The very words you are reading right now represent a “Writer’s Block Exercise.” Just minutes before putting my hands over the keyboard I didn’t know what I would write about for this edition of the Monthly Memo. But, I sat down and thought, where could I possibly go with this? I don’t want to write about the election – and you’re probably sick of it right about now anyway. The next thing you know my fingers are pounding out these words and off we go…
Some people say there is no such thing as writer’s block. Or that it’s all in your head. The reality is, if you freeze up when needing to write something or you can’t get that first sentence down, call it what you want – you’re having trouble writing. Having written every day for more than 20 years as a reporter and then writing a book, I’ve had all versions of the above. With that background, it’s a good time to share what I’ve learned along the way.
Start writing! R. L. Stine, the writer of loads of fiction for kids and young adults, encourages people to just sit down and write. Don’t worry about editing, don’t worry if it’s terrible – just write. Get started. Even if you have a specific assignment and a quick deadline, get your hands moving. The words that come flying out will provide you with SOMETHING, and usually you can build on that, even if you throw out some of the initial work. Who cares? At least you’re moving ahead. Most importantly, you are no longer frozen, which, to me, is the most unproductive place many people find themselves – and the most tortuous part of writer’s block.
What has inspired you over the last days/weeks? As you look for something to get you going think about a problem you’ve encountered lately or something that’s fired you up. What has your team experienced? What is everyone talking about right now? What solid value might you be able to focus on? Is there a classic story/tale/fable that you can turn to as a launch point? Any one of these elements can provide something to kick-start the writing.
Look to favorite topics from the past: What has provided you with starter fluid in the past? Unless you’re a famous columnist or blogger read by millions, don’t worry if you occasionally go back to favorite territory for inspiration. (Sometimes I’ve realized later I’ve covered the same topic in a Monthly Memo but, hey, this isn’t brain surgery – it’s just words on a screen designed to help someone!)
Reading makes great writing: My friend and writer James Moore of Austin, TX told me many years ago “Great reading makes great writing” and those words have served me well ever since. Looking to inspire your writing? Read some great stuff and expand that brain of yours. The next time you find your hands over the keyboard you won’t have nearly the trouble you might normally experience. Happy writing.
Cary Pfeffer is the founder of ClearComm Consulting, www.clear-comm.net, a Phoenix, AZ-based communications consulting firm which is helping people tell their story. He works with clients to make the most of their media and live audience communication. Email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.