American journalist Gene
Fowler spoke for many of us when he sized up the challenge of writing
by saying it was easy – “you just stare at a piece of paper until
drops of blood form on your forehead.”
I love that quote – it says it all and as a writer myself I’m comforted by the fact that Fowler was a recognized pro. While we all think that writing should be easy for someone like him, the truth is that Writer’s Block hits people who do this for a living too. I’ve spent many a sullen afternoon nursing cups of cooling coffee because the words stayed belligerently away.
In my case it’s usually because “Information Underload” had a date with “Low Motivation”. Although I don’t have a perfect solution for either problem, when I solve one, the other generally slides into place.
Here are my quick fixes:
1. Revisit the research and figure out what’s missing. If you have enough information a document should almost write itself but if you’ve been lazy you might not have enough source material to get the job done. If you start the job with way too many details, rather than not enough, you’ll have the luxury of choosing the best when it comes time to fit the pieces together. I like that kind of luxury!
2. Prioritize the information. Some of it is more important than the rest. If it all seems pretty much the same then you haven’t thought enough about what you’re writing. In a perfect world, you lead with your strongest point and that point should just jump out at you from the masses of information available and holler for attention. Work more with the details and see what comes to light.
3. And WHY are you writing this piece? Be clear on what it’s supposed to do for you or your audience and you can tackle the job with more conviction.
4. Give yourself a deadline with teeth. If a written piece needs to be done “sometime this spring” it’s a friendly task utterly lacking in urgency. Give it a deadline on your calendar to make it real.
5. Give yourself a consequence for non-completion or a promised treat for success. I know it sounds childish but sometimes my subconscious mind will drag its heels and play with gum wrappers in order to stop me from writing. Sometimes the antidote is to either decide on a penalty (no checking emails until it’s done) or a treat (half an hour on Skype when it’s finished).
I don’t know what our friend Mr. Fowler did to ease the strain but I’m always looking for new ways to keep the train of thought on track. Most writers I know can procrastinate with genius but at some point we realize that if the work doesn’t get done the bills don’t get paid – and that’s quite an effective motivation!
***The above article was contributed with permission of iSnare