We all know about the dreaded writer’s block. For some, it’s a chronic disease with no cure. For others (the lucky ones), it’s a mystical unicorn. They’ve never seen it and question others if they have! However writer’s block isn’t one entity. There are various factors that come into play. A strategy that works for one, doesn’t necessarily work for another.
I came across a great article from Kellie McGann from the Write Practice on 7 hacks to get writing when you can’t. I expanded on 3 of these points to provide additional tactics and tips to help you push through on days that you just don’t feel like writing.
Creating goals is an effective and really simple strategy, if you do it right. According to Kellie and WriteMyPaper123 writers, “Depending on how much time you have, plan accordingly. It’s best to look at your long term goal, and divide that into small tasks you can do daily. It’s not a great idea to put, “Write a Book” on your to-do list.”
The key here is to break the larger goal into smaller manageable ones. ‘Write a book’ is overwhelming. Here are more manageable goals:
“Write 500 words”
“Edit Chapter 1”
“List 4 characteristics that makes my protagonist more interesting”
Does goal writing work for everyone? Not really. Are you the type of person that takes time to get into the ‘zone’? When in the zone, can you write for hours? Some people are like that. I’m one of those. I can stare at a blank screen or paper for an hour. Then something happens. I begin writing, and don’t realize that 5 hours have passed! These are bursts of creativity that can be unattainable if you have specific goals for the day. Don’t box yourself into specific tasks or else your creativity will suffer.
The key with goals is to have a roadmap to get started. If I’m struggling to write, that’s when I go back to my small goals, pick one and begin. Focusing on something that’s easily attainable will get you past that hump. The trick is not to simply write out goals. The trick is to take a larger task, put it into more manageable tasks, and when you get stuck, go back to those smaller tasks and just begin. Check it off your list.
Find the tasks that are the most important for you and begin there. That’s the strategy that’s been outlined by a lot of productivity experts. If your day is to be spent writing, prioritize the most important tasks first. Do you need to edit chapters 3 and 8 today? Or do you need to do an outline for the middle of your story? Both sounds great, but having so many different things can become so overwhelming that you can’t even start.
I run several different businesses. I do that because I get bored doing one thing only. The issue I run into is when I have tasks I need to do with a couple of them. I spend all day being so overwhelmed with all the tasks that I never begin. Or I begin the task that I ‘feel’ like doing. Next thing I know, I’ve spent the week ‘doing stuff’ but nothing to get me moving forward.
Ask yourself the question “will this task move me forward with my story?” Will editing chapters 3 and 8 move you forward? Or will doing that outline? I use this example because it’s happened to me. I spent all day editing chapters 3 and 8 because it was ‘easier’. However, I needed to finish the outline of the middle of the story because that is what would have me moving forward. Editing wasn’t the priority.
It’s difficult but you need to ruthlessly prioritize your writing. If you don’t, you’ll spend more time worrying about what needs to be done rather than getting stuff done.
Remember your purpose
Prioritizing and setting goals is about taking the larger concept of ‘writing a book’ and putting it into manageable pieces. Remember your purpose is about returning to that bird’s eye view of why you are writing. We write because we’re passionate. We’re inspired by events in our life that we want to share. We may write because that’s our only outlet for our creativity. Whatever your purpose is, write it down. Keep it somewhere. Put it on your screensaver. Just make sure you have it accessible.
Ask yourself the question ‘why’. Why do you write? Once you get the answer, ask yourself why again. Do that 6 times. You’ll be shocked that the first answer is not the real answer. By digging in deeper, you’ll be able to get to the real purpose. This is what’s in your gut. This is what is really inspiring you. Once you know it, you can remind yourself about your real purpose. I’ve found that this has helped me more often than not in pushing through the barriers of being stuck. Here’s an example from a friend of mine that did the exercise:
Why do you write?
“I write because I enjoy creating new stories”
“Because i feel my stories are better than what’s out there”
“Because I want other people to experience the same excitement as I do when I think of my stories”
“Because it would be sad if i didn’t take the chance to get my story out there”
“Because I never want to look back and regret not taking the chance to write”
“Because I want to look back at my life and say that I’ve given something back”
As you can see, his real desire was to give back to the world. His initial reason to write was because he thought he could do better than other writers. Which do you think is the real motivator to write? Which thought do you think he’s more likely to be motivated with to write? He keeps the last 2 sentences printed and hanging on his wall.
Ask yourself why 6 times. Spend some time here. Once you know your real reason, you’ll be able to go back to it whenever you get stuck.
Do you have any specific strategies that you use when you get stuck writing?
Have you had experiences with setting goals, priorities and purpose, but have still struggled? Leave your comment below!