Friday, 7 March 2014

Writer's block

I'm quite familiar with the term writer's block. Most writers are, and will tell you there's nothing as frustrating as spending hour after hour staring at the flashing cursor on a blank screen.

It's usually when I've been given a brief by my financial publisher to write an article about something in particular that I simply can't find the words.

I can have all my research in place, a basic article outline in my head, I know the message I need to impart, so for all intents I'm ready to go. I sit at my desk and whammo! Nothing!

Could it be that there's too much to write about? Sure, that can cause a problem when you have a very tight word limit, but it's not usually a show-stopper.

On the other hand, in instances where there's not enough information you just need to do a bit more research.

For me, it's usually getting the first line down that's the hardest. Writers are always under pressure to deliver that catchy first liner that hooks the readers in, but that's harder than it sounds.

I have spent hours writing, rewriting, and re-rewriting a first line only to abandon the work all together and come back the next day.

Abandoning it sometimes works because you can feel fresher and more inspired the next day. But this approach doesn't always work for me because by the next day I'm simply a day closer to my deadline without any work having been done.

A trick I've successfully employed a couple of times is to skip the opening line and/or paragraph and move straight into the body of the work with the hope that by getting the meaty stuff out of the way, I can go back, freshly inspired, and top and tail the piece with a snappy opening and conclusion.

Adhering to the writer's adage of just get it down works too! This idea stems from the fact that your first draft is never your last so if you just get the words down, regardless of how messy, disconnected or badly phrased they are. You can always go back and tidy them up later.

So, by that thought process, if in the grip of serious writer's block, I'm sitting there like a stunned mullet with no spark of creativity anywhere close, I throw the words down on the page and see what happens.

Some of my best short stories started that way. I might have spotted a call for submissions to a competition and decided to give it a try but without any clue as to what I was going to write about.

I look out the window ... there's a bird, a patter of rain, and ... the words begin to flow. You just have to start writing them.

An hour later you might read back and decide you've just written a pile of crap not worth the 60 minutes out of your life you just devoted to it.

Alternatively, you may have just produced the greatest literary gem known to mankind.

You'll never know if you don't start writing.

So ... get thee behind me writer's block.

Regardless of how or what you're writing, it's my personal belief that you should just start. The roughest stones can become the purest shining gems with just a little polish, and they each deserve their chance to shine.

Okay, what are you waiting for? Don't just sit there, get to work!

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