in your head. The meeting you have to set up, the problems you’re worrying about, the big ideas that you want to explore more. Write them all down and know that those thoughts have been captured in a way that allows you to explore them all in more detail – but later. It’s another sign to your brain that quiet time is coming.
One last tip that I’ve found helpful when writing is to do my brainstorming and outlining on paper. I love technology and I’ve tried using mind mapping software. But I feel much more creative when I have just a piece of paper and a favorite pen in my hand. I can free associate and move things around as I develop themes. It’s not necessarily about clearing your mind. It’s more about providing an easy way to get those good new thoughts out of your head.
I would love to hear your ideas for clearing your head for writing. It may be something you do without even realizing it. Share any tips and ideas you have in the comments!