Overcoming Writer's Block
What is writer's block?Well, I just can't think of a single darn thing tosay. Oh well, I'm outta here!Sound familiar? No! Oh, get real! We've allexperienced this phenomenon when we absolutely have towrite something, particularly on deadline. I'm talkingabout. . . . .uh, I can't think of what the word is .. . oh, yes, it's on the tip of my tongue . . . it's:
Whew! I feel better just getting that out of my headand onto the page!Writer's block is the patron demon of the blank page.
You may think you know EXACTLY what you're going towrite, but as soon as that evil white screen appearsbefore you, your mind suddenly goes completely blank.
I'm not talking about Zen meditationstare-at-the-wall-until-enlightenment-hits kind ofblank.
I'm talking about sweat trickling down the back ofyour neck, anguish and panic and suffering kind ofblank. The tighter the deadline, the worse the anguishof writer's block gets.
Having said that, let me say it again. "The tighterthe deadline, the worse the anguish of writer's blockgets." Now, can you figure out what might possibly becausing this horrible plunge into speechlessness?The answer is obvious: FEAR! You are terrified of thatblank page. You are terrified you have absolutelynothing of value to say. You are afraid of the fear ofwriter's block itself!It doesn?t necessarily matter if you've done a decadeof research and all you have to do is string sentencesyou can repeat in your sleep together into coherentparagraphs. Writer's block can strike anyone at anytime. Based in fear, it raises our doubts about ourown self-worth, but it's sneaky. It's writer's block,after all, so it doesn't just come and let you knowthat. No, it makes you feel like an idiot who just hadyour frontal lobes removed through your sinuses. Ifyou dared to put forth words into the greater world,they would surely come out as gibberish!Let's try and be rational with this irrational demon.
Let's make a list of what might possibly be beneaththis terrible and terrifying condition.
1. Perfectionism. You must absolutely produce amasterpiece of literature straight off in the firstdraft. Otherwise, you qualify as a complete failure.
2. Editing instead of composing. There's yourmonkey-mind sitting on your shoulder, yelling as soonas you type "I was born?," no, not that, that's wrong!That's stupid! Correct correct correct correct?
3. Self-consciousness. How can you think, let alonewrite, when all you can manage to do is pry thefingers of writer's block away from your throat enoughso you can gasp in a few shallow breaths? You're notfocusing on what you're trying to write, your focusingon those gnarly fingers around your windpipe.
4. Can't get started. It's always the first sentencethat's the hardest. As writers, we all know how EXTREMELY important the first sentence is. It must bebrilliant! It must be unique! It must hook yourreader's from the start! There's no way we can getinto writing the piece until we get past thisimpossible first sentence.
5. Shattered concentration. You're cat is sick. Yoususpect your mate is cheating on you. Your electricitymight be turned off any second. You have a crush onthe local UPS deliveryman. You have a dinner partyplanned for your in-laws. You . . . Need I say more.
How can you possibly concentrate with all this mentalclutter?6. Procrastination. It's your favorite hobby. It'syour soul mate. It?s the reason you've knitted 60argyle sweaters or made 300 bookcases in your garageworkshop. It's the reason you never run out of Brie.
FACE IT ? IT?S ONE OF THE REASONS YOU HAVE WRITER'SBLOCK!
How to Overcome Writer's BlockOkay. I can hear that herd of you running away fromthis article as fast as you can. Absurd! you huff.
Never in a million years, you fume. Writer's block isabsolutely, undeniably, scientifically proven to beimpossible to overcome.
Oh, just get over it! Well, I guess it's not thateasy. So try to sit down for just a few minutes andlisten. All you have to do is listen ? you don't haveto actually write a single word.
Ah, there you all are again. I am beginning to makeyou out now that the cloud of dust is settling.
I am here to tell you that WRITER'S BLOCK CAN BEOVERCOME.
Please, remain seated.
There are ways to trick this nasty demon. Pick one,pick several, and give them a try. Soon, before youeven have a chance for your heartbeat to accelerate,guess what? You're writing.
Here are some tried and true methods of overcomingwriter's block:
1. Be prepared. The only thing to fear is fear itself.
(I know, that's a clich?but as soon as you startwriting, feel free to improve on it.) If you spendsome time mulling over your project before youactually sit down to write, you may be able tocircumvent the worst of the crippling panic.
2. Forget perfectionism. No one ever writes amasterpiece in the first draft. Don't put anyexpectations on your writing at all! In fact, tellyourself you're going to write absolute garbage, andthen give yourself permission to happily stink up yourwriting room.
3. Compose instead of editing. Never, never write yourfirst draft with your monkey-mind sitting on yourshoulder making snide editorial comments. Composing isa magical process. It surpasses the conscious mind bygalaxies. It's even incomprehensible to the conscious,editorial, monkey-mind. So prepare an ambush. Sit downat your computer or your desk. Take a deep breath andblow out all your thoughts. Let your finger hover overyour keyboard or pick up your pen. And then pull afake: appear to be about to begin to write, butinstead, using your thumb and index finger of yourdominant hand, flick that little annoying ugly monkeyback into the barrel of laughs it came from. Then jumpin ? quickly! Write, scribble, scream, howl, leteverything loose, as long as you do it with a pen oryour computer keyboard.
4. Forget the first sentence. You can sweat over thatall-important one-liner when you've finished yourpiece. Skip it! Go for the middle or even the end.
Start wherever you can. Chances are, when you read itover, the first line will be blinking its little neonlights right at you from the depths of yourcomposition.
5. Concentration. This is a hard one. Life throws usso many curve balls. How about thinking about yourwriting time as a little vacation from all thoseannoying worries. Banish them! Create a space, perhapseven a physical one, where nothing exists except thesingle present moment. If one of those irritatingworries gets by you, stomp on it like you would anugly bug!6. Stop procrastinating. Write an outline. Keep yourresearch notes within sight. Use someone else'swriting to get going. Babble incoherently on paper oron the computer if you have to.
Just do it! (I know, I stole that line fromsomewhere?). Tack up anything that could possibly helpyou to get going: notes, outlines, pictures of yourgrandmother. Put the cookie you will be allowed to eatwhen you finish your first draft within sight ? butout of reach. Then pick up the same type of writingthat you need to write, and read it. Then read itagain. Soon, trust me, the fear will slowly fade away.
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