Everybody who writes on a regular basis experiences writer’s block from time to time.
It happens to the student who’s working on a book report, it happens to the teacher who wants to make helpful comments when grading reports, and it happens to the experienced author who has a string of books on the best seller list.
It’s even happening to me to a certain extent as I’m writing about the subject.
If you write you will suffer writer’s block.
I submit that the degree of writer’s block you suffer is in direct proportion to the length of time you have to complete your current writing project. And it doesn’t make a bit of difference how well you prepared for that project.
No matter how much research you do. No matter how much material you gather. No matter how prepared you think you are.
When you sit down to start writing you suddenly have no idea where to start – or what words to start with.
Your mind simply goes blank.
You sit there staring at the sheet of paper or the computer screen knowing that you have a set amount of time to complete the finished product. You feel the bead of sweat start rolling down your spine.
And you feel the panic start to rise because you can’t think of a single word that will serve to begin your story.
Go After The Root
At its very root, the true cause of writer’s block is fear. But that fear comes in different forms for different individuals.
You might fear that you don’t have anything worth telling people about.
You might fear that you aren’t ready to put your work together.
You might fear that people will laugh at you for having the gall to think you can tell them something that will help them in some way.
You might even fear that you will succeed in putting together a best seller – it happens and many of those people who suffer that fear hold some valuable information inside forever.
Never putting it out there where it can do some good.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve spent days researching your subject or years learning about that subject. It doesn’t matter how much time you spent organizing your material and preparing it so that you can turn it into an end work that people can find a gram of value in.
Now I hear you thinking, “Fine. The root cause of writer’s block is fear. But what are the symptoms of that root cause? What do I have to treat to make that fear go away? And how do I treat those symptoms?”
Discover The Symptom
There are a variety of symptoms of the fear just like there are a number of different forms that fear presents itself in.
1. One symptom is the tenancy to be a perfectionist. This symptom attacks a lot of people. They feel that what they’re trying to create absolutely must be perfect the first time. They strive to begin the work with the most ideal leading sentence and can’t think of the words necessary to make that sentence ideal.
So they can’t seem to write that first word.
2. The next symptom is a need to correct the work as you go. You actually start writing but you keep looking back at your words and deciding that you didn’t get them right.
That’s the symptom of editing as you try to create. You write a few words, go back to correct what you think are mistakes, and end up starting all over again. What happens is that you never get past the first few paragraphs.
3. Lack of focus is a symptom. No matter how hard you try you can’t think about what you’re trying to accomplish. Your mind strays to a parade of subjects that have everything to do with anything that doesn’t relate to the topic of your project.
4. You decide to start tomorrow. This symptom is called procrastination. You decide you don’t want to deal with the writer’s block today so you walk away from your writing area. You can think of a whole list of activities that you can do instead of writing – and you justify to yourself that those activities are more important at this moment.
Writer’s Block Is Defeatable
No matter how impossible it may seem there are proven techniques that you can use to overcome writer’s block. They might not all work for you but understand that you only need one method that does work and you’re on your way to creating your product.
1. Number one is research. Spend the time learning as much as you need to about your subject. Knowing ahead of time what you want to talk about prepares you for the activity of actually saying it.
2.Just start writing. Sometimes this is all you need. Don’t sit and stare at the paper or screen. Begin by letting whatever words are in your brain flow down your arm and through your fingers.
Often, as you allow the free-flow of words, your thoughts start organizing themselves toward your intended subject. The research and organization fill your mind and your focus sharpens in the direction you want it to go.
3. Don’t worry about being perfect – you can’t do that right off anyway.
In his writing guide On Writing Stephen King gives us his top 20 rules for creating a novel. The number one rule is: “First write for yourself, and then worry about the audience.”
4. Create – then edit.
Don’t let your editing alter ego anywhere around your first effort until that effort is finished. Then you can look back over your work to improve it.
As you gain experience in writing you’ll learn that you must often write a number of drafts before you complete your project.
Some instructors in the field of copywriting guide their students to write a piece of sales copy and then delete the first third of that copy. They say it’s at the end of that first third of copy that your meaningful content actually begins.
5. Lack of concentration is sometimes the toughest symptom to treat.
We are bombarded by distractions throughout our daily lives. We need to take the kids to school or pick them up. We need to fix a meal, do the laundry, mow the grass – thoughts of things we need to do right at this moment are always lingering in the background waiting for their chance to jump into our conscious mind and take over.
Schedule your writing time around your must-do chores.
Find a way to keep the distractions locked away until your scheduled time for writing is done for the day.
Maybe lock yourself up in a separate room – just for writing – and make sure everyone around knows that you want absolutely no interruptions or distractions during your writing time.
Or find a retreat that no one knows about. A hideaway where you’ll be completely alone to pursue your writing activities.
6. Stop procrastination with writing aids. Before you begin, use your research to prepare an outline to follow. When it’s time to start take your first outline bullet and begin fleshing it out. Repeat that with each bullet and soon you’ll complete your first draft.
7. Designate rewards to give yourself for completing specific phases of your project.
A reward is anything that satisfies your sense of accomplishment. A cup of coffee or tea for completing a chapter. A nice dinner for finishing the first draft. A desired vacation for completing your project.
Place some reminder of your next reward in easy view while you’re working. An empty cup to remind you of your next coffee break or a picture of the vacation resort that’s waiting for you to finish your book.
Don’t Cave In To Writer’s Block
Writer’s block is a condition that all writers experience on occasion. Don’t let it defeat you. Just get started and let your inner creativity cast it aside.
Soon your words will flow onto the page and you’ll completely forget that you had any problems getting started to begin with.