Writer's block — we've all been there. Sitting at your desk, staring despondently at an empty document, typing out a few words only to delete them all… It all turns into a vicious cycle of unproductivity. You feel guilty for not writing enough, so you feel the need to write even more, but the pressure you put on yourself only ends up further exacerbating the dry spell. Defeated, you abandon the project for the day.
If this has been your experience recently, worry not. Coined by writer and blogger Mandy Wallace, the One-Two Punch Writing Approach may just be the solution for you.
What is it?
The One-Two Punch Writing Approach is much simpler than it sounds. Like its name suggests, it consists of just two steps: lie down, and write 50 words.
On first glance, this may seem completely far-fetched. After all, won't lying down while writing just make you fall asleep mid-sentence and give you back problems?
But it turns out that writing lying down has actually been a tried and tested method! Famous writers like Mark Twain and George Orwell were known for creating their works whilst lying down, and American playwright Truman Capote even calls himself a "completely horizontal writer".
So, how exactly is this two-pronged approach supposed to help you overcome writer's block? Why lie down, and why only 50 words?
What are the benefits?
1. It takes away the pressure
Earlier, we talked about how writer's block can put pressure on you to write more, and this increased pressure actually exacerbates the problem. This is where the 50-word limit becomes relevant.
Instead of forcing yourself to produce an daunting amount of words (say, 1000 words per day), take it slow and easy with just 50 words. When you give yourself an easily achievable goal, it becomes much easier to muster the motivation to accomplish it.
2. Lying down helps you relax
Inspiration is a fickle thing. The harder you try to come up with ideas, the more elusive they become. But why do you suppose many writers come up with their best ideas when showering, or right before they go to bed? That's because a mindless, relaxed state lets your mind wander, and a wandering mind is the perfect place for ideas to spawn.
So when you lie down to write, the very act of laying down sends signals to your body to tell it to relax. Give yourself a few moments to get comfortable, close your eyes, and eventually the inspiration will return to you.
3. Makes you think carefully about each sentence
"50 words left no space to get lost in big concepts. It was about moving my story forward one sentence at a time" — Mandy Wallace
50 words is, as mentioned earlier, an easily achievable goal, but it can also be a very tight limit. When you limit yourself to 50 words and only 50 words, it forces you to think carefully about each and every word you write.
What this does it helps you become more mindful. When every word choice is more deliberate, you will be able to cut down on long, rambling sentences that will only serve to confuse the reader.
4. Forces you to slow down
When you're stuck in a writer's block, the last thing you'd want to do is to force yourself to go fast. As mentioned earlier, putting pressure on yourself only further hinders productivity.
When you lie down, it becomes incredibly awkward to write quickly. Unless you're propped up on pillows, it's difficult to type on a laptop or write in a notebook. Wallace herself eventually decided to use the speech-to-text function on her phone to get words down.
"It forced me to slow down. To consider where I was going. And the goal was small enough that I had plenty of time to do it right along the way."
Similar to point number 3, writing slowly will help you become more mindful in your writing. It gives you more clarity as well as the space to correct awkward syntax and address plot holes.
How do you do it?
1. Get comfortable
The One-Two Punch method hinges on your ability to relax and start writing, and this means that there really is no hard and fast rule to how you can achieve relaxation. Simply find a comfortable surface — your bed, a couch, a yoga mat — to lie on. You may even want to make yourself a warm drink and grab some snacks if that helps you get comfortable.
2. Remove all distractions
When you're trying to overcome writer's block, it's crucial that you stay as distraction-free as possible. Playing a K-drama episode or a Netflix series in the background may not be the best idea, as these can easily derail and interrupt any train of thought. You should also try to disconnect from social media until you're done with the 50 words
3. Relax with some music and ASMR
That said, not everyone has the luxury of writing in the comfort of their own home. Many office workers struggle with writer's block as well and are often unable to find a good place to lie down and write at the office.
If that's the case, why not just make do with some calming music? Lean back in your chair, close your eyes, and plug in your earphones to drown out the sounds around you. Let the music loosen your muscles and free your mind.
And if music isn't up your alley, give ASMR a try instead. There are numerous ASMR videos on Youtube with all sorts of triggers to help you enter a relaxed state.
4. Meditate on the go
Meditation is another way to center yourself and enter a relaxed and mindful state even without a comfortable surface to lie down on. But it's not easy to collect yourself when you're surrounded by your coworkers at the office. Thankfully, meditation apps like Calm and Headspace offer meditation sessions guided by voice recordings and timers. Plug your earphones in, close your eyes, and let yourself sink into calmness.
5. Talk out loud
Sometimes, it's much easier to verbalize your thoughts than to type them out. Many people find it much easier to brainstorm and organize their thoughts by talking out loud to themselves instead or writing or typing.
So to make things easier for yourself, why not use writing apps that have a speech-to-text function, like Jotterpad? This will help you get your thoughts and ideas directly onto the document without the hassle of typing. To activate Jotterpad's speech-to-text function, all you need to do is hold down on the microphone icon as you talk, and watch the AI work its magic.
6. Stay organized with a cloud
When you use a mobile writing app for your One-Two Punch writing exercises, your documents and ideas may end up scattered across all your devices. For example, your main story may be saved on your computer, while your 50-word snippets are stored separately on your phone.
But a messy workspace, both digital and physical, can further sabotage your attempts to break out of a writer's block. As such, you may want to consider using a cloud-based writing app for better organization.
Jotterpad, for example, allows you to save and access documents on its cloud from across multiple devices (iOS, Mac, Android, etc.). This eliminates scatter, and keeps all your ideas neatly organized in one place for easy access.
When you're in the moment, writer's block may feel like an insurmountable obstacle. But with the One-Two Punch Writing Approach, we hope that you will be able to go forth and slay the beast that is writer's block!