I sat down at my desk this morning and immediately got up to get a coffee. Then I remembered I wanted to remind Mary about the BBQ for the kids on Saturday afternoon so I went over to her desk and talked to her. Then I realised I was due to go to the dentist and I called him to make an appointment. Then I realised I was suffering from writer’s block, I was avoiding writing. You may have had this happen to you as well.
I just didn’t have the impetus to create and I couldn’t put pen to paper; actually I just couldn’t use the keyboard.
Then I remembered some advice I was given many years ago about how to overcome writer’s block. So I tried it. It worked like a charm and I was typing away in a matter of minutes. Writers block can be more serious than my lapse–apparently Hemingway suffered from it and used to take weeks in Paris recovering, and having a good time.
There are a lot of theories around about the why of writer’s block and the how to fix it. I’ll skip the why and go to the how. Sit and brainstorm with yourself for something you are very familiar with. I always choose what I did when I got home last night, then write a descriptive piece–it doesn’t even need to be in sentences. This gets your brain and hands working and your thoughts start to flow. Writers’s block is gone.
What I did is called free writing, a term commonly used by Peter Elbow, Professor of English Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. It is writing without stopping, without worrying about grammar, without worrying about structure and in fact almost without thinking. Peter Elbow is a prolific author and is particularly noted for his work on writer’s block.
The other type of writer’s block to affect nearly all writers is at the beginning of a project, when you just cannot get started. Even a well-planned project can give some angst before it is started. Reasons for this are mostly lack of conviction that you can do it, but fear of the reader can also play a part. There are many ideas promoted for this situation, but the best idea is to start writing anywhere. Go for the part you are most familiar with and most comfortable writing about. This will build up your confidence and the rest of the project should flow from this euphoria.
Indis offers a lot of useful ideas for structuring and organising your documents. A good document plan and a detailed outline will help if you have a tendency to procrastinate at the beginning of a project or suffer from writer’s block.