One of the most serious problems that many of us face on an almost daily basis is the problems that arise when faced with a blank page or screen. In fact, there’s nothing much worse in the office or school environment than having to deal with the dreaded “writer’s block” when faced with a deadline. Believe me, I know all about that particular phobia! I’ve been there and done that!
Through my own personal anguish and suffering I know very well that writer’s block is definitely not a pleasant experience. Especially, when the due date for one’s business report or project paper is getting closer by the day! I know what that knot in the gut feels like, every time the boss asks you “how’s that project going”, on those occasions when you don’t manage to avoid him/her as you try to slink unnoticed down the hallway.
Writer’s block is fear-based.
For various reasons, many of us have an incredible fear of committing ourselves in writing whenever we are faced with a blank page or computer screen. In reality, this is actually an irrational fear that keeps us from putting pen to paper; it often stems from a fear of failure. We secretly wonder just what exactly is going to come out of this keyboard/pen; and when it does, will we be revealing that we are some kind of incompetent idiot who doesn’t know what they’re talking about?
The good news is that writer’s block can definitely be beaten!
That’s right! I have learned through trial and error over the years that writer’s block can be easily overcome if we do the proper preparation and follow a few simple guidelines.
Below are my personal hard-earned practical tips for overcoming writer’s block:
1. Don’t Write It Too Soon
Before trying to write, it is important to prepare mentally for a few hours or days (depending on the size of the task) by mulling the writing project over in the back of your mind. Once you’ve done the necessary reading, research, and thinking, your sub-conscious mind needs time to process all of that. (Just as athletes don’t like to peak too soon, writers shouldn’t write too soon either!).
2. Preparation Is Important
Prior to writing, read over whatever background material you have so that it is fresh in your mind. I always do a final review of all material gathered, carefully marking the important points with a yellow hi-liter. With this material fresh in your mind, you will find that the writing process flows better once you get started, due to less need to refer to your background.
3. Develop A Simple Outline
Before sitting down to actually start writing, compile a simple point-form list of all of the key points you want to cover, and then organize them in the order in which you are going to cover them. (I know, I know… your Grade 6 teacher told you the same thing… but it actually does work!).
4. Keep Research Documents Handy
Once you finally sit down to write, make sure that all of your key background materials are spread out close at hand. This will allow you to quickly refer to them without interrupting the writing flow once you get on a roll. I keep as many of the source documents as possible wide open, and within direct eyesight, for quick and easy access and reference whenever I’m writing something.
5. Just Start Writing
Yes, that’s exactly what you should do. Once you have prepared mentally and done your homework as discussed in the previous steps, you will be ready to write — even if your writer’s block is saying “no”. Just start writing any old thing that comes to mind. Go with the natural flow. In no time at all, you will get into a rhythm, and the words will just keep on flowing.
6. Don’t Worry About Editing the First Draft
Once the words start to flow don’t be concerned about making it perfect the first time around. Remember, it’s your first draft. You will be able to revise it later. The critical thing at the outset is to get those thoughts written down as your mind dictates them to you.
7. Use an Example or Template
Get an actual sample of the type of document that you need to write. It could be something that you wrote previously, or it could be something from an old working file, or a clipping from a magazine article, or a sales brochure you picked up; as long as it is the same type of document that you are writing. Whatever it is, just post it up in your line-of-sight while you are working. You’ll be amazed at how it helps the words and ideas flow. This example will serve as a sort of “visual template” for you.
In my experience this last point is the ultimate secret for overcoming writer’s block.
I continue to use this last technique on a daily basis. In fact, I rarely start writing anything anymore from a blank page or screen. I always manage to find an example from somewhere and work from that. Once you’ve used this method for a while you will be able to easily get templates from writing projects that you have done previously.
In fact, this last tip is so important that I have built ALL of my writing help products around sample templates that I call “real-life templates”. Using those types of templates, coupled with my step-by-step “template adaptation method”, virtually eliminates the issue of writer’s block for most types of day-to- day practical writing.
To see ALL of my writing help products, most of which include real-life templates, go to the following:
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