Overcoming writer’s block has so many prescribed cures that seem like witches’ brew, you may as well be trying to get rid of hiccups. My favorite remedy is “just write anything.” If I were to follow this advice when I’m stuck in a frustrating blank stare moment, my page would be filled with expletives that would be of no use to anyone, including Lenny Bruce.
If you have no idea of what to say on any given subject, you do not have writer’s block, you have a lack of knowledge problem. If you have the facts in front of you and still do not know what to say then you have writer’s block. The basic step of gathering enough material to complete your writing task should never be confused with writer’s block. Writing takes leg work – tedious legwork. Before the Internet this task could seem insurmountable; but now with worlds of knowledge at our fingertips, I don’t want to hear about any problems getting background material on any subject. Learn how to use the search engines well. This should already be part of your writer’s skill set.
Genuine writer’s block comes when you “just don’t know how to say it.” You have the information, and a basic outline, yet you are not satisfied with the tone, cadence, or anecdote provided. It just doesn’t feel right. You can’t tie your ideas together into one cohesive product that supports the underlying theme you are trying to convey. What do you do?
Take your material and write it out as you have it. Even if doesn’t feel right complete your assignment as if it were due today, and walk away. Leave the problem to rattle around in your brain for a while. Now here comes the key. Do something totally unrelated that requires you to pay some attention to your new task – a household chore, returning emails, running an errand. I generally find a physical chore, like walking to the post office to be superior to a mental chore, like answering emails. Exercise is one of the great inspirational tools available to us. If you exercise regularly this would be a great time to do that. Sometimes during your chore or exercise, the answer will pop into your head. That is the way our brains work. Inspiration comes to us all the time. We need to be distracted from the noise that interferes with our ability to hear the inspiration. Once we have changed our focus away from the problem at hand our brain can finally deliver the answer unimpeded. Whether you believe the answer has come from your brain or from the cosmos the answer is always available to us. Sometimes more than one chore is required for distraction. On a big problem, it might take a week of chores. Be absolutely sure you have a pen and pad of paper with you at all times, because the answer may be fleeting, or just a partial answer with the remaining portion to show up at a later time.
Most writers are working on more than one project at a time. Leaving one assignment and starting another can also help in getting the answer to a previous writing problem. Remember; never confuse lack of preparation with writer’s block. Lack of preparation is a matter of laziness and is a whole different problem to overcome.