Writer’s block is a state or a condition in which the writer is unable to think of what to write or fail to continue the writing further. This can happen due to several reasons one of which can be trying to have a perfect piece ready in the very first attempt while the other can be overestimating oneself. Looking back at history, famous authors like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Joseph Mitchell have also struggled with the similar situation. As far as strategies are concerned to resolve writer’s block, there have been several theories surfaced by some of the popular figures. However, the post looks into a combination of different tactics to overcome writer’s block while also taking into account those theories.
Step 1: Set deadlines and half-deadlines
Initially, it’s important to set a deadline for the project that you’re working. As a human being, our mood changes with the change in time and the article that we thought of starting or the one we started might not interest us anymore. Also, waiting too long might allow other writers to come up with same or similar ideas in their publication, which may force you to change it in an attempt to make it unique. Further, it’s also a good practice to set half-deadline which can be a few days after the day when you set the deadline. You can use this time to have your thoughts organized together in order to start your writing process. This idea can be short and to the point, something like an outline. But it should be enough such that your mind can work around it to start creating something out of it.
Step 2: Make a plan and process it
Next, it’s important to make a plan. Brainstorm, research on the subject you are writing, take your stand and talk about it with people who will listen. They can be your colleagues or your professor or anyone who can provide you with further ideas, suggestions and useful source materials. Allow your mind some time to process it by going around for a stroll, working out, cooking or spend some time in the park. When you provide your mind time to process around your plan, it just clicks few hours or days later for sure.
Step 3: Find your perfect working environment
Once the plan is ready, it’s important to find the place where you can feel comfortable and safe. People have their own preference when it comes to the right working environment, some may prefer silence, while some may prefer to listen to music while writing and some don’t care much about it. Personally, I find music or other kinds of sound at work a bit distracting so prefer a silent environment as much as possible.
Step 4: Just Do It – Give yourself a license to write bad
The next step will be to start working on the piece. Inspirations can be taken from the slogan of Nike as in “just do it”. The writing mustn’t be perfect, you just have to do it so start small, create a sense of personal victory which will help keep your moral high. Rather than having a mindset of you needing to finish the report in full, set small goals which can be, “I’ll finish three pages today”. That’ll be a less daunting task to accomplish and won’t overwhelm you too much. You also don’t have to go step by step which is start with the abstract, then move on to the introduction, body section, conclusion and so many things in between – you can just start where you feel confident and pick it up from there on. Stop beating yourself saying the first draft should be very good and provide yourself the freedom to write a bad, not so good first draft. As long as you’re writing, you’ll certainly reach the finish line and there will be ample opportunities to reframe and update it on further iterations.
Step 5: Reward yourself
The next step will be to reward yourself for the writing. An example of this can be, that you’ll get a slice/bite of your favorite chocolate every time you complete a paragraph. That acts as a positive reinforcement suggesting that your writing is good and not bad. That also triggers your subconscious mind to think that real tangible reward is in store for you once the writing is complete.
Don’t rush too quickly to start editing, adding citation and such – wait until your first draft is complete in full before starting the editing process. Trying to add full citations can be distracting during the writing process so just add footnotes with the name of the author, source name, page number or hyperlink so that you can revisit it once the writing is complete and add those as required to your writing.
Step 6: Edit Yourself
Once your first draft is ready, give yourself a short break before returning back to it. Go through the writing, and make necessary editing. While doing so look with a critical eye and simplify the text, slice sentences, and get rid of words which you think are overdoing it. And, finally, submit your draft. Submitting it early while exceeding expectations is always a good thing.
To conclude, there’s no secret to getting out of a writer’s block. No matter how brilliant or popular a person is one can always face such situation. The only way out of it is to not lose your cool while you can also break the overwhelming process of writing into smaller pieces, and to enjoy each one. Setting deadlines, making a plan, choosing the right environment, not pressing yourself too much but rather rewarding for small victories and editing after the completion of the first draft only while being open to feedback are some of the techniques discussed in the post for overcoming writer’s block.
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Staw, J. (2003). Unstuck: A Supportive and Practical Guide to Working Through Writer’s Block (pp. 67-74). New York: St. Martin’s Griffin.12 Jun 2018