Help to get past writer’s block
For this “Ask the Editor” post, we have the eternal question about writer’s block. Actually, several of you asked about this one, and it’s no surprise. Some define writer’s block as the inability to think of what to write. I don’t think that’s what it really is, and I talk about what writer’s block really is in another post, but there is something stopping you from getting words on paper. Let’s get you past it.
How do I get past writer’s block?
In 2011, I worked with Life Coach Elizabeth Cole. When I told her that I had been helping a writer get past writer’s block, she told me that I should offer that service professionally because SO many writers suffer from writer’s block. It was right in front of me and so obvious but I hadn’t thought of that before—getting past it comes so easily to me…which is a sign of a talent, remember? But it doesn’t come easily to many, many writers!
I recommend Elizabeth Cole, by the way–she connects with people so well, and is a great encourager. She is the reason any of this is available to you in the first place. She saw my talents much more clearly than I did, and she nudged me this direction, then let it percolate in me until I decided I could add coaching writers professionally to my editing and proofreading, and that I could do it on a larger scale. And yes, I did say “my coach.” Pretty much every successful person has at least one coach at some point, so hiring a writing coach puts you in good company. Smart move. 😉
Ways to get past writer’s block
You get over writer’s block in any of a hundred (or more) ways. Here are a few to get you started.
- Use a creativity guide like A Whack on the Side of the Head, or A Kick in the Seat of the Pants, both books by Roger von Oech. Things like that give you some exercises to generate ideas. For example, they have you select a few words at random and use them as a writing prompt.
- Pull a card out of the game Taboo and get started. For a real challenge, try writing about the word or phrase at the top of the card without using the “forbidden” words at the bottom of the card.
- Write the worst sentence you can think of. You read that right. Write a crappy sentence, and just keep going. As long as you don’t leave anything that’s crummy when you’re done, it’ll be fine.
- Make a list of all of the OTHER things that your mind wants to write, or things that are bugging you. Just dump it all out on the page. Then just keep writing. You may find a gem.
- Write about how horribly this writing thing is going, how it would be better if you climbed a mountain naked or something. You’re not going to really do that, though, are you? Hey, if you get yourself arrested, don’t call me for bail.
- Imagine a huge stick man holding a gun to your head, yelling, “Write the @*?*! story!”
- Think of just ONE area of your piece that doesn’t have enough detail or information yet, and fill in the blanks.
With all of these, the idea is to get something on your paper (or screen). Something, anything. You can delete it or rework it later.
Another approach is to put it aside and do something else. Go for a walk. Take a nap. Make a healthful snack. Visit with a friend. Read a book.
How can that help?
Think of those times when you’re trying really hard to remember something, but you just can’t and you finally give up and go make something to eat. Ahh, comfort food! Right in the middle of the third bite of that delicious diversion, BAM, the thing you gave up on trying to remember comes popping out of your memory like a dolphin out of the tank at SeaWorld. You drop your snack and run.
Setting aside the piece you’re writing—for just a little while—is like that. You’ll be in the middle of something else (sleeping, shopping, a shower, or something else that starts with “s”), and the idea will pop up out of the depths. Get thee to the keyboard, and capture the ideas. And my apologies to anyone you may disturb when you do.