Ever have to write something, and find yourself putting it off until it’s too late to do it at all? Ever get the sweats looking at a blank screen, then say to yourself, “Hmmm, where’s that sewing project I’ve been meaning to do for the last six months, I need to get it done NOW”?
Don’t worry, you are not alone. Every author, no matter how experienced, faces writer’s block from time to time. Here are some things I do to cope.
Step One: Warm Up. The more you write, the easier it gets, like any other practical skill. The trick I follow when I’m challenged by a topic is to just sit down at my computer and start writing what I know about the topic, even if it sounds weird. It physically and mentally loosens me up, like a warm-up exercise. I also find that it captures what I really feel about the topic, and it helps me get excited about it.
Step Two: Research. Then, I research online what I don’t know about the topic and add to the piece. Before I know it, I have several pages filled with stuff.
Step Three: Pare Down. I then edit those several pages of stuff down to a reasonable amount of stuff (and then I might let my wife, Jean, edit the stuff into much Finer-sounding stuff, which she likes to do for fun, sometimes). It may be a little backward, but it works for me.
Or, Take Small Bites. Another technique I follow is to break the writing task into small pieces, just doing a little at a time. Then, I take my dog Suki out for a walk to clear my brain in between those small pieces. Amazing what I think of when I return from the exercise of letting Suki drag me around the block with her.
Step Four: Proofread. Don’t try to proofread what you are writing as you type, or it will interrupt your flow. Edit at the end of your task instead, when you can take a step back and look at the whole piece. I find if I am writing a letter of complaint to someone, the distance lets me come back to it and edit out the nasty tone—this way, the person might actually respond to my request for help, instead of filing me in the “oval” file. If you need some proofreading tips, see my Oct. 4 post, “Proofreading: Feel the Pain.”
Good luck, and I look forward to reading some of your own ideas for unblocking writer’s block.
© 2012, 2014 Fran Fahey