Writer’s block: here’s how to switch from mad, to glad!

Writer’s block can be a real pain that holds you up for expensive hours. The blank screen or piece of paper has terrified even famous authors for generations and we poor non-fiction writers suffer just as badly. And unlike the famous authors of old we usually haven’t got time to seek inspiration through bacchanalian debauchery or an uplifting stroll amongst “a host of golden daffodils,” because we have schedules to keep and deadlines to meet.

This is the next step beyond not knowing where to start with your writing – it’s not being able to write a single word, not even key points. It’s one of those awful times when you get mentally (and always temporarily, by the way) paralysed, and you have to be careful that you don’t compound the issue by worrying if you might get writer’s block. That way, you’ll develop the “fear or fear” syndrome which is even more unproductive.

Fortunately there are many things you can do about writer’s block

To begin with, I can thoroughly recommend “Blocks: The Enlightened Way To Clear Writer’s Block and Find Your Creative Flow” by my talented colleague Tom Evans. It’s a seriously worthwhile purchase if you have any qualms about the issue as it goes into every aspect of writer’s block not only from the psychological point of view, but also right down to rethinking your diet and exercise so you’re as fit as you can be for your writing project mentally, physically and every other way.

In the meantime, however, here are a few tricks that I have learned through experience, and they work for pretty well everything you may need to write – whether it’s a non-fiction book, a blog, article or merely an email.

First of all, stop trying

One of the mistakes we all make is that we try to get it right first time. No matter how much we might experiment with a message or concept in our minds, the first time we commit that to screen or paper, by golly it’s got to be perfect. This is foolish, because it steers you straight into writer’s block.

There is no need to practise economy if you’re using a computer to write. Screen space is available on a pretty well limitless basis and all it costs you is the power bill (and then only if you’re self-employed.) Even if you use paper, you’ll still need to write an awful lot before you’ve used up a fraction of a tree’s worth. So forget perfect and get writing.

Just write anything, no matter what

By that I mean start by writing down anything at all. If you don’t yet feel confident about writing down the key points, don’t try. Instead write about the subject matter. What you want it to achieve … what your readers will want to know more about … how you want your readers to feel when they have read it … and so-on.

This removes the writer’s block because now you’re not exposing your vulnerable soft underbelly directly to that frightening foe called “readers.” For the moment you’re just writing notes to yourself which normally doesn’t cause a block problem. However this writing is still very productive. You’re working through the content development process by writing down your random thoughts about it, and provided that you remain in the present without consciously trying to get on with the writing project itself, you’ll soon find yourself writing about your project’s key points anyway.

Move beyond your block gently and gradually

Once your writing is jogging along nicely it’s time to start aiming for the actual key points and then final text you’ll use. But once again, don’t risk hitting writer’s block by attempting to tackle this head-on. Take a verbal detour and go around the longer, gentler way.

Simply continue writing, but change direction as you go. It doesn’t matter how long-winded it is because you’re going to edit it later. Just narrow your focus on what you need to convey and write that up in as many words as you want. Think about your readers while you’re writing. Imagine you’re sitting next to them in a bar or on a plane. Imagine you’re chatting with them casually and informally – sharing what’s on your mind.

And before you know it, the writer’s block will be lifted and you’ll be on your way!

(Adapted from “How To Write Winning Non-fiction” by Suzan St Maur: click here.)

You’ll be glad of this help, too:

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

“How To Write Winning Non-fiction”…all you need to know to write a good non-fiction book and get it published