For me, writers block was a blank page on the screen of my mind. Nothing would come. No thought patterns appeared. The little voice in my head was silent. The tighter the deadline, the more frustrated I became. Oh, I wrote anyway but it was amateurish at best.
My mentor nailed the problem. It was fear!
Writers block can be from deep-seated fear that you have absolutely nothing of value to say. And, it doesn’t matter if you’ve done all your research and all you have to do is arrange sentences together into coherent paragraphs. Writers block, based on fear of looking stupid, can strike anyone at any time.
Based in fear, it raises our doubts about our own self-worth and it’s usually hidden from our consciousness. You don’t realize the fear is there but you feel like an idiot who only went up to the 4th grade in school. If you dared publish your writing, people would surely see you for the illiterate idiot you really are!
Here is a list to use to unmask the writer’s block demon in you!
The demon says you must produce a masterpiece of literature straight off in the first draft.
2. Editing instead of composing.
Midway through your first or second sentences the demon says – “No, that’s stupid. Start over!” “Uh…that’s no good either…uh…”
The demon puts more and more pressure on you to get writing but tells you that you really are not a capable writer.
4. Can’t get started?
The demon convinces you that the first sentence is the hardest and reminds you of how critically important the first sentence is. It must be brilliant! It must be unique! It must hook your reader from the start! Scary, huh?
5. Shattered concentration.
The demon will draw your attention away from your keyboard by planting random thoughts – “Did I pay the electric bill?”, “I wish Jane was here right now, “What time is it?” and on it goes.
The demon tells you it’s O.K. to walk away for a while, to avoid the hassle right now, writing can be put off while you clear your head. Procrastination is writers block out in the open for you to see. When procrastination takes over, you have lost the battle.
Now that I have your stomach churning, here is what my mentor taught me.
1. Be prepared.
Once your research is done, spend a few minutes picturing in your mind’s eye the story you are about to put on paper. Play it like a movie with sound and action. Imagine you are a movie critic and you are about to write a column about the movie.
I would have news stories mostly written in my mind before I reached the TV station using this very technique. I knew how I would begin, what the middle would be about, and how it would end. This, by the way, included cover video and sound-on interviews.
2. Forget perfectionism.
Start writing regardless of what you think about your skill as a writer. Just write, one sentence after another after another. Let it flow. Some of it will be garbage, sure, but so what? The final product is what counts.
Look at it this way. Most of your readers/viewers are no smarter than you. Most have an average education. Most wouldn’t know a perfect story from an imperfect one. Most cannot recognize improper grammar. This alone should free you to write but let’s continue.
3. Compose instead of editing.
Composing is a magical process. It surpasses the conscious mind and kicks on your creative flow because it doesn’t judge quality. It only cares about quantity at this point. It totally ignores the writer’s block demon! It doesn’t care what anyone thinks. It just wants to write!
4. Forget the first sentence.
In fact, expect to throw away the first couple of sentences. That way the demon gets what it wants and you get what you want – to write! You can sweat over that all-important headline and opening paragraph when you’ve finished your piece.
Distraction is another sign that the writer’s block demon is rearing its ugly head. Concentration is the 357 magnum that blows it away. Pretend you’re Dirty Harry and use concentration to blow that sucker away.
6. Stop procrastinating.
If you suffer with procrastination in many areas of your life, you need to begin your writing process by writing an outline, a road map to get you from the beginning to the middle to the end of the piece. Keep your research notes handy as a crutch. You can try writing with pad and pencil at first just to get just to break the mental block between your keyboard and the blank page of your mind. Writing in this way may help you get organized. Of course you can always just attack your keyboard to get the flow started. Type anything and everything that come into your head!
Finally, one of the keys I employed when I first began my battle to overcome writers block was to keep a picture in my mind of my mentor teaching these shortcuts. For you, may I suggest you print this article and keep it next to your keyboard where you can refer to it often. Allow it to be your mentor. I guarantee, someday you will not need it because writers block will be a rare occurrence.
Yours for success.