Switching styles to get unstuck
Lately I've been playing with writing styles, and thinking about how switching between them can help in every area.
Before launching into that though, there's something very important to make sure we're all clear on:
Yes, you ARE a writer
We can sometimes be hard on ourselves, and not give enough credit for the work and the writing we do. But the truth is, we write all the time. And all kinds of writing is valid writing.
What have you been writing this week?
Here's some of what I've been writing recently:
emails with clients and colleagues
text messages to my mum
messages to customer support
a postcard to the mechanic who fixed my van in Sweden, to show that with his help I made it to the UK
These different forms of writing all require different approaches. We need to consider our audience, the style and register of the text, whether it would be weird to slip in some emojis or slang — or weird not to! — and even our writing device (computer, tablet, phone, pen).
Most of the time we switch between these different kinds of writing without much thought.
But what if we paid more attention next time?
Switching to get unstuck
When I find myself staring at the computer, cursor blinking as I wonder what to type next, I know I have a few options for how to proceed.
☕️ I might make a cup of tea. The physical movement to the kitchen, the ritual of slicing ginger and stirring in honey, the still moment to sip and appreciate the flavours — these can be enough to reset the mind and be ready to tackle my task again.
🍏Or, maybe what I need is a little snack. Brainwork requires energy, and high quality snacks help to keep us going. (Check out our nutritionist's tips for writing snacks that will stimulate the mind.)
✍️ Or, perhaps I need to exercise a different writing muscle. 💪
I find that when I get stuck writing in one style, it helps to switch to something completely different. For example, I've recently had a series of interviews to turn into short career stories for one of my clients. I've really enjoyed working on these, but they must fit a very particular style. After a while, I begin to feel stuck in a mental rut.
So I switch to something completely different — such as writing a short and silly Facebook post about vegan sausage rolls, or an introspective article on independence. This gives me the opportunity to write in a completely different way, with a new audience, new vocabulary, new mindset.
After I've flexed my mental muscles, I can return to my original tasks feeling re-energised.
What kinds of writing could you switch between, next time you're feeling stuck?
Poetry, creative fiction, a monograph on lithic technology, a letter to an ex-lover, a complaint to local council... even if you're writing for your own eyes only, with no intention of ever sending or sharing, the act of switching between different writing styles might be just the thing to help you push through.
Writing on retreat
At the next Helsinki writing retreat in May, our small group will be working on quite diverse topics. Even if you're focusing on one thing to write during retreat, the break-time conversations can surely help us to stretch our writing minds in some fresh directions.
Early bird registration is open till the end of April.
Register for the 29–31 May retreat.
Best wishes and happy writing!