Anyone who has ever had to write anything has probably experienced something they considered “writer’s block”. Term papers, creative writing assignments, grant applications, papers for publication, Christmas letters, monthly reports, blog entries, grocery lists – the potential victims of writer’s block are never ending.
Recently, fellow blogger and writing advice-giver extraordinaire, Michele, presented a brief workshop on writer’s block to a group of Promega bloggers. Part of her presentation focused on personality-type centered causes and cures of writer’s block.
Now I have taken my share of personality tests over the years, but the online test I took in preparation for this workshop was the first one that scored me in the extrovert column, albeit barely. It was kind of liberating. Apparently one potential cause of writer’s block for my “personality” is getting easily distracted. Something I have affectionately named the “squirrel” effect.
The solution, they say, is to avoid distractions. Ah, but one can hardly control the squirrels of life. They scamper about on their own secret missions, popping up uninvited and disrupting us writers as they go. I can’t hide from them, but I have however, developed a few strategies to combat their destructive forces.
Here is what works for me:
- Go for a walk and write in your head. If you have thought of the words once, you are less likely to loose them if a “squirrel” (Look, it’s snowing!) scampers by. I also like to consider this mental writing my first draft.
- Find a favorite squirrel. All through college I had a wooden viking troll that sat on my desk for every writing assignment. I fiddled with him when I was stuck; I played with the bright red hair, I tried to balance him on his horns. All this time, my brain was apparently writing in secret because when I would finally go back to my assignment the words would flow with much more ease.
- Talk to someone else about what you want to write (squirrels tend to avoid crowds). Warning: This writer’s block solution may not be too popular with your coworkers.
- Listen to music. At least this way you won’t hear the squirrels. Of course music can be its own kind of squirrel, so you may find this doesn’t help you.
- Move your writing spot to a location with fewer squirrels. You can’t exterminate all of the little buggers, but sitting at a desk piled high with all the other projects you should be getting to will probably not make the words come more easily.
If you are suffering from writer’s block, I hope some of these suggestions help you. I will also add this disclaimer: I like to write. The sight of a blank sheet of paper or computer screen does not fill me with trepidation. If this is not the case for you, then more drastic action might need to be taken. For example, I am told that outlining can be very helpful.
Good luck with your writing, and remember the squirrels (Wow! It is REALLY snowing now) are smaller than us; we will prevail.