Conquer Your Writer's Block
Many people who do a lot of writing—whether for books, articles, blogs, essays, stories, etc.—have experienced writer’s block, that dreadful experience when you want to write (or have to write because your job requires it) and nothing comes to you.
Actually, writer’s block can manifest itself in several ways aside from not being able to come up with an idea. One such way is that you’re unable to convey what’s in your head. Another is that you have lots of ideas but when you try to write them down, they seem ridiculous. A third way is that you’re paralyzed by the conviction that people will say your writing stinks. (Raise your hand if this one sounds familiar.)
For most people, the problem isn’t a lack of ideas, but fear that those ideas won’t land eloquently on the page. Follow the wisdom of Ann Lamott, who says in her book Bird by Bird: Some Instruction on Writing and Life, “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something—anything—down on paper.” And heed the priceless advice by Gerald M. Weinberg in Weinberg on Writing: The Fieldstone Method: “Never attempt to write about something you don’t care about.”
To escape writer’s block, describe what you want to write to a monkey (or a seven-year-old). Or skip the beginning and write your favorite part. Or add a ritual behavior, such as doing calisthenics every twenty minutes. It can also help to change your surroundings, play music you enjoy, do some reading on an unrelated topic, and do some writing every day to strengthen your “writing muscles.” To avoid getting stuck in the first place, learn from famous writers how to overcome writer’s block. (Maybe suggestions from Maya Angelou, Mark Twain, or Ernest Hemingway can motivate you.)
Keep in mind that no one writes a book all at once—or even an article, essay, or story. You start with a word, and when you string together enough words, you generate sentences, paragraphs, and pages. So rather than be overwhelmed by the result you want to create, think in terms of writing smaller chunks. If you’re still stuck, write anything because it helps to trigger your creativity.
For the ultimate challenge, sign up for National Novel Writing Month, which will coach you to write a 50,000-word novel in thirty days. It’s a crazy idea, but an extraordinary number of people have given it a try. The best part: It doesn’t matter how you do, and you just might surprise yourself.
Interestingly, just as people who write can experience writer’s block, people who compose music can experience composer’s block. The advice given to composers is similar to advice given to writers: set a schedule, write out of order, seek inspiration in other pieces of music, and just write down something—anything.