Monday, November 5, 2007

Having Trouble with Writer's Block? Try Quantity, Not Quality!

Do you find yourself sitting down to write the great American novel, only to find yourself staring at a blank screen for hours on end? Do you type a sentence or two, go back and read what you've written, then delete it only to start anew, over and over again? Do you find yourself trembling in fear of writing something unworthy of publication or even a quick read by another person?

If that's the case, then you are one of millions of writers currently suffering from writer's block. And one of the reasons you're experiencing it ... is that you're simply not writing.

Sound too obvious? Well, perhaps. But the big question is why aren't you writing? Chances are you're afraid of not doing it "right," not getting it "perfect." And that is a very dangerous mindset to have, indeed.

From the start, we need to get something clear. No writer writes what he wants exactly the way he wants it the first time around. Nada. No one. Yet, a major misconception among unpublished writers is that they have to crank out extraordinary quality each and every time a finger strikes a key. You can see how that expectation (not only unlikely, but virtually impossible to achieve) can poison a writer's production and stifle his or her style. So how do you defeat so nasty a literary habit?


Write often.

Write a lot.

The best way to get in the habit of writing is to sit down at your computer (or--ohmahgawd!--your typewriter), take a good long look at the clock, and figure out just how much uninterrupted writing time you're able to allow yourself. Fifteen minutes? Three hours? Whatever it is, set your timer to that time period. Then start writing and don't stop until the timer goes off.

What's that you say? You don't know what to write about? Is that your problem ... coming up with a topic?

Nonsense! You don't have to write about anything earth-shattering. You don't have to write something destined for publication. If you're looking for a topic, write about what happened to you yesterday. Or write about a major news story you heard this morning. Or about something you love ... or hate. Write about a person in your family whom you admire or respect. Write about a fellow employee you find particularly amusing. Write about a particularly memorable dream you once had. Write about ... well, you get the point.

And don't let those little mistakes in grammar or syntax or spelling get in your way. Remember: It's not what you write about or how you write it that's important to get you writing; it's that you write. (You can always go back later and rewrite to your complete satisfaction.) Once you come to understand that premise, you'll be amazed at how quickly writer's block flies out the window and productivity drifts on in.

As a bonus, you just might find yourself writing about something that triggers an idea for a short story, an article, or even a book. If so, all the better. But don't count on that happening, because that's not your goal.

So, the next time writer's block keeps your from writing, get out the timer. You'll find it a marvel for helping you turn out perfectly cooked three-minute eggs. You'll find it even more remarkable for helping you turn out perfectly written literature at the drop of a hat.

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