Writing Tips – Dealing With Writer’s Block

The blank piece of paper. It’s the hardest thing for the writer to deal with. Sometimes he can stare at it for hours on end and by the time he is done staring it’s still a blank piece of paper. Welcome to the world of writer’s block. Any writer worth his salt has gone through it. The thing that separates the successful writers from the ones who don’t make it is the ability to get through it. Hopefully, the following tips will give you some ammunition to deal with writer’s block.

Please note that this list is by no means written in stone and the only options available to you. They are just some exercises that many writers agree can work.

The one thing you can do to get through writer’s block, believe it or not, is to just walk away. Put down the pen and paper or keyboard of whatever it is you use to put your thoughts down and just take a walk. It doesn’t matter where. If it’s a nice sunny day, take a walk to the park. Sit on a bench and observe your surroundings. Don’t just look, but really observe. Concentrate on the birds. See if you can identify some of them. Stare at a blade of grass or a flower and watch how it moves in the wind. Do whatever you can to get your mind off your writing. By the time you get back home you will many times find that the ideas just begin to flow.

If getting away from your writing isn’t in your nature then there are some exercises you can do while you are writing that can help jog some ideas loose. One of the best methods is to stop writing whatever it is you are working on and start writing something completely different. If you’re writing a murder mystery and can’t come up with the final revelation of how the murder was committed, stop writing about the mystery and start writing a poem, or a to do list for people who want to get into the writing business. Get your mind off of the specific thing that you’re writing about but still keep your mind active in the writing mode. Many times you will find that the idea you are looking for will just pop into your head.

Another thing you can do to get past writer’s block is to do a writing exercise. Think about the topic you are writing on and make a checklist of all related topics that you can think of to that topic. For example, let’s say you’re writing a non fiction book about mole and wart removal and you’re looking for related topics to add to the book to reinforce the methods discussed for mole and wart removal. Think about what things are associated with health in general. Make a list. You’ll probably come up with diet, cleanliness, exercise and a number of other things. This will give you additional ideas for things you can include in your book such as a chapter on diet and exercise. Maybe a section on the immune system since moles and warts are usually caused by weak immune systems. By simply thinking of related material you’ll be surprised on what you can come up with. Don’t just focus on the main topic. Expand your mind and your book will expand.

5 Common Causes of Writer’s Block

Writer’s block is a common occurrence for anyone who frequently writes any type of composition. Whether you are trying to write an article or supply useful information in another format on a regular basis this nemesis will occasionally disrupt your progress. What is it that causes these disruptions to your creative thinking bringing the writing process to a screeching halt? Here are 5 common causes behind your ‘temporary’ inability to compose useful information for whatever need you may have.

Fatigue

Your mind is no different than your body in terms of the rest it needs. When you are tired your ability to tap into any creative juices can be severely challenged. Writing in a state of fatigue will likely not only frustrate you but lengthen the writing process as well leading to further discouragement. You will be at your best when you are well rested.

Anxiety

Being anxious about something is a double edge sword in terms of your writing abilities. Anxiety will tend to tire you out along with significantly disrupting your focus. The only solution here is to address the source of your anxieties first so that your mind can better focus.

Distractions

As mentioned above your focus is a significant key in your ability to write an article or produce any other type of content in an efficient manner. Select your ‘work’ space so that outside distractions are minimized.

Pressure

Whether it is an ‘outside’ deadline or self imposed time limitations, the mental state this creates tends to tense you and restrict your ability to think creatively. Now not all people react negatively to pressure however the majority do and you may be one of them.

Self – Doubt

Whether it is the popularity of the subject you are writing about, your knowledge of the material or your own writing abilities, self doubt can stop you in your tracks. Actually your own increasing doubts are the seeds to full blown anxieties of which we spoke of above. The only things that will help you overcome your own doubts are to do your homework and be confident in your own abilities.

Remember if you are continuously producing useful information for others to read, you are already in a minority. This alone should boost your confidence!

For anyone ever having the need to write ‘creatively’ about any subject it is likely that you too have been stricken with writer’s block. This temporary state renders you almost useless disrupting the writing process and increasing your frustrations. It matters little whether you are trying to write an article or compose some other type of useful information. This ‘paralysis’ of your ability to think creatively strikes out of nowhere and can leave you just as fast. The 5 common causes for these disruptions are discussed above and serve as a reminder that to overcome this ‘assault’ on your creative thinking you must first address the source. Being familiar with what is likely causing any unexpected shutdown of the writing process now gives you the chance to diffuse the problem.

Overcoming Writer’s Block – Avoiding the Trap

I may as well just say it. Writer’s block, I’m convinced, doesn’t exist. Mostly, I think, authors use writer’s block as an excuse to explain to themselves, an editor, or a concerned spouse why the book isn’t done or the chapter hasn’t been turned in.

