Have you ever had one of those days when you don’t know what to write, yet you have deadlines and you have to write something?
Perhaps you are a freelance web writer, and your contract says you have to write something, like five articles a day. But maybe you’re sitting there staring at the screen and saying to yourself, “I just can’t think of a single thing to say.” Then before you know it, you get distracted with email, looking at offers, and maybe even reading other writers’ blog posts.
No! Oh, get real! We’ve all experienced this phenomenon when we absolutely have to write something, particularly on deadline. I’m talking about…uh, I can’t think of what the word is; oh, yes, it’s on the tip of my tongue. It’s…
Procrastination to write something!
Shhh! Some negative folks might call it WRITER’S BLOCK!
Whew! I feel better just getting that out of my head and onto the page!
Writer’s Block Happens When You Know Your Supposed to
Write Something on Deadline!
Writer’s block is the patron demon of the blank page. You may think you know EXACTLY what you’re going to write, but as soon as that evil white screen appears before you, your mind suddenly goes completely blank. I’m not talking about Zen meditation stare-at-the-wall-until-enlightenment-hits kind of blank.
Why Can’t I Write Something?
The more you think about writing, the more you end up looking at the clock. As the minutes and then hours fly by, your writing deadline looms bigger and becomes more real by each passing second.
Let me say that another way. “The tighter the deadline, the worse the anguish of writer’s block gets.” Now, can you figure out what might possibly be causing this horrible plunge into speechlessness?
The answer for why you can’t write something is obvious: FEAR!
Most likely you’re terrified that what you’re going to write isn’t good enough, or the piece won’t be long enough. Or perhaps you think people will judge you and criticize your writing.
It doesn’t necessarily matter if you’ve done a decade of research and all you have to do is string sentences you can repeat in your sleep together into coherent paragraphs. Writer’s block can strike anyone at any time. Based in fear, it raises our doubts about our own self-worth, but it’s sneaky.
It’s writer’s block, after all, so it doesn’t just come and let you know that. No, it makes you feel like an idiot who just had your frontal lobes removed through your sinuses. If you dared to put forth words into the greater world, they would surely come out as gibberish!
Get rational and write something…anything!
Let’s try and be rational with this irrational demon. Let’s make a list of what might possibly be beneath this terrible and terrifying condition.
1. Perfectionism. You must absolutely produce a masterpiece of literature straight off in the first draft. Otherwise, you qualify as a complete failure.
2. Editing instead of composing. There’s your monkey-mind sitting on your shoulder, yelling as soon as you type, “I was born?” No, not that, that’s wrong! That’s stupid! Correct, correct, correct, correct?
3. Self-consciousness. How can you think, let alone write, when all you can manage to do is pry the fingers of writer’s block away from your throat enough so you can gasp in a few shallow breaths? You’re not focusing on what you’re trying to write. You’re focusing on those gnarly fingers around your windpipe.
4. Can’t get started. It’s always the first sentence that’s the hardest. As writers, we all know how EXTREMELY important the first sentence is. It must be brilliant! It must be unique! It must hook your reader from the start! There’s no way we can get into writing the piece until we get past theimpossible first sentence.
5. Shattered concentration. Your cat is sick. You suspect your friend’s mate is cheating on her. Your electricity might be turned off any second. You have a crush on the local UPS deliveryman. You have a dinner party planned for your in-laws. You . . . Need I say more? How can you possibly concentrate with all this mental clutter?
6. Procrastination. It’s your favorite hobby. It’s your soul mate. It’s the reason you’ve knitted 60 argyle sweaters or made 300 bookcases in your garage workshop. It’s the reason you never run out of Brie.
In all honesty, one of the ideas getting tossed around in your head is the reason you have writer’s block and you think you can’t write something!
How to Overcome Writer’s Block
Okay. I can hear that herd of you running away from this article as fast as you can. Absurd! you huff. Never in a million years, you fume. Writer’s block is absolutely, undeniably, scientifically proven to be impossible to overcome.
Oh, just get over it! Well, I guess it’s not that easy. So try to sit down for just a few minutes and listen. All you have to do is listen. You don’t have to actually write a single word.
Ah, there you all are again. I am beginning to make you out now that the cloud of dust is settling.
I am here to tell you that WRITER’S BLOCK CAN BE OVERCOME.
Please, remain seated.
There are ways to trick this nasty demon. Pick one, pick several, and give them a try. Soon, before you even have a chance for your heartbeat to accelerate, guess what? You’re writing.
Here are some tried and true methods of overcoming writer’s block:
1. Be prepared. The only thing to fear is fear itself. (I know, that’s a cliché but as soon as you start writing, feel free to improve on it.) If you spend some time mulling over your project before you actually sit down to write, you may be able to circumvent the worst of the crippling panic.
2. Forget perfectionism. No one ever writes a masterpiece in the first draft. Don’t put any expectations on your writing at all! In fact, tell yourself you’re going to write absolute garbage, and then give yourself permission to happily stink up your writing room.
Enjoy that light bulb moment
3. Compose instead of editing. Never, never write your first draft with your monkey-mind sitting on your shoulder, making snide editorial comments. Composing is a magical process. It surpasses the conscious mind by galaxies. It’s even incomprehensible to the conscious, editorial, monkey-mind. So prepare an ambush. Sit down at your computer or your desk. Take a deep breath and blow out all your thoughts. Let your finger hover over your keyboard or pick up your pen. And then pull a fake: appear to be about to begin to write, but instead, using your thumb and index finger of your dominant hand, flick that little annoying ugly monkey back into the barrel of laughs it came from. Then jump in ? quickly! Write, scribble, scream, howl, let everything loose, as long as you write something with a pen or your computer keyboard.
4. Forget the first sentence. You can sweat over that all-important one-liner when you’ve finished your piece. Skip it! Go for the middle or even the end. Start wherever you can. Chances are, when you read it over, the first line will be blinking its little neon lights right at you from the depths of your composition.
5. Concentration. This is a hard one. Life throws us so many curve balls. How about thinking about your writing time as a little vacation from all those annoying worries. Banish them! Create a space, perhaps even a physical one, where nothing exists except the single present moment. If one of those irritating worries gets by you, stomp on it like you would an ugly bug!
6. Stop procrastinating. Write an outline. Keep your research notes within sight. Use someone else’s writing to get going. Babble incoherently on paper or on the computer if you have to.
Tack up anything that could possibly help you to get going: notes, outlines, pictures of your grandmother. Put the cookie you will be allowed to eat when you finish your first draft within sight, but out of reach. Then pick up the same type of writing that you need to write, and read it. Then read it again. Soon, trust me, the fear will slowly fade away. As soon as it does, grab your keyboard, and write something!