Writer’s Block Help

In my last post, I outlined a few reasons why we get writer’s block.  There are many things in this world that compete for our attention.  Whether it’s outside distractions, fear, or lack of inspiration, there are few things more discouraging to a writer than not being able to write!  Moreover, with the pressure of deadlines, work life, and family, it’s a wonder we ever get any writing done! Today, I want to discuss some ways to end writer’s block.  Try as many of these as you can and see which ones work the best for you.

1. Just Start Writing

Free writing is one of the best ways to get un-stuck.  Just start writing.  Write anything – there are no rules.  In fact, rules just get in the way.  It’s all about just getting started.  If you don’t know what to write, start writing any words that come to mind.  I know this sounds ridiculous, but this has worked for me over and over.  There’s something about typing or putting pen to paper that inspires the writing process.

Here are some suggestions to get you off the ground:

  • What I really want people to know about this topic is . . .
  • Here is a list of important factors related to this topic . . .
  • This topic takes primary importance for this time period/culture/group because . . .(who really cares about this topic and why). . .

What not to do:

The worst thing you can do is: nothing.  That’s what you do when you’re stuck.  To get un-stuck, start writing and don’t stop!

2. Just Start Talking

Thanks to the wonders of technology, voice recognition software is indispensable when you need to get a paper written.  On Apple computers, tap the “fn” button twice and a little microphone will appear.  Start talking and it will translate your voice into text!  It’s brilliant!  I have created entire first drafts just using this technique alone.  Windows 8 also has voice recognition built into it so, whether you are a Mac or PC user, you now have access to voice recognition!

As an aside, after I discovered voice recognition on my Mac, I began using it to journal on the Day One App.  Journaling is a great way to hone your writing skills.  I realized that journaling doesn’t require typing or writing with a pen.  Journaling is about learning to record your thoughts – in whatever form.

What not to do:

Forget to proof read your work.  Once you get used to using your voice to write, you might be tempted to write your papers using voice recognition.  That’s great!  You don’t have to type to be a writer.  However, always be sure to go back and proof read your work.  Voice recognition is great, but it’s not perfect.  Check for misinterpreted words, spacing problems, and improper punctuation.

3. Find Your Flow

Maybe writing a paper is the last thing that you want to do, but you still want to make progress.  How about working on a mind map, outline, or numbered list that can be flow of your paper?  Making an outline is a different kind of task than writing, and it can be a great first step to help you write your paper.  If you have already completed some level of organization, try going through your outline and writing one sentence per point.  Anytime I’ve ever done this, I end up writing three or four sentences per point, and by the time I am done I have half my paper written!

4. Find a Friend

This point can be as dangerous as it is effective.  If you’re really stuck, give a friend a call and ask if you can bounce some ideas off of them.  Let them know that you need to get a paper written but you are stuck.  A note of caution: don’t let the phone call or Skype session turn into a friendly chat.  Stay focused and take notes on the advice your friend offers.  Once you’ve explored the subject, tell your friend that you are going to send them the first draft of your paper before the day is over.  You’ve now created a good level of accountability!

5. Set A Timer

I’ve used this technique ever since college and didn’t realize it was a technique to ease writer’s block until I read Tim Ferriss’ book The Four Hour Workweek (I can’t recommend this book enough – especially for all of you entrepreneurial types!).  By setting a timer, you effectively commit to being productive for short spans of time.  Setting a timer for 20 minute work sessions creates a sense of artificial urgency that can lead to high levels of productivity.  If you are on a Mac, the Pomodoro Timer was built for this very thing, and in my humble opinion, is the best one out there!

This is a short list of techniques that have helped me break out of writer’s block.  If I find others, I will add to the list!  As always, feel free to share what has worked for you below!


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