Saturday, May 3, 2014

Writer's Block

What do you do when you don’t know how to start… or how to go on?

This, of course, is a common challenge in any type of writing, not just in business writing. And it is not so much a question of how to write, but rather of how to get motivated.

In some cases the hesitation or procrastination in writing may be due to a feeling of being unprepared. Therefore, one way to combat that feeling is to prepare something. That is, start by crafting a structure, with topics or fields that you can begin to fill in later, without regard to how the whole body of text will flow or fit together.

One example to consider is the structure you find in reports. A formal report has a/an
  • title page
  • executive summary
  • table of contents
  • introduction
  • methods
  • findings
  • conclusion
  • recommendations
  • appendices
So, there you have your structure. When writer’s block sets in, you zero in on whatever section you are most comfortable with and start filling it in.

An outline created from scratch around your subject or topic will serve the same purpose. However, unlike the sections laid out in a formal report you will need to rely more on the particulars of the topic at hand. In any case, the way to circumvent writer’s block is to jump to a part of the writing task that you are comfortable with.

Miniature versions of writer’s block also happen when we simply get stuck on a word. What do you do then, other than stare at the screen? You could consult an online thesaurus. However, this often interrupts your chain of thought.

Well, what about that glass of water you were thinking you needed to drink, or that quick dash to the toilet your body is telling you it needs?  Perhaps there’s a pot on the stove that needs to be stirred. Or maybe you just need to get your bum off the chair for some blood circulation. Writer’s block affords you the perfect opportunity to do these things.

You can do these things while keeping your train of thought focused on your writing task, unlike when you begin searching online and quickly find yourself distracted. That elusive word is now likely to drift to the forefront of your mind, while you feel at the same time renewed energy to set fingers to the keyboard or pen to the pad.

In summary, to combat writer’s block…
  • follow or create an outline structure, which you can then fill in where and with what you feel most comfortable writing about in that moment
  • get up, quickly perform some pressing or needed task, while keeping your mind on your writing topic—this will not disturb your train of thought as might opening up a thesaurus or googling something online; quickly perform, however, is the operative phrase here.

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