Step 2: Knocking out Writer’s Block, cont.

If you read my first installment on writer’s block (aka STEP ONE) and the three very simple tips I gave to get started, you have probably come to the same conclusion as I have:  The main source of the writer’s block conundrum is … ourselves!

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There are many reasons why we get writer’s block, but here are three main ones:

Procrastination

Pressure

Performance

Let’s examine each of these in more detail.

PROCRASTINATION. This reason is obvious. We put off today what we can do tomorrow, or the next day, to re-use the well-worn phrase. If you have been following my advice to write for 10 minutes per day for 7 days in a row, you’ve now established a writing routine. Remember, it doesn’t matter what you have written. It doesn’t matter if you like what you wrote. What matters is that writing is now a part of your daily routine!

Now, I’m going to use a word that many people do not like when it comes to writing.  But, I am going to say it anyway.

Deadline.

Yep, I said it. Deadline.

Let me explain why.

I can’t tell you how many people I have met who say they would like to write a book “one day”, or that they have been working on their book for the past seven years. What does that tell you, folks?

It tells you that they have never set a deadline.

No matter what you are writing—a book, a blog, a report, an article—you will need to establish a deadline and stick to it. If it’s a longer project, such as a book, create a deadline for each chapter. And, don’t relent.

PRESSURE:  Ah, I just told you to establish a deadline and now I am telling you that pressure causes writer’s block. But, this is a different kind of pressure. This is the kind of pressure that comes from within. A personal kind of pressure.

Most of us edit while we write. When we first begin writing, we are experimenting (unbeknownst to us) at the same time we are focusing on putting our thoughts onto paper. But, how can we do those two things when we are also thinking about grammar, punctuation, spelling, and if our writing flows (whatever that really means)?

The answer is:  You can’t.

That’s like chopping down trees while you’re trying to plant a forest.

The remedy?

You’re probably not going to like it.

But, I’ll repeat it again. Keep doing what you have been doing. For the past 7 days.  Keep that writing routine going. If that practice is getting a little stale, here are three ways to spice up your writing routine a bit:

  1. Write with a computer or pad (yes, now you can) but turn off the screen or don’t look at it while you are writing. Turn off autocorrect, too.
  2. Change your ambience. Create the perfect writing environment. Dream a little. Light a candle or write in your favorite outdoor place. Change the type of pens and paper that you use.
  3. Listen to music as you write. What types of music brings out your creativity? Do you write differently when you listen to rock versus classical?

PERFORMANCE. Are you secretly worried that when you do publish your work, you will get four stars instead of five?  I must admit that this worry most likely reverts back to our kindergarten days when we got those stars on our schoolwork papers and everybody compared how many starts they got .)

Now, don’t reveal the answer to that question just yet.

Because first there’s one thing you need to understand.

Not everyone will like or agree with your message. Not everyone will like or agree with you. And, you might not like their reasons or rationale for not liking what your message says or for not liking you.

That’s okay.

Not everyone is always liked.

You just want to make sure that you do not offend people. Period.

But, it’s okay if they disagree.

Civil and respectful disagreement can create conversation. In fact, as a writer, you should be craving dialogue with your readers. Because what’s the point in writing for people who already agree with what you are saying? You want to open up new doors and start new conversations. Right?

If not, you need to be more open-minded to other perspectives.

But, before you worry about your future readers, you first need to figure out what you think and what you want to say before being influenced by what others think.

So, my advice is this: When you are in the creating or invention stage of your writing, first, write for yourself.

When you are ready to write for others, be open-minded, and don’t worry about those stars.

Stay tuned for my third and final discussion on Writer’s Block which will focus on how to create that new, fresh and inviting content that your writing craves!

Severe Case of Writer’s Block? Three simple steps to getting rid of it once and for all

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Just within the past couple of months, several folks have confided in me.

About “writer’s block”, and how they wished they could get rid of it.

In thinking about this problem, which plagues all writers, whether they care to admit it or not, I decided to make a few suggestions to help you get rid of this rather unpleasant problem once and for all.

But, there’s a catch.

Isn’t there always?

The catch is that you must read these suggestions and then do them.

Even if you don’t feel like it.

(Which is one of the reasons we get writer’s block…)

So, let’s begin.

STEP 1: Start thinking.

I mean really thinking. Every day, when you are doing your favorite activity, whether it’s walking the dog, swimming, hiking, running, cycling, sitting outdoors, beaching–you get the picture (You need to be active? Yes!), take time to just think.

About nothing in particular.

Just think.

You see, writing and thinking are intertwined. If your mind is clogged, the clog will show up in your writing. You may not see where the clog is, but a clog is a clog. Many famous writers over the years have said this. I’m just repeating what they have already said.

Now, don’t skip this step. Because it’s really important.

If you say you don’t have time, then that’s one of the reasons you are experiencing writer’s block. Because if you want to write, you have to think, and if you want to think, you have to make the time.

For 10 minutes a day. That’s all you really need.

Now, after you have spent your 10 minutes thinking, come indoors (yes, you should do your thinking outside unless it’s 10 degrees outdoors), write down any new ideas that may have popped in your head. Don’t write down any of the garbage. Only the new ideas. Do this every day until new ideas start popping in your head!

Keep doing this even if it takes 30 days. But, I don’t think that it will.

Now, if you get too many ideas popping in your head, try to remember the three most important ones. (Just last week I filled two entire notebook pages after a 15-minute walk with my pooch.)

STEP 2: Start talking to yourself. 

Aloud.

Yep, when you’re cleaning the house, driving to work, or taking a shower, talk aloud. Talk like no one is listening (i.e. make sure no one is in earshot). Talk about things that are on your mind, problems, concerns, rants, complaints. (This is the one time you are allowed to complain.)

Get rid of all the negative garbage that’s been holding you back.

This goes back to what I said in Step 1. When your mind is clogged, your thinking gets clogged, and when your thinking is clogged, your writing is clogged.

STEP 3: Write for 10 minutes a day.

Make this 10-minute writing session a part of your daily schedule.

Even if you don’t feel like it.

Force yourself.

To do this exercise, get a notepad and paper (NOT a computer or a pad) and set a timer for 5 minutes. (Whoa, whoa, whoa…you may be saying. Write with a pen and paper? How antiquarian! Don’t complain. Just write.)

During this 5 minutes, write nonstop. About anything. Don’t worry about what you are writing, don’t worry about how it sounds, don’t worry if you have nothing to say.

Don’t worry.

Just write.

Peter Elbow called this “free writing.” I just call it writing. Nonstop. For five minutes. Back to back.

Then, don’t read it. Or, read it. Or, just throw it away. It doesn’t matter.

Do these two timed 5-minute writings back to back for 7 days.

By the end of the week, you will have achieved:

a) at least 10-minutes of exercise and/or outdoors time daily,

b) a verbal unleashing of everything that’s been bugging you and thus stopping you from writing,

And, c) about 7 to 14 pages of writing.

It doesn’t matter if what you wrote is good.

It just matters that you wrote.

Now, continue thinking, talking, and writing and make it part of your daily routine.

Look for more advice on combating writer’s block next Wednesday as we explore the three main reasons for writer’s block and how to combat them!