Banish writer’s block with these 8 tiny tips

October 5, 2009 by Dean Rieck
Filed under: Writing Basics 

Do you ever have a hard time getting the words to flow? Of course you do. It’s called writer’s block. And it happens to all writers from time to time.

But writer’s block is not inevitable. There are specific reasons you suffer from it and specific ways to avoid it. Here are 8 that help me get my fingers moving on the keyboard.

Do your research. After all, how can you write about something if you don’t have anything to say? Ask questions, collect your facts, and decide on the main points you want to make. Writing is a bit like cooking. You have to gather your ingredients before you fire up the stove.

Start with a structure. You don’t have to use a standard outline (unless you want to). After you’ve collected enough information, just put your ideas into an order that makes sense. The simpler the structure, the better. For this article, for example, my structure looks like this: 1) Introduction, 2) Series of bullet points, 3) Closing remarks. This gives you a modular approach that can further help you avoid writer’s block. If you get stuck on one section, write another section first. Writing doesn’t have to be linear.

Get it down. Writing and editing are separate processes. If you try to do both at once, you’ll hesitate on every word or come to a stop. Instead, just let loose. Write as fast as you are able and don’t worry about perfection. Allow the imperfections on your first time through. It’s always easier to edit something that’s written than to write something from scratch.

Don’t re-read. This is a big problem for me. When I’m not sure about what to write next, I go back and re-read what I’ve written up to that point in the hope that I’ll built up momentum that will carry me forward. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s better to never stop writing in the first place.

Finish. If you don’t know what to say as you’re writing, it’s not likely that walking away will help. Keep writing until you’re done. Don’t stop. Even if you think what you’re writing is total crap, that’s okay. Once you’ve come to the end, you can shift into edit mode and everything will get easier. Never walk away from a project before it’s done.

Write in parts. Okay, I know I just told you to keep writing until you finish. But medium and large projects should be broken into sections. So when I say “finish,” I mean write one part at a time and always finish a part before walking away. So if you’re writing a brochure and you have 5 main sections, plow through a section start to finish. Then plow through another. And another.

Take a break. This is self-explanatory. A fresh mind works better. It’s important to schedule your writing so you can give yourself breathing room between writing and editing.

Edit ruthlessly. Now comes the easy part. If you’ve used a good structure and you have solid facts in your copy, all you have to do is clean up your sentence structure, grammar, and spelling. You should also be brutal and cut anything that doesn’t belong. Edit until your copy is crisp. If you think you’ve left something out, fill it in. But don’t get carried away. You don’t have to say everything that pops into your head.

Sounds simple, eh? It’s not. As I write this, I’m trying to follow my own advice and failing. I’m pausing, editing, and re-reading. But knowing how to write more efficiently does prevent full-blown writer’s block. And it helps to write faster, too. Usually, that’s good enough.

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    [...] not talking about writer’s block. I’m talking about what some people would call willpower, the willpower to write regularly, [...]