Overcoming Writer’s Block Part I

Nothing chills a writer’s soul more than a blank computer screen or an empty sheet of paper. Writer’s block – the bane of every serious writer – rears its ugly head! (Do you get the feeling that I might have had some trouble getting myself started today?)

Fortunately there are lots of ways to get yourself warmed up and on task. I’m going to write about a few of these today, and I’ll offer more next time.

1.  Get into a routine. Choose a time and place to start writing, and follow through every day. It may be tough in the beginning – but soon you’ll have overcome the biggest problem that writers face: Avoidance.

2.  Write something awful. Here’s a story (remember when I said that narratives are great for developing ideas?).

I came home from graduate school with my shoulders drooping and my head hanging because I realized I had enrolled in an impossible course. A research paper was required, and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to come up with anything good. It was the last course in my program, and I’d made it with straight A’s so far – but it wasn’t going to happen this time.

My ever-encouraging husband gave me some sensible advice. Nobody is ever going to know what grade you got, he said. Write a mediocre paper. They’ll give you a B, and you’ll be done with that part of your program. Why stress about it?

The clouds lifted, and I indeed wrote a mediocre paper. Except that something funny happened: I started thinking of little things I could do to make it better – a sharper sentence, an extra reference, a better idea. In the end I earned (tada!) an A.

I thanked my husband for his helpful advice…and he said, “Do you realize you pulled this same thing with every course in your program?”

Well, no, I didn’t.

Moral of the story: It’s ok to be imperfect. You can always fix it later. Forget what your mother said about “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.” (Yeah, my mother said that too.)

3.  Get a writing buddy. This is the gold standard of writing advice. Commit to meet at a regular time and place (coffee shops are wonderful). Go ahead and spend a few minutes connecting and chatting – and then get to work.

More soon (if I can overcome my inertia!).

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