Tips to Avoid the Dreaded Writer's BlockElance_Alex | Jun 17, 2010
With Writing & Translation being one of the largest categories on Elance, there's no doubt that a few of fellow elancers have faced the dreaded Writer's Block. And while it affects many writers all over the world, each person has their own individual tips and tricks to pull themselves out of the slump. Elance Provider Caroline C., otherwise known as "VassarGirl" right here on Elance, offers her tips and tricks on beating Writer's Block.
Ah... so you’re suffering from the dreaded “White Page Syndrome.” You can’t think of anything to write. Or everything you CAN think of to write is so banal, so boring, so poorly phrased, so…unworthy, that it doesn’t deserve the time to put it on the page.
Scott Berkun, author and public speaker, says that “Writer’s block is a sham.” He claims that it’s not the fear of writing that keeps people from writing, that it’s the fear of writing well. And he has a point – anyone can write. Anyone can put words on paper. Doing it well is another story. So how do you get out of the rut when you are sitting and staring at the dreaded “white page”?
Simon Haynes in “How to Beat Writer’s Block” suggests creating a page of blank chapter headings. Once you’ve done that, you need to add a couple of scenes to each chapter. You shouldn’t worry about it; just do it. Maybe you’re moving away from your plot. Who cares! It might be a better story. All of a sudden you’ll come to a scene which you want to flesh out. Don’t write it just yet. Write some detailed notes first. When it comes to that point – the point when you really want to write that scene – when you really NEED to write that scene - that’s your voila! moment. If you desperately want to write, you are no longer suffering from writers block.
Other writers also suggest the “just write” idea. Just putting words on a page is a start. And I mean any words. It could be a random list of nonsense words. Or maybe all the dirty words that come to mind (good for de-stressing as well!). Or write down some your favorite quotes. Make lists. Do bullet points help you out? If so, use bullet points. Write anything that you can think of. Maybe you can take some of the words you already have down on paper and put them into a sentence. Maybe you can put a couple of sentences into a paragraph. Don’t worry about the editing part. You’ll have time to rework and rewrite. It's all an exercise to jumpstart your mind.
Some writers find that changing writing instruments freshens up their writing. If you write longhand, try the computer. If you use the computer, write longhand. Go buy a brand, spanking new pen with a great color of ink. Those new gel pens, with the ink that glides on the paper soooo smoothly, come highly recommended.
Another suggestion is to have two projects going at once. Let’s call them project A and project B. When you’re blocked on project A, just switch over to project B. When you run out of steam on project B, move back to project A, and so forth and so on. Another, and similar trick is to write something different. If the words are not flowing on your current project, just drop it for a while. Pick up something else and get going on that. When you get back to your first project, you should be refreshed and your mind should be clear. Taking a step back to refocus is a really great way to generate new ideas and angles you may not have thought of before.
Daphne Gray-Grant in “20 Surefire Ways to Beat Writer’s Block” suggests using a “mind map.” To make a mind map you need to get a piece of paper and turn it sideways. Make a circle in the middle of the paper and write your topic in the circle. Draw lines radiating from the circle like spokes on a bicycle’s wheel. At the end of each spoke write a word that works with the topic. Draw a line from that circle and write another word at the end of that line. When you’re done, you should have enough words to start some good sentences. And maybe you can go from there to some good paragraphs.
The words are still not coming. What else can you do? Well, you can do something physical. Go for a run, do jumping jacks, chase the kids or the dog, or mow the lawn.
Alternately, you might want to eat or drink something bad. A nice banana split might spice up your imagination. A shot of booze might loosen you up a little. A cup of coffee might give you a little jumpstart. If you have the banana split you might want to go back and do some more physical exercise. Giving yourself a change in scenery is also a good bet to boost creativity. Have you been writing in your office? Move down to the living room or get out of the house and check out the local coffeehouse scene. Is there too much going on? Turn off your email and your cell phone. A good set of sound reducing headphones might help you out if you don’t like too much noise. And they’re really a great help if you’re trying to write at home and you have kids.
You still haven’t gotten a good start? Call up a friend and take notes on your conversation. Or talk to your dog. Or make up an imaginary friend. A great resource is a buddy who also writes. Get him or her on the phone and talk. Tell some stories and rehash some gossip. You never know what might get your creative juices flowing, and if you can talk it you can write it.
Do you have a stash of things you’ve started writing and never finished? Grab a few papers from that stack and see if there’s anything that you’d like to finish. Maybe you could just take a sentence from one and a sentence from another and use them as starting points for a new project. Maybe there’s just a gem of a word, one you want to roll around in your mind a bit. After all, writers are all about words. Perhaps you just need to write something else that’s totally different than what you’ve been trying to write.
Read something. Read something you love or read something you hate. There’s nothing like getting a good tirade going by reading something you really, really hate by someone with whom you really, really disagree. A really steamy annoyance will probably get you loosened up faster than the aforementioned shot of booze. A good trick is to find your best writing time. Do you write best in the early morning? Are you a late night writer? Do you know that you can make it until noon and then not a minute longer? Once you’ve figured out your schedule you can use it to your best advantage. Why struggle trying to write at 7am if you know that you’re no good until 7pm? Another trick is to fool yourself by telling yourself that you only need to write for five minutes. Then write for five minutes. Chances are that when the five minutes are over, that you will still be writing. If not, try one of the other ideas on this list.
There are lots and lots of tricks that writers use to crash through their writer’s block. The most important idea seems to be to have faith in your writing. Realize that what you write is good, and if it isn’t good the first time, well, that’s what rewriting is for. And until you have something to rewrite, try some of the tricks above.
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