By Carol Tice
I haven’t written much about writer’s block in my year of blogging about writing, because it’s not a big problem in my life. But I’ve read complaints from so many other writers about it, I feel I should help here.
When the rare occasion comes when I do find myself stuck, I use one of these techniques to snap out of it:
1. Use your lifeline. That’s right, phone a friend, just like on the TV game shows. Then, tell them about the article you need to write. You’ll find that as you chat, your story will naturally organize itself. When you hang up, jot down a few notes and you’ve got your outline.
2. Write about something else. If this article is stumping you, write your blog entry for the week or a letter to your mom. Just something that starts you writing. You’ll probably find at the end of that writing task, it’s fairly easy to switch to the one that was causing you problems.
3. Read old clips. Sometimes, when I’m intimidated by a complex article I need to organize, I crack open my clip book and leaf through it. I realize I wrote those difficult pieces, and I can write this one, too.
4. Dummy outline. This is the one I use most. If the structure of your article is boggling you and keeping you from writing, just write the name of each source down. Then go through your notes and write succinctly next to their name the most important points they make. You now have a road map of all the most interesting stuff for your story. A good starting point will likely jump right off the outline at you, and you’re off and writing..
5. Write without notes, quotes or attribution. I learned this technique at a Reynolds seminar at the Seattle Times a few years back: Put all your notes aside and just write the story. Don’t worry about name spellings, exact quotes, figures, who said what, nothing. Don’t break your concentration by flipping around in your notes looking for factoids. Just pour it onto the page.
The important stuff will naturally rise to the top of your mind. Once you have a draft, go back and clean it up by reading through your notes for accuracy and plugging in the quotes.
6. Take a hike. I believe most writers don’t move around enough. Get out and oxygenate for a half-hour and then return to your task. Almost never fails me that on the walk I start writing the article in my head, and can’t wait to get back to the keyboard where I can put it down.
7. Talk to the mirror. Have a serious talk with yourself about this problem if it becomes a habit, because it’s just unprofessional. You cannot earn a good living from writing if you’re going to be one of those fussy-butt writers who needs all the planets in alignment before you can write. If you need to, get therapy – it’ll be worth it. Missed deadlines lead to fewer good-paying writing gigs. Take your career seriously and figure out how to write your pieces on time.
This post originally appeared on the WM Freelance Writer’s Connection.