Have you ever experienced writer’s block? If you write for a living, then the response is “Of course.” If you don’t write for a living but must write while earning your living and think of yourself as a reluctant writer, then the answer is “Of course.”
So what do you do when you really, really need to produce something by a deadline. (Which may be unrealistic or may be causing you heartburn because you procrastinated and hoped that somehow it would go away.)
Kristen Dunleavy (@KristenWritesIt), a senior content marketing manager at MovableInk, has great ideas for getting yourself going in her Ragan article “10 ideas to help writers get it in gear.” As As my wont, I have chosen my five favorites.
- “Challenge yourself to beat the clock.” This sounds a touch hokey at first, when, frankly, you’re just not enthused. But it works. In the work I do, my goal is always to deliver a piece a day in advance of the first-draft deadline. This gives everyone a break. The person I report to has extra time for reading and commenting, and I have extra time for any fixes necessary.
- “Get out for some green.” Dunleavy and I and many others are on the same page here. In fact, I’ve done posts that recommend taking a nature break. If you’ve been sitting in front of your screen feeling frustrated and not getting anywhere, a brief walk is almost guaranteed to get you going again, and the 15 to 20 minutes it takes really doesn’t steal time away from the project.
- “Recognize that you can get stuff done even when you don’t feel like it.” This, I believe, echoes advice from Jack London, who advised writers to go to their desks and sit there until they got something done. There must have been days that Mr. London didn’t feel like writing; he died of kidney failure at the age of 40. But he persisted, and so must we all who call ourselves writers.
- “Give yourself permission to write badly (at first).” This is probably my favorite piece of advice. I tend to be a real perfectionist in my first draft—backing up a sentence or two to polish something I’ve already written. That makes it a lot harder to get a piece finished. It’s taken a long time to learn to resist the temptation to rework while work in process, but taking a walk or brushing the dog and then getting back at it is an enormous help.
- “Try to enjoy the process.” In my opinion, achieving enjoyment can be a real challenge. But Ms. Dunleavy quotes editor and blogger Peter Turley (@PDTurley) who says “Enjoy the daily process of being a writer. If you can enjoy the process, then you’ve already achieved your goal. If you focus on the endpoint, you’ll quickly lose writing motivation.”
In last week’s post, I noted that good writers tend to be good thinkers. Working on your writing, however you do it, is part of the process of thinking better. And, of course, being exposed to your writing helps your readers see that. Yes, you should write for your own enjoyment, but you should never forget your audience.