Overcoming Writer’s Block

Image by photosteve 101 (CC BY 2.0)

by Corina Koch MacLeod

Every writer faces writer’s block at one time or another – even writers who write for a living.

On the best days, writing can seem effortless – your thoughts flow and your biggest job is to get your fingers to keep up. But sometimes writing is like drawing blood from a stone. When you’re faced with a blank screen or an empty page, without any idea of how you might fill it, you can try this writer’s trick:
Set a timer.
In her book, Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, Natalie Goldberg charges writers to pick up their pens (or set themselves in front of a keyboard) and keep their fingers moving for a designated amount of time – one minute, three minutes, ten minutes – it’s up to the writer.
In Goldberg’s opinion, it doesn’t matter what you write, or even if it’s any good. Just begin. Transcribe your thoughts if you need to—even if they’re nothing more than complaints about not knowing what to write. The idea is that once your pen is moving or your fingers are flying, your brain will soon participate in the composing process, in a helpful way.
True, those first few minutes of “grumble writing” might not be on topic or the stuff of great prose, but those thoughts may be the obstacles that are preventing you from writing what you want to write. Securing those thoughts is kind of like removing the crusty gunk that collects at the mouth of a toothpaste tube so you can get to the stuff you’d even consider putting on your toothbrush. If you’re particularly good at grumbling, be sure to set your timer for at least five minutes.
Even through I write for a living, I never find it easy to face a blank page. I often have to trick myself into just beginning. Gretchen Rubin, author of  The Happiness Project, suggests that to accomplish unpalatable but necessary tasks, tell yourself that you only have to suffer for fifteen minutes. Seem daunting? Then suffer for five. Often, the hardest part of a seemingly insurmountable task is that very first step.
Which reminds me…
I have a door frame that needs spackling and painting and it’s 95 degrees outside. Time to set my timer.

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