Writer’s Block Begone

Here are some ideas to fight writer’s block. Tell us if you have any to add!

David Alm on writer’s block:

“Writer’s block is as much a part of being a writer as banging your head against the wall in frustration when publisher’s don’t return your calls. I jest, but seriously — it doesn’t matter how successful you are or what kind of writing you do; if you’re a writer, you’ve been stuck.

Not anymore, if the makers of Write or Die have anything to say about it. The app, now available for $9.99, aims to keep you on task by threatening you with some pretty dire consequences if you stop churning out copy. Set it to “kamikaze” mode, and it will begin deleting words you’ve already written after 45 seconds of no activity.”

—David Alm / Contrary Blog

13 authors views on Writer’s Block from FlavorWire:

    • “Suggestions? Put it aside for a few days, or longer, do other things, try not to think about it. Then sit down and read it (printouts are best I find, but that’s just me) as if you’ve never seen it before. Start at the beginning. Scribble on the manuscript as you go if you see anything you want to change. And often, when you get to the end you’ll be both enthusiastic about it and know what the next few words are. And you do it all one word at a time.” – Neil Gaiman

Click to view the other 12.

Strategies for overcoming writer’s block:

“Taking notes

Jot down ideas and phrases as they occur to you. Free yourself from paragraphs and sentences for the moment–use flow charts, arrows, boxes, outlines, even pictures. Right now, you are worried about getting things down before you forget them.

Freewriting/Brainstorming

When you’re not just blocked, when you’re stonewalled, try freewriting. Sit down for ten minutes and write down everything you can think of about your topic. The object is to write without stopping for the whole ten minutes. If you can’t think of anything to say, write “blah, blah, blah” over and over. If other things occur to you as you write, go ahead and record them, even if they are not directly related to your topic. These distractions may be part of what is keeping you blocked.

Freewriting is good for uncovering ideas–it’s a good way to nudge “inspiration.” But the main purpose of freewriting is to get you moving! Most of what you write in those ten minutes will go in the recycling bin, but you’ll be warmed up and your serious writing should go more smoothly.

Brainstorming resembles freewriting but is more goal-directed. You start not only with a topic, say PROFS, but also with a goal: What do new users need to know about this system? Then allow yourself to jot down ideas for a set amount of time without censoring any possibilities and without striving for perfect prose. When the “storm” has passed, you can rearrange ideas, put thoughts into complete sentences, edit, and polish.

Piecework

Sometimes, starting at the beginning induces Perfect Draft Syndrome. It may be easier to get started if you approach the task sideways. If you’ve got a plan for the article or manual, choose a section from the middle or a point you know well and start there. Then do another section. After you’ve gained some confidence, you can work on the opening and smooth out the transitions.

What I Really Mean Is (WIRMI)

When you’re stuck in a quagmire trying to find the perfect phrase, switch to What I Really Mean Is and just say it the way you think it. Once you know what you mean, it is easier to refine the phrasing.

Satisficing (satisfy + suffice)

You “satisfice” when you take the first reasonable solution instead of searching endlessly for just the right word or sentence. If you’re unhappy with the choice, you can bracket it and promise yourself you’ll fix it later.”

—Writer’s Tips from css.illinois.edu

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