Is there such as thing as “writer’s block”? Anyone who has ever struggled to write something, finding that the words will not come, would say that there is. However, professional writers can not afford to have writer’s block. When they have deadlines, they have to write. They have to finish what they are writing. And they have to hand it over to an editor.
I wrote a newspaper column for more than three years. I had to turn in my 500 words every week, even if I didn’t know what I should write about, or just didn’t feel like writing. There is nothing like a deadline to get your thinking focused and your fingers flying across the keyboard.
When you have to write, you will write. So what is this thing we call “writer’s block”?
Often, someone who says they have writer’s block is afraid to write. They may believe that they are not good enough, or that others will judge their work (and thus judge them) harshly.
Somewhere along the line, they may have gotten the idea that writing is magical, and that real writers only create when they are inspired. Hah! Writing is work, and like any work you just sit down and do it.
Clearly the magical part is wrong, but could they be right when they think they are not very good at writing? Yes, they may not be good writers at all. They may be lousy. But do you know how someone becomes a better writer? They write. They get feedback on their writing. They study the things they are not very good at. That might mean taking a class in grammar, or learning how to structure an article, or discovering the finer points of a personal style.
A blog is great practice for someone struggling with writer’s block. If this is you, set up a “fun” blog. This is not your business blog, and it is not deadly serious. It gives you a place to write. You will not have to worry about whether or not it is good, because at first you will have no readers. Your audience and your skills will grow with time, and you will start getting great feedback from your readers that will help you to improve even more.
Here is how you can use a blog to overcome writer’s block:
Set up a blog. Do it now. Go to http://www.WordPress.com/ and set up a free account. You can have a blog up and running in five minutes. This is not what I would recommend for a blog that is an important part of your business, but this is a throwdown blog. You do not even have to use your real name on the blog. Fast and free works.
Establish a goal. How often will you post to your blog? Every day is a good goal, but cut yourself a little slack. Make it your goal to post five times a week. Or three. Set a goal that will be a stretch, but one that you can achieve.
Build a cheat file. I keep a list of blog post titles and ideas. When I need something to write about, I dig into the list and write a post about one of the ideas on the list. Make a list of things you could write about: What are your favorite things? What has you ticked off today? What did you do today? What are your strongest memories?
Schedule a time to write. Put an appointment on your calendar to spend 30 minutes writing on the days when you have a blog post “deadline.” Even though you do not have an editor standing over you waiting for the post, take the deadline just as seriously as if you did.
Write. During your scheduled writing time, just write. Do not organize your desk drawer or balance your checkbook or answer the phone. Just write. One exercise that works is to commit to writing for five minutes without stopping. If you do not know what to write, just keep writing, “I do not know what to write,” over and over. You will get tired of that soon enough, and will put together words that mean something.
Stop. Not being able to start writing is one form of writer’s block. The other is not knowing when to stop. Finish your draft, then put it aside for a while (a few hours or a day or two). Come back and do one edit, then publish it. Do not keep polishing and changing your work. If you are writing the Great American Novel, multiple edits are in order. Not for a blog post. Write it and publish it.
Keep at it. Keep posting to your throwdown blog for as long as you need the practice in building your writing muscles. Soon, you will be able to write whenever you need to and you can let the blog go. Of course, you may decide to keep the blog because you are having fun with it. That’s good, too. The important thing is that you are now a professional writer, one who does not get writer’s block.
And for those of you who think that you have writer’s block because you can’t think of anything to write about: Look at these writing prompts. Then start writing. No excuses.