Is writer’s block even real?
I don’t know if there is hard science to support the existence of writer’s block, but “just try harder” works approximately no one.
There are, however, a surprising number of things which we CAN control which will increase our productivity as writers. See what works for you.
Claim your workspace:
- Clear everything away except what you’re working on.
- Close all email, facebook and social media. (Use it as a reward for after achieving a designated endpoint or goal, if you must.)
- Position your body to “feel” right for writing. Keyboard/hands/eyes/seat all have an optimal feel. Find your perfect.
Manage distracting thoughts:
- Pull up a scratchpad. When scattered ideas clog the creative pipes, release them in short bursts, clusters, images, or cartoons onto a legal or steno pad. Then cull out the main points and order them to move forward.
- Scribble random ideas on post-it notes. Save them for later and preserve current brain space for the topic at hand.
Pull back to get ahead:
- Use the “interval training” approach. Stop completely and then restart with renewed vigor.
- Do it “wrong” on purpose; then do it better. Switch point of view, shift voice, try another narrator.
- Create an “outtakes” document and then kill the children with impunity. Killing seems so permanent, but cutting and pasting feels temporary. Once they’re gone, it’s easier to live without them, but you can always bring them back to life.
- Hire or engage a good editor. Knowing they will have the next look helps to create the first one.
Take a productive break:
- Finish something else. Attack one thing that needs doing and finish it. (Not the whole closet, but a drawer or a pile or a file.) Small successes breed confidence. Be brutal. Then attack the writing with this same vigilance.
- Run, walk, do calisthenics. Let the ideas percolate and allow the increased blood flow to usher in new ideas. (notepad optional)
- Shower. It’s one of the most creative places in the house. (notepad required)
Embrace the discipline:
- Find your best writing time and claim it. Many writers find the morning to be more inspirational, fluid, or creative while the afternoon is better for editing, research, list-making, outlining, or structuring. Decide what to work on and give it its best time of day.
- Set your watch to chime on the hour. At the sound, decide if what you’re doing deserves more time or not. If yes, focus and go. If not, wrap it up for later. Don’t notice the chime? Then you’re probably “in the zone.” Keep on!
- Break writing tasks down into manageable chunks. Setting out to “get that novel on paper” is nearly impossible, but accomplishing a daily word count, drafting a scene or crafting a section of dialogue is much more approachable. Be sure to check ‘em off the to-do list.
- Ask for help from a Higher Power. Copy meaningful motivation onto an index card and keep it in front of you. I park my cell phone right on top of this verse: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
Let the writing take its time but no more than it deserves.
An effective writing strategy strikes a balance between forcing it and waiting for it. Prolific writers find that sweet spot and then grind it out all the way to the finish line.
Who really sprints toward a deadline, anyway?