The other day I had a writing deadline. I wrote a lead. Deleted it. Wrote another. Deleted it. Played some computer solitaire. Checked my email. Wrote a third lead. Deleted it. Got a snack. Wrote a fourth lead.
I was suffering from Writer’s Block. If you haven’t experienced this dreaded disease you just haven’t been writing long enough. Believe me, it will happen to you.
The symptoms of Writer’s Block are easy to identify. You sit at your computer and nothing happens. Unlike the day or week before when words flowed easily from your mind to the computer screen, now there is nothing. If you do manage to write a few sentences you are sure they are no good. They don’t express your thoughts or ideas, the grammar is terrible, the structure is poor. There is no grace or creativity in your words.
If the first symptoms persists for more than an hour or two you move to the second stage of the disease. You begin to doubt yourself. Why did you ever think you could write in the first place? Obviously your talent has gone, fled to the far reaches of the atmosphere. You are sure it will never return.
Yes, the symptoms of Writer’s Block are obvious. But what is the cure? Well, just like falling off a horse, the best cure for Writer’s Block is to just get back up and try again. Of course, that is not as easy as it sounds. Some writers have allowed the disease to last for years.
Set a Deadline. The best cure that I know for Writer’s Block is a deadline. I had to get that article I mentioned in the first paragraph done because an editor was waiting impatiently for it. If I didn’t get it finished, not only did I not get paid, I was letting someone down.
If you don’t have a deadline imposed by someone else, make on for yourself. Tell yourself that by a certain time you will have written a certain number of words. Then, even if you are not happy with those words, don’t erase them. Let the work go and come back to it in a day or two. You may find that what you have written doesn’t look so bad after you’ve slept on it. It may just need some fine tuning to reach your usual creative standard.
Do Some Research. Sometimes the problem is that you don’t have enough information. You may be missing only a small piece of information, or you may need to spend some time researching your topic before you can write about it. This problem goes for fiction as well as nonfiction. Good fiction is based on knowledge. Your “research” may just take a different form. You may need to think more about your characters – flesh them out in your head, or find out more about a setting, or spend some time outlining your plot.
Check the Internet. Look at what other authors have said about your topic. Seeing how someone else has started a similar article may give you an idea how to write your own.
Walk Away. Take a break from your work and do something else for awhile. Just make sure you have written at least a few sentences so that you will have something to start on when you return to the work. Set a time to start on the piece again. Mark it on your calendar.
Remember, the only real cure for Writer’s Block is to keep on writing.
Karen Hodges Miller works with writers to assist them in developing their articles, books or other writing projects from concept to reality. She has over 20 years of experience as a writer, editor and publisher. ©2008 by Karen Hodges Miller