At times, the words dance off my keyboard and other times I gaze on a blank screen for an embarrassingly long time. The latter is particularly problematic when a deadline is looming. One does not often have the luxury of waiting around for the writer’s block to cure itself, as a sniffly nose might. So, what to do to remedy the block? Here are my top four cures:
- Rx: I Make sure I know what the document needs to say. Often, my writing stalls because I don’t know, precisely, what the document and its individual sections and paragraphs need to say. I’m either lacking information or focus. I need to identify which of the two it is. If it is information, I need to retrieve it through research of other means. If it is focus, I need to clarify the messaging and develop an old-fashioned outline.
- Rx: I write an email I don’t intend to send. The blank page can be an intimidating thing. It can demand a level of perfection and polish that is near impossible to produce in a draft. Contrast this with what a blank email page demands and the intimidation evaporates. Beginning in email form takes the pressure off and helps the voice and the tone develop quickly and effortlessly. I have started many cases for support as an email to my now elderly aunt who lives in Sweden. In the email I tell her about the organization I’m working with, what I am enjoying about the project, the people I have met, the organization’s cause, what makes it unique and necessary, and how it got started. I tell her about the client’s vision, who it will benefit and what will happen if the vision is not supported. Once the words start to flow, I copy the content into a Word document and carry on.
- Rx: I make a speech I don’t deliver. If the written words flow slowly, try to speak them instead. I set a stopwatch and give myself three minutes to make a speech on my client’s behalf. I envision myself stepping to the podium. How do I begin? Do I share a story? Do I quote someone from the community? Do I paint a picture of the future the audience can help to create? What will be meaningful to audience and convey the client’s message? What are the main points I need to convey? When the stopwatch buzzes, I am usually ready to transition to my laptop.
- Rx: I change my environment. Overcoming writer’s block can be as easy as changing location. I often start a writing project amidst the hustle and bustle of a neighbourhood coffee shop. I think differently there. Go figure.
Three of the four ways to cure writer’s block have to do with getting started. I might need to consider a fifth way: Write the beginning last. That way I would bypass the part that slows me down. I usually don’t write the beginning last, but I know people who do. It works for them. They say it takes the pressure off and gives them an opportunity to find a voice before they need to write the all-important lead. I like to persevere and write the beginning at the beginning. It’s there that I aim to create a lead that provides focus, structure and logical flow for the piece.
These are my go-to remedies for writer’s block. Below are links to what other folks do to overcome:
How about you, what do you do to keep writing?
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