Busting Writer’s Block
They say that there’s no such thing as writer’s block. If you write long enough you’ll find something to talk about.
I think they’re right.
You just got to start writing. Get ideas flowing out onto that blank white page. Fill it up with whatever’s in your head. Something good will come out eventually.
In a very fitting way writing a blog is like making conversation with people you’ve just met. It’s awkward and quiet at first. You’re not really sure what to say beyond empty small talk. Inside you’ve got lots of great stories, interesting insights, and funny jokes that would really liven up the party; but somehow you just can’t seem to remember any of them. You can’t let yourself think “Quick! Say something clever” because you’ll end up drawing a complete blank. It all has to flow naturally, one thought leading to another. That’s what small talk is for. You start out with banal statements about the weather or the quality of the food because you need to start somewhere. It’s the same way with writers block. You can’t look at a blank page and say “Now think of something really interesting to write about!” Unless you came to the page prepared with an idea you’ll just end up drawing a blank. The best advice is to just start writing. What you write might not be good but that’s alright; it’s just empty small talk paving the way to a real conversation.
Writer’s block is a very natural for the human brain. The same phenomenon can occur in many different forms. I want to do a little exercise with you. Open up Word, or Notepad, or grab a dead tree version and a pencil. Then find some way to roughly time yourself. After you’ve found a clock (or a partner to count for you) here is your assignment: write down as many white things as you can think of in thirty seconds.
How did you do? Here’s my list (hey, how could I tell you to do something if I wasn’t willing to try it myself?).
Seven things. Six really; I mean “paper” and “receipts” are pretty much the same thing. How did you do? Did you ever have a moment where your mind just went blank? I know I did.
Now here’s the second part of the exercise. Get ready to time yourself again; but this time write down all the white things you can think of that you might find in a refrigerator. Ready? Go!
How did you do? Here’s mine:
Eight things. And none of them are thinly veiled copies of each other! Did you do better than last time, or at least as well? If you did, don’t you find that weird? I mean there are obviously more white things in the entire world then there are in your average refrigerator. The world list should be much, much longer. And yet it usually isn’t. That’s because in the second test your brain has something concrete to latch onto. There are so many white things in the world that your mind has trouble picking them out without more criteria. It’s the same effect that comes into play when someone asks you “Hey, tell me a funny joke!” You know funny jokes; you probably know hundreds of them. But if someone puts you on the spot you’re probably going to come up with nothing.
So whenever you find yourself facing writers block try to find that concrete connection. You’ll never come up with anything if you ask yourself “Come up with something insightful and interesting and clever and entertaining. Now!” Instead try to find something concrete and simple to start with; or just write whatever pops into your head. Once you’ve started writing you never know what kind of interesting places it will take you. For example; twenty minutes ago I was staring at a blank page and had no idea what to write about for my Monday post. And now I have this.
Writing about writers block is a legitimate strategy.