I’m going to make an outrageous claim right now.
It’s my firm belief that writer’s block is a myth.
There’s no such thing.
Well then why do I get it?
You know the feeling…
… none of the right words come. Your brain is running like molasses, every distraction throws your train of thought onto an entirely unrelated tangent that leads to nowhere.
This single page is pushing two hours… Your eyes are getting blurry.
Worst of all, your brain keeps pulling you into a corner to wallop you with fears like:
“Your editor is going to kill you”
“No reader will take this seriously”
“Even if you get a foothold, you’ll run out of time and never finish”
Here’s a cold splash of reality: Those thoughts, and the actions (or lack of actions) that precede them would never be there if you knew the minimalist writing strategies I do.
But cheer up, you will soon! Just keep reading to find out how you can beat writer’s block forever.
The Minimalist Writer’s Cure
I’ve never had writer’s block. Yes, this is what I do for a living and yes, I write a minimum of 3,000 words per day, but it’s not because I’m a better writer than you…
… it’s because I learned how to beat the myth of writer’s block before I knew what it was.
Here’s my secret: I solved each of the so called symptoms of writer’s block one by one.
I didn’t do that by myself by the way.
I’m gifted with the ability to solve problems on my own from time to time, like we all are, but most of these solutions were graciously given to me by my mentors.
So what are the symptoms of writer’s block? I’m sure definitions vary from writer to writer, but we can all agree on one thing:
Writer’s block is when you can’t come up with anything to write.
And I know for a fact that this only happens when you let it.
So the critical question isn’t “what is writer’s block?”, but “What are the symptoms that lead writers to believe that they have writer’s block?”
(Even more important is how to solve each of these symptoms and never have the problem again. We’ll get to that soon)
Here’s a few symptoms of my own:
1. Nothing comes out. The words don’t come, and the thoughts don’t flow. Why?
2. Eyes get blurry. Squinting doesn’t help. Still no words.
3. Lost motivation. Why is everything I write about so boring?
4. Momentum putts and fizzles into a complete stall.
5. Fat fingers. Everything sentence I type calls for a pause to correct every other word with a red squiggle underneath it. Frustrating to say the least.
Solve the Symptoms Before You Diagnose Yourself with Writer’s Block
Here’s what you do when your thoughts aren’t coming.
First, understand that you don’t have anything blocking your words. If they’re in there, they’ll come easily. Especially after a cup or two.
The only reason you don’t have words flowing out of your brain and through your fingers is because you haven’t done your research.
It’s also possible that you haven’t picked a narrow enough topic to write on.
Either way, if you follow these steps you’ll be golden:
1. Narrow down the topic you’ve chosen (or someone else has chosen for you). Let your thoughts flow. Writing during this stage is pointless because you don’t have the material to write about.
2. Now research that topic. I’m not talking about poring through book after book, unless the project demands it. The key thing here is to find stuff that interests you. If I have to write about the merits of taking your vitamins, I’m going to find the fun side of that topic. For instance, I find the ancient Egyptians infinitely more interesting than the merits of taking vitamins. So I’ll learn what they did to stay healthy (did you know that they knew how to get and use antibiotics and Viamin B12? Or better yet, that they used lettuce and blue lotus to make sex potions?), and that often leads to discoveries that you and your readers will enjoy. The next step is one of the most overlooked writing methods – and also one of the most important.
3. Stop everything and incubate. If you just jump right into it, your subconscious hasn’t had time to digest the material you’ve ingested. Also, your conscious mind needs a break from the topic. For some writers, this sort of break should take place every 30 minutes, for some it’s an hour. Find your sweet spot. Once you finish researching, do something completely unrelated, and give your eyes a break from the computer screen. Smoke your pipe, do the dishes, pump out some pushups. Anything away from the screen.
4. Develop your structure. What problems are you solving? What is the purpose of the writing? What is your usual outline? If you don’t use a preliminary outline, it’s time to start. This is how you map your thoughts into a format that your brain can easily navigate. Without a outline or map, your thoughts may not flow as effortlessly as they could.
5. Write with no blocks. Now you can write free of the mythical writer’s block. If your eyes get blurry, dim your monitor and take a break. If you lose motivation, conjure a source of motivation that will keep you going. Some people are driven by family, others by hobbies, and still others by the beer waiting at home in the fridge. My father in law carries around a picture of the next toy he wants to buy, and shows it off to people whenever he gets the chance. It may work well for you to simply think of the thing that keeps you going. Or you may prefer to have a picture you can pull up, to visualize what it is that motivates you to write.
My last thoughts are about momentum and fat fingers.
If you’re a good typist and you start making loads of mistakes, don’t stop every few seconds to edit your typos. You’re making mistakes because you need a break. 5 or 10 minutes will probably do it. The same goes for a loss of momentum. But what’s even better is not losing the momentum to begin with. How do you do that? Keep your thoughts moving forward in a positive manner. Your mind is the the most important element in the writing process. If your thoughts drift off of your writing, or worse yet, into a negative or pessimistic thought pattern, you’ll lose momentum quick.
So constantly guage your thoughts, and filter out anything that can cause you to lose your momentum.
Good luck with your writing!