Overcoming Writer’s Block

There are people who claim there’s no such thing as writer’s block, and perhaps for them, there isn’t. But for most of us, there is such a thing, and anyone can get it—writers of books, blogs, articles, novels, business proposals, or scripts. Apparently, even skywriters can get it (according to the imagination of cartoonist Matt Diffee).

Those who claim that writer's block is a myth maintain that feeling stumped in writing usually has a simple cause. That’s no doubt true, but it’s irrelevant if you don’t know the cause. For those of us who have experienced writer’s block, it’s real, and if you have a deadline hanging over your head, it’s miserable.

That was my experience in a book I was writing. I had lots to say but felt totally blocked in getting my ideas from my head to the screen. Strangely, I was blocked only with the book; I had no difficulty writing articles, proposals, or client reports. Thankfully, I got the manuscript to my publisher in time, but the cliche about pulling teeth was very apropos.

People who like to categorize things believe there are specific types of writer’s block, and they graciously offer advice for dealing with each type. One pundit on the subject claims there are three types. Another has identified four types. But ten is the magic number of types for many of those who write on the topic (and seem to have no writer’s block in doing so).

As these articles on writer’s block indicate, lots of things can help free you from that stuck place. For example, free writing can be an excellent daily exercise to help you generate ideas by writing rapidly on a random topic. You can write an outline or expand on one you already have. You can speculate about how your boss or your seven-year-old would address your topic. You can ask yourself questions that will get you going.

In addition, you can talk with colleagues about what you’re stuck on; often, the very process of talking about your ideas helps set them loose. You can eliminate distractions, which is a good idea in any case if you want to be productive in your writing. And you can read any number of excellent books on writing, such as Jerry Weinberg’s Weinberg on Writing: The Fieldstone Method. The book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott reminds us that most good writing begins with terrible first efforts. That’s encouragement for many of us who write.

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