The Writing Habits of Successful (But Creatively Stuck) People

UPDATED: October 13, 2015
PUBLISHED: May 28, 2015

Without writing, I didn’t realize how “backed up” my mind had gotten.

Lately, I’d been so caught up in new SUCCESS projects that I didn’t realize how dusty my pen had become, how lonely my headphones were or how sorely missed was my Pandora One subscription. I just nearly gave myself a heart attack plugging in my headphones and turning on the app to find my volume at max. (Seriously, my left arm hurts now.)

But reading my old blog posts reminded me how much I love writing, and reinforced my belief that I still even had the writing chops to do so. As any writer will tell you, we live in fear that, one day, we’ll just forget how to do it. The bicycle metaphor is utterly lost on us. After all the procrastination and deferral efforts run dry and we finally sit down to write that masterpiece, panic sets in as we think, What have I gotten myself into?

So while I enjoy studying the behavior flow charts of visitors and discovering their average time on-site and pages per unique visitor as any other reasonable person would, I miss that adrenaline-driven fear of writing something great. That’s the endorphin high that gets writers’ wheels churning. Less elegantly put, writing is the plunger of creative minds.

Want to unclog your creative mind? Here are some ways I’ve found to clear those mental jams:

1. Put headphones on. You already know the solace you find by putting on your headphones, selecting your favorite playlist and tuning out all the chatter, but sometimes you don’t even need music. Simply putting on a pair of headphones shifts your attention from an office of many, to a desk of one. Plus, it works because others understand the code of headphones and the more obvious and easy to see, the better. I haven’t been caught wearing headphones with the unplugged jack plainly in sight yet, but after this article I guess I’m busted.

2. Stop editing every word. Expecting every word, every sentence and every paragraph to come together perfectly is unreasonable. Instead, write what you can, and fill in the blanks later.

3. When you can’t find the right word, just write WHAT. This placeholder word helps when you’re on a roll and don’t want to stop your momentum to think of the perfect word. Just don’t forget to replace them later and always put them in all-caps. I once had a boss who’d fire you on the spot if you used any placeholder text, and with good reason. That’s how you end up on Headlines, or Jimmy Fallon’s iteration, Screengrabs.

4. Open up your calendar and look at your deadline. If adrenaline works for you, then making yourself feel the pinch of impending deadlines is a great way to get your butt in gear. Really want to feel the pinch? Take a look at that deadline and the five others you’ve got coming up. Nothing motivates like the panic of having others find out just how far behind you are.

5. Almost done but can’t come up with a good ending? Well that’s the magic of digital content. If you don’t have the perfect ending, publish anyway. Once you see your words go live without a great caboose, I promise you’ll come up with something.

Do you want to know the secret to success? Of course you do! Find out 4 habits of insanely successful people.

Journalist, podcaster and southpaw Shelby Skrhak is the former director of digital content and social media for Before joining SUCCESS magazine, Shelby launched the weekly suburban newspaper Plano Insider, and covered topics ranging from cops and courts to transportation and fashion. Her handwriting should be a font.