Writers of fiction, non-fiction â€“ in fact writers of any type â€“ can experience what is commonly referred to as â€œwritersâ€™ blockâ€. Put simply, this is the inability to start writing anything when you sit down at your computer. This article focuses on ways to avoid getting writersâ€™ block by adopting some tactics that could enhance your chances of making each writing session productive.
What is writers’ block?
Writers of fiction, non-fiction – in fact writers of any type – can experience what is commonly referred to as “writers’ block”. Put simply, this is the inability to start writing anything when you sit down at your computer. The mind goes blank, time passes, and the writer fails to connect with the topic. This article focuses on ways to avoid getting writers’ block by adopting some tactics that could enhance your chances of making each writing session productive.
Why do writers get writers’ block?
Writers’ block can occur for many reasons. It is particularly annoying when your living depends on it. Not being able to string those first few words together can be frustrating. Feeling that you are not being productive can be even worse. It can also become a serious habit that prevents the writer from moving forward with writing projects. These are some of the reasons why writers’ block occurs:
- A writer doesn’t have anything to say about a topic
- Failure to plan the project erects barriers to moving forward
- The writer fears failure or rejection
- Not being in the mood to write
- Tackling a topic for which the writer has little or no knowledge
- Not feeling creative at that time
- Having it all in your mind and not being able to express this in written form
- Wanting the writing to be perfect and knowing the first attempt will be lousy
- These are just a few things that prevent a writer from writing.
Writing experience and motivation and how to avoid writers’ block
Every writer is different in that they have a unique set of circumstances that brought them to writing. They also have varied levels of education, life experience, work experience and motivation. It is easier for some people to just sit down and start writing than it is for others.
As a semi-retired, professional technical writer with more than 30 years experience, I was paid by the hour on contract to produce outcomes to strict deadlines for my clients. This, in itself, is a clear motivation to sit down and start writing. In my fiction writing, I always do a lot of planning before I write anything – even to the extent of plotting an entire novel scene by scene, chapter by chapter. This might sound laborious and unnecessary. It has been said that it destroys creativity. I disagree on both these counts. Putting time into planning what you are going to write means you can start immediately. As for creativity, I am the first to admit that this feeling can vary from day to day. The trick is to write something. Famous fiction author Nora Roberts said at a writing conference I attended in Sydney, Australia, back in the 1990’s – “You can’t edit a blank page.” How right she is.
Non-fiction and fiction writing are two entirely different forms. Non-fiction can involve hours of research or getting to know a particular product, software program or computer system and how it works. The non-fiction writer needs to be on their game all of the time. They are mostly writing to earn a living in the present – not in the future. Fiction writers can aspire to earn a living from their writing, but it often takes a long time to get to the point where earning any type of remuneration is a reality.
I have to admit that I have never suffered from writers’ block. When I became a technical writer, I was so fascinated with my new career that I couldn’t wait to hit the keyboard every day to pump out as much content as I could for my clients. Being a self-employed contract writer is a great motivation to write well and fast. The better the job is for the client and the quicker it is done, the greater the chances are of getting back to that site for a repeat performance.
Twelve years into my writing career, I diversified into fiction writing, tutoring aspiring fiction writers and writing my own fiction novels. This was a whole new ball game for me, but there were aspects of technical writing that I took with me into my fiction writing arena. For instance, technical writing requires a measure of pre-planning. I adopted this approach for my fiction writing and it works for me. I recommend this tactic to all writers. Having something in front of you that indicates the basis of your project has a psychological effect that seems to dismiss writers’ block immediately.
Here are a few strategies you can use to get yourself motivated and in the mood for writing:
Strategy 1 – Plan ahead
Before completing any writing session, take some time to plan what you are going to write about. This can be as simple as some headings and a basic idea of what that section will contain.
If you are a fiction writer, before closing a writing session, take a few minutes to make some notes on your manuscript about what you intend to write in your next session. This can be as simple as –
Jill gets in her car to drive over to Jack’s place. On the way she runs out of petrol. Along comes a stranger who offers Jill a ride to the local service station. Jill runs into the bush away from the stranger. And so on …
When you take up the story, you will have something to write about.
Strategy 2 – A word game to get you going
Sit down at your computer and start looking at “words” on your Thesaurus. Choose a word that is relevant to what your will be writing in this session. Note the list of synonyms. This could spark the use of more relevant words in your writing project.
Start writing and try to use some of the words you have listed.
Strategy – A brief study session to get you in the mood for writing
For non-fiction writers, read something about the topic. This can be some internal documentation or Internet research. By getting your mind into the topic, ideas will flow and soon you will be tapping at your keyboard.
For fiction writers, before you start a writing session, take out one of your “how to” books and choose three writing techniques to learn or revise. This could take some time, but it is not wasted time. When you are confident that you understand the techniques, apply them to your writing session.
Strategy 4 – Tape record your ideas – anywhere you go
Invest in a small tape recorder. Take it with you everywhere. When you get an idea for your project or story, record the idea. This device is also very useful for recording character dialogue. You can then play it back and decide whether it sounds “real” or “contrived”.
The more you avoid writers’ block, the easier it becomes to eliminate it entirely.
An excerpt from my book Being a Successful Writer – from the chapter “How to avoid writers’ block”
© 2012 – Susan Jane
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