Writing is talking on paper. Sometimes literally. And you never hear someone say, “I can’t talk anymore. I’ve got talker’s block. There just aren’t words there that can come out.”
That said, there are several common traps that new writers especially stumble into-and these traps stop writing progress.

Size Matters

One of the easiest traps is letting the sheer size of book stop writing, as mentioned earlier. The prospect of writing 300 pages is daunting. Especially that first day you sit down. It’s easy, especially if you’re inexperienced or emotionally worn out, to collapse under the mental burden of all that work.

The mental trick, I suggest, is to not think about those sorts of numbers when you’re writing. You need to bite off reasonably sized chunks and focus your energy and anxiety on just today’s chunk.

If you’re writing in the morning before you have to go to standard job, maybe you should do a thousand words a day. A thousand words is a bit of stretch but still a manageable goal. And if you pace yourself and write, for example, a thousand words a day, at the end of the week, you’ve maybe got a chapter done. And at the end of four months, your book is done. That’s how it works.

Don’t sit down each day with the burden of writing 80,000 words or 300 pages. Sit down to your very manageable goal of writing a few hundred words. It makes all the difference.

Bad Metrics

A second stumbling block relates to the first. While writers, editors and publishers commonly use measurements like words or pages to specify how big a book should be, you don’t really build a book with words or pages. Books require more concrete building blocks. And so, especially as you’re trying to slog your way through the first chapters of a book (always the hardest for me, quite truthfully) you can’t think things like, well, so I now I need to write a thousand words. Instead, you need to sit down and write a book building block or two or three.

Let me provide an example here. When I write some book about computers or technology, in essence, all I do is string together descriptions of facts, instructions for using some tool, and real-life examples. And these are the building blocks I use to create a book.

If I’m writing about how to use, for example, a word processor’s grammar checking tool, I might start by writing a paragraph that explains what the tool does. Then, I might go on by providing descriptions of, say, the six steps you take to use the tool. Finally, I might wrap up the discussion by showing how the tool works on some example text. And when I finish writing up these three building blocks, I’ve got my thousand words.

Do you see how that’s different from saying that you’re going to write a thousand words? A thousand words is the goal. But that goal really doesn’t help you grind through your writing. In comparison, saying that you’re going to briefly describe the thing, provide some step-by-step instructions and give an example is concrete. That concreteness helps you plod through the writing.

You’re probably not going to write how-to books about technology. But you’ll find that you too build your book using a pretty small set of specific-to-your-genre building blocks.
Don’t fiction writers do this, for example? The novelist describes scenes, records actions, crafts dialog and so on. And what this means again-remember that we’re talking about the myth of writer’s block-is that if you’re writing a mystery novel you don’t sit down with only the plan to write your thousand words. That’s too abstract.

You need to sit down planning to write some set of building blocks. Maybe today you describe the hunting lodge as it looks when Petra and Michael discover the old man’s body. Maybe tomorrow, you craft the dialog that occurs when the police interrogate Langston about the missing oil paintings.

Especially if you’re having trouble achieving your daily word counts-and probably even if you aren’t-you need to use standard building blocks to construct your book. The building blocks let you get the content onto the page.

Small Ideas Mean Big Problems

Let me also revisit something else I often saw when I was a book publisher. Sometimes the real problem a writer is having is trying to turn a little idea into a big book. Yet this problem is misdiagnosed as writer’s block. Some topics don’t merit a book. They may be great topics, but optimal treatment maybe requires ten page or fifty pages. But a book needs to be bigger than that.

I suggest that you can test your idea by writing a couple of example chapters and then making sure there’s not redundancy in those chapters and that there’s still good content available for two or three more unique chapters. That technique should work. But let’s say you didn’t know that when you agreed to write a book. Or that my suggested technique, unfortunately, didn’t work in your special situation. What can you do?

You’re in a tough spot in this case. You need to expand the scope of your book without screwing up the book’s original purpose and justification. If I were you and found myself in this position, I’d try to figure out how short I was coming up. Like, am I fifty pages short? A hundred pages short? Once I had this information, I’d brainstorm to develop a list of related topics that I could use to pad the book or beef it up. Finally, If the book had already been sold, well, I’d probably swallow my pride and have an honest conversation with the editor.

If you’re only a little bit short, the fix is usually pretty easy. Publishers can make a book seem larger by putting less text on a page or by using thicker paper. If you’re writing a nonfiction book, maybe you can throw in an appendix that covers some tangentially related topic or some extended bibliography or a glossary. If you’re writing fiction, I’m actually not sure what you do. That’s not my area of expertise. Do you add characters? A subplot? I don’t know. You better talk with your editor.