Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Writer's Block

It can happen to any writer. You are writing fluently, the words are flowing from you in a steady stream and, suddenly, you come to a stop. Or perhaps you have done your research, found the perfect bits of information that will make your story shine but you just cannot start writing. Writer's block is something that can happen at any time. Among the many causes are a lack of research, simple fatigue, self-doubt, or an unconscious desire not to finish the article or story.

Lack of Research

Lack of research is probably the main cause of writer's block. You could have amassed a whole mountain of facts but, if they are not relevant to your focus or angle, you will need to either look for another angle or do some more suitable research. Often, it would be simpler to just follow the former option. This is because you have gathered the information that most appealed to you and you would write a more compelling article if you follow your instinct.


Simple mental fatigue is another probable cause of writer's block. You may have been writing without a break for a long while and your brain refuses to continue. A good indication of fatigue is when you cannot write even though you have adequate facts at your fingertips, all ready to be used. In such cases, you should do something completely different. Go for a walk, talk to friends, or just look at some beautiful photos. This will take your mind off of writing for a while. Meanwhile, your unconscious mind is working away at your article, smoothing out the edges so that you can write it when you return to your desk.

Fear of the New

Writer's block can also occur when you are nearing the end of your work. If you're writing a book, you begin to think of tasks like marketing your work, talking to agents and, in general, dealing with things that you are not familiar with. In such cases, you should stop looking forward, stop predicting the future, and just concentrate on reaching the end of your book. In the words of that wise philosopher Yogi Berra 'it ain't over 'til it's over.' The hardest part of your work is almost over and, if it is good, marketing it should be easier than writing it.

Free Writing

Free writing can be a most effective technique against writer's block. It consists of writing as fast as you can whatever comes to mind. You should not stop to read what you have written or do any editing while you're writing. Just set an alarm for 15 minutes and start writing. Once the alarm rings, you should look over what you have written. Try to find clues that can help you identify the causes of your block and think of possible solutions. Often, the simple act of free writing can help to dissolve any mental blocks you may have been experiencing.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Your Writing Appointment

If you're a writer, you'll know that one of the hardest things to do is getting down to work. Most of us procrastinate, find things to do, daydream, or just sit and stare at the screen instead of just writing. Contrary to Fishhawk's dictum that a writer is working when he is staring out the window, when we do start to write we often find that our thoughts remain as they were before. Our production lags and, if we are on a deadline, we are forced to pull a late nighter or skip meals just to get the work done. What we need to do is to find a way to sit down and write until the article or story is ready. Here are three tips that can help us become more productive and efficient writers.

1 – Set the Alarm

Most people do not like to wake up to an alarm clock because it tends to ring just when they are in one of their periods of deep sleep. They wake up feeling tense instead of relaxed. You can also use the alarm to tell you when to sit down at your writing desk. If you consciously begin to write when the alarm rings, you will soon create a habit that will stay with you for as long as you like. Taking a page from Pavlov, you can easily associate the ringing of the alarm to your picking up pen and paper or putting fingers to keyboard.

2 – Prepare for Action

When the alarm sounds, the last thing you should need to do is to start looking for your notebook or reference files. These should be ready on your desk, just waiting for you to use them. Any changes to your daily habit could cause you to shift your attention to something else. If you are writing an article, the outline should be ready and all research complete. What you need to do now is to just pour the words from your mind onto paper or screen. In the wise words of Maupassant, you need to get in black and white as soon as possible. After the draft is ready, you can edit to your heart's content.

3 – Zero Interruptions

There are other little obstacles that can prevent you from keeping your writing appointment. This is why you should turn off the Internet before writing. Incoming mail is usually announced by an audible ping or a visually distracting pop-up. When this happens, our natural curiosity gets the best of us and we can find it hard not to read our mail.

If you can accustom yourself to start writing when the alarm rings, you will find that other related problems such as writer's block can easily fade away. Since you know that you have a writing appointment that can't be missed, you will tend to look forward to your writing sessions.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Writing Tips - Writing On the Go

There are times when you do not have the benefit of a comfortable desk and chair where you can sit down and write. Say you have an urgent deadline approaching with little time left to complete an article or story. If you have to run an important errand that cannot wait, you need to find a way to at least get a head start. Getting a few words down on paper while waiting could mean the difference between missing an important deadline and completing an article on time.

1. Writing in Public Transport

Say you're on a train and you have to finish a short article to be delivered when you reach your destination. All you need to do is to whip out your writing stuff, whether laptop or pen and paper, and start writing. People near you will probably be doing the same, so you will feel at home. This is where a good, long-life battery could be useful because, instead of surfing the net, you could get some work done. In you're in a taxi or on a bus, you will need to rely only on pen and paper because of the erratic movements of the vehicle.

2. Writing in Public Spaces

If you are at a bank, waiting in line or sitting down, you could also get some work done. Once again, you will need to use pen and paper, because the bank will probably frown on your using a laptop. A good technique to use when waiting in line is to write only the headlines of your article. A few cryptic words under a headline is all you need. Later, you can use these notes to write the full article. A knowledge of shorthand could be of great use whenever you need to write in public spaces.

3. Writing Without Writing

What if you are at a place where you cannot write? If you are at a church, for example, or in court doing jury duty and cannot do anything else but listen, you could put any spare minutes to good use. If you do not need to listen too closely to what is being said, you could do a bit of writing even on such occasions. A simple technique you can use is to think of the subtitles of your article and think of what you can say in the paragraph. You can also use topology, where you use the parts of a building you are familiar with as markers for important points or paragraphs. The door of the building could mark the introduction to your article. The chair inside your hallway could hold your second paragraph. When you have chosen a suitable marker for each paragraph, you then proceed to think of the content, mentally filling in the words.

Being away from your writing desk does not have to mean being unable to write. You can continue to be productive even when away from your desk by using these simple techniques. An additional benefit of writing in public is that you can obtain valuable input that could trigger a good description or make you remember a fact to enliven your story.