How to Overcome Writer’s Block

After I shut down my corporate laptop around 5 PM, I began to think about the most exciting part of the day:

What I’m going to share with my daily readers tonight?

Before I started writing, I would go on a walk, get some fresh air, and play an episode of Friends. Then, I would ask Chris our dinner plans and unwind for a few hours.

After dinner, I would have 1:1s with my team to talk about key projects and milestones. In today’s 1:1, Elaine shared a few exciting podcast updates and followed up with a challenge, “I couldn’t write a compelling story because I didn’t have relevant personal experience…”

“Bad excuse.”

Here is what I told Elaine, “Look at the news written by journalists. Are they a domain expert on every topic they reported?” Then I went on to address the underlying challenge she faced — writer’s block.

Most authors face writer’s block. Writer’s block could be a lack of motivation, energy, or resources to write up a story. While helping Elaine unblock her writer’s block, I quickly realized that I was the one who needed help.

After writing for 100+ days, I productized the process of turning my inspirations into articles every day. As I wrote this story, I realized a recurring pattern in my life — I was easily bored. I needed new challenges to get ready for the work.

But why the heck do I want to make my life harder? Why don’t I just comfortably sit down, write a short piece, and call it a day?

Maybe I was born this way.

Growing up, I would get myself to do the hardest things. When I started school, I quickly noticed a general curriculum would not work for me. I was terribly bored with what was taught in class. I kept asking myself: “Why can’t the teacher go faster? Why can’t I just read the textbook and skip the rest? Why do I have to sit in for stuff I can easily learn on my own?”

Luckily, my mother recognized my wanting for new challenges, so she borrowed stacks of library books to let me read in the class. She also found tutors and after-school classes to help me learn at my own pace. As a result, I was studying high school math and sciences when I was in junior high school. When I got to high school, I passed the tests and opted out of English and Math classes. I have bought myself so much time. After a decade of learning and growing at my own pace, I knew that I could create and play my own game in life.

In college, I first declared a major in computer science. Algorithms and data structures were different enough to keep me hooked. However, after a year or two, I began to find the patterns and got bored as I finished the concentration requirements. To re-engage my intellectual curiosity, I sought out applied mathematics to up-level my thinking in a new way. After I found the patterns in applied math, I took on Economics too. If time permitted, I would have added a fourth major in political science. By studying each topic, I was able to push my knowledge boundary forward to become the very best version of myself.

The same pattern applies to my career.

I was fortunate to start my career with running my own startups. As my own boss, I could challenge myself to my very limits (which require deep self-awareness). Most importantly, it taught me what dream jobs feel like.

For each of my career steps, I would pick the jobs that could help me learn most. I went on to learn about building products at scale at Google. I then applied my math and CS skills to heading the TA program for Brown’s Data Science Master’s Program. Then I applied my technical and business knowledge to startups and product management. Before I began my full-time job, I started LivingOS, knowing that there was nothing more fulfilling than working on a mission that strongly reflects who I am.

If you take another look at my path, you will see that it’s a path of pursuing self-actualization. By optimizing for the path of higher growth, I was able to get on a trajectory fully aligned with who I am.

A huge part of my happiness comes from my pursuit of personal growth.

If you are interested in adding this high-growth metric to your career, here are a few skills that you might want to build:

If you find yourself losing motivation, try to make the tasks at hand more challenging.

Here’s how I helped Elaine unblock her writer’s block.

First, I asked her to tell me about the content she was working with. Then, I deconstructed the story and picked a few elements that stood out to me. We then brainstormed ideas around the interesting elements. After we gathered together the raw materials, I shared the Nugget Story Writing Framework to help her expand the core idea with concrete examples. This technique is pretty similar to what you learn in an academic writing class in college.

After helping her overcome the challenge, I realized that I was also suffering from writer’s block. Therefore, I decided to apply the Nugget Framework to my writing today. To honor my challenge-seeking nature, I recorded my writing LIVE. I ended up writing two stories in 74min.

Check out the live recording and another story tomorrow!

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