How to Combat Writer’s Block
“Time heals all wounds; some broken hearts — and most cases of writer’s block.”
Quentin R. Bufogle
(Photo: Janis Raisen)
Time may heal writer’s block, but what if you don’t have time to wait for writer’s block to pass? In a world of short deadlines, time is a luxury. Writer’s block is a term that has been circulating for years, but in order to solve it let’s first define it in technical terms. Everyone interprets writer’s block in varying degrees of severity.
What Is Writer’s Block?
According to the Urban Dictionary, one definition of writer's block is, "A usually temporary psychological inability to begin or continue work on a piece of writing."
This is a classic problem that famous writers throughout our time have experienced. It may not happen with every piece of writing, but it is bound to come up if writing is part of your life. When you are stuck staring at a blank screen, or a half-written article, how do you move forward?
Traps & Tips
Expecting Perfection with the First Draft
It’s tempting to want your first draft of an article to be perfect, especially if it’s short. It would be great to simply sit down each day and write an entire piece with ease and perfection in one draft. It can happen once in a while, but it is not the norm, nor will your first draft represent the full essence of your writing ability.
“If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.”
Keep in mind that it is also possible that not all articles are written in sequence. You may know exactly what you would like to write for the body of an article, for example, but may still be struggling with the beginning or the end, but that’s okay. By not expecting a first and final draft, it allows yourself the flexibility to start the writing process and develop your ideas knowing that whatever you write is just the “dress rehearsal.” Just start writing — anything — to get the ball rolling. You can edit later.
Feeling Flustered with Time Crunches
If you are expected to write an article with a very short turnaround time, you might be inclined to freeze — not know where to begin or how to continue — but panicking will only exacerbate the situation. One simple tip from Ernest Hemingway seems so obvious, yet may help in the throes of writer’s block:
“Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now.”
Lack of Clarity
Lack of clarity can be a huge contributing factor in writer’s block. Many times not knowing how to begin can stem from not being clear on the theme or idea. We all tend to plan difficult tasks around the time of day that we view as our peak hours of productivity. As a morning person, you probably avoid writing at night since you won’t produce the best work. Well, as it turns out, a study was done in December 2012 (and explained in an article in Psychology Today), which suggests that although certain tasks are encouraged during our peak hours, our creative juices flow the most during our non-peak hours.
“… when people have to solve ‘insight problems’ that require a high degree of creativity, solvers are much more successful when they tackle these problems at the time of day in which they are least alert.”
Perhaps you may surprise yourself by writing when you think you are least productive; you might find that it resolves your confusion by boosting your overall creative ability.
Have you ever been driving, cooking or in the middle of a conversation when the most perfect, original and colorful words come to mind that you know will be the best text anchors for your article?
“Very often we write down a sentence too early, then another too late; what we have to do is write it down at the proper time, otherwise it’s lost.”
Do not lose this magic moment when the greatest words pop into your mind. It is crucial to save these brilliant ideas in a note, email or by whatever means you can. If you don’t include those descriptive words that come to you so easily and unexpectedly, you will regret it later. They will be lost, and sadly may bring about another case of writer’s block.
Lack of Focus
None of the other tips will work if you can’t focus, since this is the central drive that will keep you on track and minimize writer’s block. Focus is about more than just writing: It is about planning for your deadline, knowing the required length, clarifying the target market, figuring out how much research is involved, if any, and documenting the parameters. Once you are finished preplanning, the next steps are to stay focused during the writing task itself. Here are a few tips on ways to stay organized, maintain your focus and minimize writer’s block:
Choose a writing environment that works best: coffee shop, home office, library
Put your phone on silent
Close social media sites
Create a to-do list regarding your project
Take frequent breaks after each small milestone in your article
If you get stuck on one idea, move on to the next
Don’t lose momentum