Grappling With Writer’s ... Um ...
Whether professional writers generating grant applications, direct-mail copy and annual reports or just authors of everyday memos, all of us have been plagued by writer’s block.
Writer’s block is something that I consistently battle. As a copywriter, the author of frequent memos and proposals, and, in this case, the writer of a magazine column, I constantly find myself facing the mental brick wall that brings the flow of writing to an abrupt halt.
Great authors such as Faulkner, Fitzgerald and Hemingway often turned to alcohol as their remedy. However, drunkenness generally is frowned upon by clients, colleagues, family members and family doctors. So I have attempted to avoid this route.
Instead, I’ve developed other tactics and queried fellow writers about their own strategies. Maybe some of these ideas can help you.
Plow on through
The most common strategy is just to start writing and push through the mental barrier that’s blocking you. In this case, it doesn’t matter what you write, just write it. You can go back and edit later. Chances are you’ll find yourself on a roll within a couple of minutes.
I also find it helpful to occasionally walk away from the computer and do it “old school” style by getting a pen and paper and just writing longhand. I often find that while writing on a computer, I edit my work as I go along instead of concentrating on the idea I’m writing about. Writing by hand breaks you out of that habit.
You also don’t have to write in a coherent order. When I’m writing a four-page direct-mail package, I often will skip from the first page to the last page. Or if I hit a wall, I’ll skip away from the letter altogether and begin writing another component, such as the reply form or an informational insert.
Look at the competition
All of us have hundreds of seed packages from other organizations laying around our offices. Grab a handful and start reading. You probably will learn a few new techniques that will open your mind to new possibilities.
Such methods not only will help you break out of writer’s block, but they also will help you expand your arsenal of writing styles.
A ringing telephone and the quiet “ding” heralding the arrival of new e-mails often will prevent you from getting into the flow of writing. When I’m under a tight deadline in such situations, I often grab my laptop or a pen and some paper and head out of the office to a local coffee shop to find some peace, quiet and inspiration. A latte and a dose of Muzak can work miracles.
As one of my colleagues told me, “Never underestimate the power of caffeine.”
Start again in the morning
My business partner, Greg Adams, refuses to start a project late in the afternoon.
“I look at my watch and assess whether this is a typical energy peak time or not. Our bodies are like clocks with creative and sluggish periods almost hard wired into our adrenal glands. At 4 p.m., I’m either eager to eat, eager to leave or too exhausted,” he says.
“When you’ve reached a point of frustration, it’s OK to leave and come back to it the next day,” he adds. “Then, in a moment of relaxation, the idea hits you. Your subconscious keeps gnawing on it until a solution is found.”
Jim Hussey is president of Adams Hussey & Associates. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.