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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Would You Rather have Writer’s Block or Insomnia?

Insomnia: the frustrating and painful condition of wanting and needing to change your state of consciousness and being unable to do so.

Writer’s Block: the frustrating and painful condition of wanting and needing to change your state of consciousness and being unable to do so.

In both insomnia and writer’s block, you can’t make the shift to the dreamspace of your unconsciousness because your rational brain, aka your ego-mind, won’t shut up and surrender control. In other words, you can’t make the shift to Default Network mode of cognitive functioning because your Task Positive Network won’t stop. (see more)

The upside of this is that since insomnia is like writer’s block in significant ways, the non-pharmaceutical solutions for overcoming insomnia can be applied to resolving writer’s block and other forms of writing resistance.

The next time you want to shift into the creative flow state or writer’s trance and your practical, let’s get things done, Task Positive Network won’t let go, try any of these solutions:

  • Physical and mental relaxation techniques like progressive muscle relaxations, self-hypnosis, doing something to relax your mind
  • Guided imagery or visualization
  • Repeating a mantra like “breathing in, I know I’m breathing in” (equivalent to counting sheep)
  • Abdominal breathing deep and slow
  • Refrain from using your writing space for other activities; don’t pay bills, check emails, do other work, etc. in your writing space (equivalent to don’t use your bedroom for watching TV, reading, etc.)
  • Have a routine and write at the same time every day (equivalent to go to bed at the same time every night)
  • Observe and use the foods that help you shift into the writing trance; observe and avoid the foods that interfere with writing (caffeine, alcohol)
  • Keep a writer’s journal (equivalent to a sleep diary)
  • Make your writing environment comfortable and free from distractions
  • Get regular exercise
  • If you can’t write, leave your writing space and do something relaxing like yoga or creative process (coloring, doodling, knitting, etc.) for about 15 minutes, then go back to your writing space (equivalent to if you can’t sleep, get out of bed and do something relaxing for 15 minutes, then go back to bed)
  • If the problem persists, get professional help from a writing instructor or creativity coach (equivalent to going to a sleep lap, although coaching is less scientifically vigorous)

Please comment to let us know which of these or other methods have worked for you – to cure insomnia or writer’s block.

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4 Comments on “Would You Rather have Writer’s Block or Insomnia?”

  1. Michaeline Duskova July 14, 2017 at 10:22 pm #

    (-: I read the headline and thought, “Well, the insomnia would mean that I had time to write!” But you are absolutely right — that shift in consciousness is not there, and one of the reasons I think I’m having problems writing is because I’m so tired. So, it’s really not an either/or situation, but rather a both/neither situation. I’ll have to give these a try!


    • rosannebane July 17, 2017 at 3:53 pm #

      Hi Michaeline, I’m glad to hear you’re going to be kind to yourself about sleep! The upside is that if lack of sleep has affected your writing, giving yourself the sleep you need will feed two birds with one biscuit. And even a small improvement in your writing practice will make it easier to relax and get the sleep you need. I love it when we figure out how to use a both-and to work with us.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. samanthamurdochblog July 14, 2017 at 2:17 pm #

    Great advice…must say I would rather have insomnia though!


    • rosannebane July 17, 2017 at 3:54 pm #

      Thanks Samantha. I think I’d rather have whichever problem I’m not wrestling with at the moment…


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