Saturday, February 27, 2010

Beating Writer's Block

A writer recently wrote in asking for help:

"I know this may sound silly but how do you suggest handling writer's block? I have been having a real doozy case of writer's block that is (pardon my language) a real pain in the ass and need some suggestions as to how to get through this thing. Believe me, if you want a frustrated writer, then I'm your girl :)."

Writer's block? Is that what's bothering you, bunky??

It's a common malady, of course--common enough to have its own moniker. Here are a few proven suggestions on how to beat it.

1. Have more than one writing project going at any given time. I have 20 books, a few columns, and several articles underway constantly. If I don't feel like working on what I should be working on, I work on something else instead until the writing juices begin to flow, after which I can get back to the project I need to complete.

2. If you're working on a book-length property, try sitting down and reading what you wrote the last time you were at the computer. Read it out loud to give you a better chance of "hearing" how it sounds. You'll likely catch a few typos, change a few phrases, substitute a couple of words here and there, perhaps even add or subtract some sections in the piece. By the time you're finished with that, you'll be all warmed up and ready to tackle the next section in the book.

3. If you're working on a shorter piece, such as an article or a column, and you just can't get into it, try writing something else. Something ridiculous. Something offbeat (for you, at least). Write a limerick or a poem. Write an ad to sell your bongo drums on Craig's List. You get my point. By the time you're done fooling around, you'll be geared up to tackle what you really need to be working on.

4. Write something under a subjectively imposed deadline. Make it a letter to your fifth-grade teacher or a note to your mom. Give yourself 15 minutes, the way your editor would give you if you were working on a breaking story for the local newspapeer or a TV or radio news department. Do you think you'd have writer's block then? There's something very liberating about someone telling you, "I want it in 20 minutes or else!"

5. Try turning on several distracting contraptions, such as a television, MP3 player, and radio. Contrary to what you might expect, that often forces you to "block out" the distractions and focus solely on your writing.

Writer's block doesn't have to control your life. You have to control it. I've used all of the above tricks from time to time, and they have all worked for me. Believe it or not, I don't have writer's block anymore. Nada. Never. And I haven't had it for more than 30 years. I have become so used to writing all types of different-length genres under deadline that nothing interferes with my work anymore.

And that's an awfully nice feeling, especially when you earn your living from writing.


Copyright 2009 AmSAW

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