Not long ago I needed to get an article written and even though I had my notes sitting in front of me and I had nothing. Nadda. Zip. Zilch. No inspiration at all. After giving it some time, I came up with a few sentences, but couldn’t seem to get any type of flow. What’s a writer to do when she can’t find the words?
Wikipedia describes writer’s block as “a condition, associated with writing as a profession, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work. The condition varies widely in intensity. It can be trivial, a temporary difficulty in dealing with the task in hand. At the other extreme, some ‘blocked’ writers have been unable to work for years on end, and some have even abandoned their careers.” After reading “Goats With Coats” to a group of second graders, one frustrated young writer said to me “Sometimes I just can’t figure what to say. Then what do I do?” It’s a very good question! Here are a few suggestions…
1. If you don’t know how to begin, try jotting down the main ideas of your piece. Then go back and add other thoughts to those ideas. You will then have the beginnings of an outline.
2. Step away from the computer. Stand up, stretch, go for a short walk if you can. I find fresh air can work wonders.
3. If you’re feeling anxious about writing the piece (or anxious that you can’t seem to get it written), make sure to quiet any negative self-talk going on in your head. Replace “I can’t” with “I will”. Trying playing your favorite, upbeat music to liven your mood or soothing, relaxing music to calm your nerves.
4. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the piece, try breaking it into smaller, more manageable pieces.
5. Remember that your first draft doesn’t have to be the finished product. Sometimes when I’m having trouble with a really technical piece, I just try to get the important points in basic sentences. I know that if I can get a draft down, no matter how awful, I can walk away knowing the hardest part is over. Then later I’ll come back to it with a brighter perspective knowing that I “only” have to edit the piece. Granted, there might be a lot of editing that needs to be done, but in my head that is easier than the original writing part. Sometimes it’s all a matter of perspective.