The biggest enemy any writer faces is one’s self and often appears as writer’s block.
If left untreated, it can be devastating to your output and your writing career. Nobody wants that, so let’s solve this problem!
Maybe you’ve heard of writers who get up every morning and put paws to the keyboard for an hour or two before breakfast. These are the people who churn out three or four novels a year like it was nothing (it’s not, of course). If you’re not doing the same, your gut reaction is likely to be jealous – crazy jealous.
How do they do that anyway? Do they add a magic potion to their morning coffee? Do the writing gods live in the spare bedroom of these high producers? Are they directly related to King Midas so every book they publish turns to gold?
It’s an entertaining notion to think successful people are born with innate talent that you don’t have. That lets you off the hook and justifies your complaining.
But it doesn’t get your book written.
If you suffer from any kind of writer’s block, you know all too well it’s a real thing. Sometimes it feels like a writer’s wall that is so high all the ideas on the other side are trapped there, forever out of your reach.
Unleash the genius one block at a time
Writer’s block doesn’t have to be forever.
Seth Godin makes the bold assertion that he never has writer’s block. To him, writing is another form of talking, and he is never at a loss for words.
If you’re an introvert, that might not comfort you much.
The truth is, words are readily available. You just have to reach out and grab them. The Muse loves the chase, and you can’t catch her by complaining about not being able to catch her.
In this post, you’ll learn how to hunt her down and make her do your bidding.
First, let’s identify the common blocks we writers face every time we sit at our desks.
Perfectionism. “If it’s not perfect, it’s not worth doing,” you might say to yourself.
Really? What is “perfect” anyway? Compared to what?
Everybody’s definition of perfect is different.
Aim to be effective instead.
Procrastination. “I’ll get started writing the moment this episode of Game of Thrones is over.” Or right after you unload the dryer. Or as soon as you wake up tomorrow.
The longer you wait, the easier it is not to start at all.
When you finish reading this post, you’ll face every blank page with confidence.
Fear. Someone might criticize you. Someone else might leave a nasty comment. Or worse, nobody will read your work at all.
Fear makes you freeze. Breathing is hard, and thinking becomes impossible. Except for worst case scenarios. Amazingly, you can come up with an endless supply of those.
What if you could blast past all your fears and tap into the writing genius inside you? What would that do for your production? Your confidence? How would the quality of your writing improve?
Forget about fear for 30 minutes a day
When we don’t want to do something, we do something else.
The dishes are piled up in the sink. But it’s been a long day and you’re tired. So you watch an episode or two of Black Mirror on Netflix. After that, you’ll feel more like dealing with the dirty dishes.
But you fall asleep on the couch instead.
What if you just went into the kitchen right after dinner and loaded the dishwasher before you plop onto the couch? Sure, it’s not fun dealing with the dishes. But it won’t be later either. Just get it over with.
When you’re done, you can rest in peace.
Dorothea Brande taught writers to get up and spend the first 30 minutes of the day writing “as fast as you can.” She gave that advice in 1934 and it as sound today as it was then.
Why did she recommend writers do this?
Because for those 30 minutes, you’re focusing on writing and nothing else. You’re ignoring everything in the universe besides putting words on paper. Call it freewriting, a stream of consciousness, a brain dump, or whatever you want.
How to make freewriting work for you today
It might sound crazy to have rules for “free” writing. But there are a few important ones.
And don’t worry, they won’t hamper your creativity at all.
First, set a timer. It can be for 5 minutes or 5 hours. You choose. If you’re just starting out, 5-10 minutes is plenty of time.
You might want to use the first 5 minutes to warm up your writing muscles. You can write about anything you want:
- What you dreamed about last night.
- The weather yesterday, today, or tomorrow.
- How sleepy you still feel.
- How stupid this seems.
- How much you enjoyed watching Black Mirror last night.
The point is you’ll be putting words on paper. Set the timer again for 10 or 20 minutes and you can get more focused. Start with a prompt and write whatever comes to mind about it.
Second, don’t edit as you go. Please. You’ll be using both sides of your brain at once. That’s like drawing a picture, and erasing it at the same time.
The main reason you don’t want to edit while you write is that you risk wiping the flavor out of it. Try this instead. Write for 30 minutes or an hour. Take a break. Go walk. Load the dishwasher. Watch an episode of Breaking Bad. After you’ve put some space between you and your writing, then come back with a less critical eye.
Maybe you can even pretend your best friend wrote it.
Third, make sure you’re totally isolated when you write. Turn off the internet. Don’t answer the phone. Turn off the TV. Let your loved ones know not to bother you because it’s “writing time.”
If you need noise, listen to your favorite music. Just make sure it puts you into a peak state so you write something awesome.
When the timer stops, you have to stop, too.
If you can’t, I say keep going until you exhaust your idea mill.
If there’s one rule you can break, this is it.
Fourth, set a time limit for editing, too. Why edit forever? The more you slice away, the blander your writing becomes. Decide what you want to achieve and edit for that. Leave the spice in.
Proofreading doesn’t count as editing. Of course, you should do that, too. Fix the typos and read your work aloud. Does it sound human and conversational?
And I mean perfect by anyone’s standard.
Especially the reader’s.
In the end, the reader’s opinion is the most important one.
Now go pour out your soul on paper
We don’t want another “me, too” writer. We want you at your gloriously imperfect best. Entertain us with your wit. Dazzle us with your insights. Be bold in your creativity and share the story only you can tell.
If you’re not freewriting already, today is the day to begin.
If you are, share your experience in the comments. Pass this post to your friends who struggle with writer’s block. Let’s start a movement of creative geniuses changing the world with their words!
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