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Blast Your Writing Blocks

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Summary: Writing blocks are usually related to some form of anxiety, or to a lack of information. Here's how to conquer them.

Category: Writing

Words: 800

Blast Your Writing Blocks

Copyright © 2003 by Angela Booth

How many words do you write a day? Some novelists manage 2,000
words a day or even more, but most writers feel they've done a
good job if they can turn out 500 to 1,000 words.

If you're writing zero words a day, you're blocked. Writers get
blocked because they're anxious, or because they donít have
enough information.

=> Dealing with anxiety

Anxiety can show up in various forms, either physical, mental, or
emotional. You may feel tired, or have a head-ache. You may
decide that you're bored with what you're writing, or so
depressed you can't think. Or maybe you convince yourself that
you're just too busy (the lawn needs mowing, and you should spend
time with the kids). You'll do your writing tomorrow.

The anxiety block is hard to manage because you often donít
realize that it is a block. You have terrific reasons for not
writing. No one would expect you to write with a migraine, would
they? And you really do need to mow the lawn.

The only way I've found to manage this block is to be tough on
myself. I set myself a daily word target, usually 1,000. I may
not reach that target, but before I go to bed, I MUST write 500
words. Every day.

Paradoxically, I've found that even when I'm not in the mood to
write, or when I have a headache that would fell an ox, I feel
better when I've written my 500 words. I often go on to write the
full 1,000.

The most pernicious anxiety block occurs when you're convinced
your writing is worthless. This block may happen as a result of
chaos in some other area of your life: perhaps with
relationships, or illness, or finances.

Handling this block takes careful management. First, try to see
that it's a block, which has happened because of the stress
you're under. Your writing is fine --- you've just lost
perspective. If you can convince yourself of this, it's a major

Try to write anyway, even if you feel your writing is trash. If
you can't, take a break from writing without feeling guilty.
Relax, exercise, eat well, and indulge in a few movies, or a
favourite hobby.

If this block lasts for more than a month or two, visit a
therapist. There's no shame in this, and seeing someone can save
you endless months of frustration.

=> Eliminating the "no info" block

You can also get blocked because you donít have enough
information. You're trying to write the final draft, instead of
tackling the writing process draft by draft.

Here's a handy way to prevent the "no info" block by taking your
writing through clearly defined stages:

A. First draft: your thinking draft. In this draft, you write
whatever you like. You're aiming for quantity here, rather than

B. Your second draft. Your first draft has shown you what you
want to say. In this draft, you have a crack at saying it.

C. Your clean-up draft. Your final draft. You've said what you
want to say, now you get a chance to say it better. You clean up
the redundancies and spice it up.

In practice, stage B may have several additional drafts, as many
as you need: B1, B2, and more.

The easiest way to kill the no-info block for good is to allow
yourself to write badly. Every day. This is because writing is
hard when you try to think and write at the same time. Allow
yourself to think on paper for as many drafts as you need. Then
write the final draft with confidence.

=> Writing cycles

This isn't a block, it's a process. Everything happens in cycles,
even your writing. Sometimes your writing catches fire. You're
inspired. At other times, writing is like wading through
quicksand, and it takes you forever to write 200 words.

Accept this. When you're in the low part of the cycle, aim lower.
If your target was 1,000 words a day, make it 200. Or even 50.

Blocks are a part of the writer's life. Use the above tools to
write your way out of them. As incredible as it may seem when
you're in the middle of a block, the day will dawn when your
block is not even a memory, and you can confidently say: "There's
no such thing as writer's block!"

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Writer, author and journalist Angela Booth has been writing successfully for print and online venues for 25 years. She also writes for business.
On her Web site she conducts workshops and courses for writers.

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