Deciding to write about writer’s block was my first mistake.
Write what you know, they said. It’ll be easy, they said. And I certainly know writer’s block – it’s something I deal with nearly every day. But the road from great idea to great writing is often long, winding and full of potholes. And therein lies our problem!
I learned long ago that staring angrily at my computer screen is not a great solution. No matter how hard I will them to, the words never magically appear. So I did what I usually do: I walked away. I made another cup of coffee, did a lap around the office and gave my mind permission to think about something else. Anything else.
While my mind wandered, I noticed that I tend to use the same tricks to get past my writer’s block. I’ve picked them up from fellow writers over the years, and have adjusted them for my workflow. Occasionally they give me that elusive burst of genius, but most of the time it’s more of a subtle nudge. These tips aren’t a silver bullet, but I’ve had some good luck.
Hey, isn’t the fact that you’re reading this post proof enough?
Take the office Segway for a spin around the parking lot. Or, hey, just go for a good, old-fashioned walk. Anything that gets you away from your desk, your writing and the task at hand is perfect. Take notice of what your senses are telling you. Is it freezing outside? Are the lights brighter than usual? Is someone microwaving fish in the office kitchen again?
Taking yourself out of your head and into your physical surroundings is like hitting the reset button. It helps you back away from that roadblock and down a new path – one that might land exactly where you need it to.
How would George Washington talk to this audience? If you were held captive on a pirate ship, how would you convince the captain to sail to your destination?
The hardest part about these games is letting your mind go there. It feels absolutely ridiculous to think like a pirate when you’re trying to write copy for, say, a financial institution. But putting yourself into the mind of far-away character forces you to let go. It forces you to stop worrying about making every word perfect, because most of these words will never hit the page anyway. And – most importantly – it requires you to stop judging. When every idea is allowed, there’s no such thing as a bad one.
Grab a piece of paper, tear it into small pieces and write a word on each piece. Not sentences, just words. Anything you can think of that’s vaguely related to your task – adjectives, verbs, names of celebrities, whatever. Take a cue from Magnetic Poetry and start moving them around, rearranging them into pseudo-sentences. Words that you never thought to put next to each other may turn into the perfect introduction to your writing. It might look like nonsense, or it might spark a fire.
You could easily do this on sticky notes or index cards – but then you don’t get to rip anything. And where’s the fun in that?