In committing more than a million blog words to digital paper, I’ve
battled struggled through some SERIOUS bouts of writer’s block.
No matter how many times I beat it back, writer’s block always returns! It’s funny that way, but I’ve learned a thing or two about writer’s block over the years, and if you’ve faced it too, here are some things that might help.
1. What’s the theme?
Most of the time, if/when I can summarize an idea in about one sentence, it’s fully baked.
That’s my theme, and I treat it like my hypothesis. Basically, it’s what I plan to prove in the blog post/e-mail/memo I’m writing, and everything I put on the page should help to back up my point.
Before I start to write, I’ll post my theme at the top of a blank page to remind myself to stay on topic.
A few of the themes I’ve written over the past few weeks…
2. Try an outline
Even harder than figuring out what to talk about is figuring out what not to say.
When I write without at least some kind of an outline, I spew everything and the kitchen sink in verbal stints of written diarrhea that waste time, energy and leave me feeling frustrated.
There’s no right or wrong way to make an outline, but here’s a bare bones method I learned from a newspaper reporter.
I’ll write each major topic down on its own line, restricting myself to 4-5 words per topic. Once all the major points are on the page, I’ll rearrange them into an organized list.
Here’s the outline I used for this post…
3. The power of the sh*tty first draft
This idea’s from Anne Lamott’s brilliant book, Bird by Bird.
Anne advocates blazing through your first draft — no stopping to correct spelling or grammar, no long pauses to judge your prose, nothing. Just let the words flow, and accept your mistakes. You’ll correct them in your next draft.
In a sh*tty first draft, you bang it out just to get it done. Not worrying about mistakes removes the pressure we place on ourselves when we write, and I think it generally makes the whole process more enjoyable.
Resist the urge to correct your spelling and grammar as you go along.
- Stay loose and relaxed: I hold a lot of tension in my shoulders. If they’re scrunched up near my ears, I’ll make a conscious effort to loosen and relax the muscles. It sounds like a minor thing, but I swear it helps a lot.
- Set a deadline: I’ll set mine at the start. Duration depends on the complexity of the project, but most of the time I shoot for 10-15 minute sh*tty first drafts.
- Avoid the delete key: I know it’s hard, but pretend like it’s broken. Don’t click delete. Just keep mfaaking mistks — keep making mistakes. You can always correct them later.
Whether your next writing assignment is a term paper or an e-mail to your BFF, I hope these tips help.
Oh, and if you have any writing tips of your own, please share in the comments. There’s always room for more!
Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,