I’ve always been able to write well. Choosing the right words to express an idea was something that’s always come naturally to me. Even when I didn’t know the proper grammar or punctuation to use, I had a gift for phrasing and cleverness when it came to writing.
As with all writers, however, there are times when I just froze – sat there with my fingers on the keys, unable to conjure the right words to explain a thought. Doesn’t seem logical, right? How can something that makes sense in your head not translate onto the proverbial paper of the computer screen.
I’ve since worked through this problem pretty well, and I have to say, there’s no magic elixir to it; no great secret to making all the right words line up in the proper order so you can just fit them into an 8.5×11 format. But giving it a little thought, I think I can break it down into four basic tips.
Write the Easy Part First
I can’t think of a time when I didn’t know at least one part of what a final written product would be. Even if it was the middle part, I knew what it would say. How I got there, where I would go from there, and how I’d create supporting content around it was another thing, but I almost always knew one crucial part that was so obvious it almost wrote itself.
So write that part first. I’ve known too many people who think they have to start with the intro, write the middle, and then close it. Not so. If you can finish one part, you’ve accomplished something.
Write in Pieces
Now that you have your easy part written, the intro, outro, and other parts should come a bit easier. Again, rather than writing them in linear fashion, write them in pieces. Write your conclusion; then write a support paragraph; then your intro… or any combination of these in whatever order you choose. Then treat them like a puzzle and piece them together. You might find that the intro you’ve written makes a better body paragraph and vice versa.
You can overthink it if you try to connect the dots in a linear fashion. When you’ve seen the easiest part fleshed out in words, the other content will become easier to create. Writing – whether it’s creative, marketing, technical, etc. – isn’t necessarily a formulaic process. Give yourself the freedom to build your content organically. Any structure you might have had in mind at the beginning could easily, and justifiably, be thrown out of whack (in a good way) by the time you finish.
Make Like a Gun and Shoot Out Those Bullets!
I’ll let you in on a little secret – this magnificent opus you’re reading didn’t just flow from my fingers from start to finish as if I was simply taking dictation. No, no! This piece started out as a series of bullets – main points I knew I wanted to make. Like illustrated in the passage above, I started with a few ideas and was able to build around just a few key sentences to create a piece that’s 660 words. (Yeah, maybe too many, but what? You want your money back or something?)
Obsessing over something – anything – isn’t healthy. The more you sit and think about something you can’t write, the more frustrated you’ll become and your content will be no better for all the mental calories you burned.
So what’s always helped me to regain my focus is taking a quick walk and finding something to distract me just for a little while… enough so that what I was writing about is gone from my mind. When I come back to my desk, I have a refreshed perspective, and even if I still have a bit of trouble, the process has become noticeably better.
Do you have your own tricks to overcoming writer’s block? Share! Share in the Comment section, darn you!