There are times when you need to write something yourself, and it’s just not clicking. You’re looking at the blank page on the screen and…nothing. Nada. White noise.
Writer’s block can strike at any time, whether you need to draft a simple letter or a more complex report or proposal. It’s that uncomfortable feeling of having nothing to say. You know in broad, vague terms what you want to communicate, but the words just aren’t coming together in a cohesive fashion, and you’re getting frustrated. Frustration leads to procrastination, and procrastination leads to Starbucks®. Now, you’re frustrated and hopped up on caffeine, which only aggravates the situation.
The secret to overcoming writer’s block—or procrastination, in general—is to get busy. Take action. Do something, anything, and use that momentum to keep moving forward. Eventually, you will build up steam and reach that blissful state of flow, where everything just seems to come together naturally. Here, then, are five quick tips to help you get the ball rolling:
- Remove all distractions. The little pop-up on your screen that indicates you have mail? Turn it off. Put your cell phone on silent, and close your office door. Minimize the possibility that something will pull your attention away from the task at hand, and you’re more likely to finish quickly.
- Brainstorm. You already have a general idea of what you want to say, so start scribbling thoughts down on a piece of paper. You can jot individual words or bullet-point a few phrases. Don’t censor yourself or worry about grammar and spelling—write whatever comes to mind. The goal is to spray a little mental WD-40 in your head to loosen up the gears.
- Start typing. Take the ideas you noted on your scratch pad and begin to flesh them out on the screen. Again, we’re not looking for perfection, just “fuller” thoughts—sentences, or even a couple of paragraphs—that express what you want to communicate. If you are writing a white paper, you might simply list some of the facts that relate to the topic. If your project is creative, like a short story, don’t worry about structure so much as concepts. We’re not looking for a well-rounded plot at this point, just bits of dialogue, exposition or descriptions.
- Speak up. Many writers find it helpful to speak out loud the thoughts they are trying to communicate and then capture them in writing. Pick up a micro-cassette recorder, or one of those nifty MP3 recorders, and rattle off your thoughts verbally. Then, transcribe your recording and start to organize the content in your document. Go light on the editing—we’re still just spreading puzzle pieces out on the table.
- Pull it together. At this point, things should start humming along. You have a notepad full of ideas and some rough material on the computer screen. Plenty of clay to work with. Take your time, and start molding the material into the shape you want, moving pieces around, filling out certain parts and paring back others, until you have a completed rough draft. Depending on your project, this could take minutes or hours. Stick with it until the end. If you stop, it will be hard to regain momentum, and you may have to backtrack a few steps. But, if you can knock out a thorough draft, you can enjoy the immense satisfaction that comes from conquering writer’s block and realizing your goal.
Throughout this whole process, remember that the feeling of being blocked is just that—a feeling. We have the ability to change our feelings and our attitudes simply by changing our mindset. Sometimes, you will need to take action first, and your feelings will catch up with you. But, with the willingness to take that first small step, you can finish your project quickly—at which point that mocha Frappuccino® is well-deserved.