Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
July 16, 201310:21 PM

The End Of Writer's Block

I don't believe in writer's block. Do you?

Have you ever had a moment in time when someone says something that stops you dead in your tracks? It happened to me. It happened to me live on stage. The other week, I held a private book launch for my latest business book, CTRL ALT Delete. The event was held at the Google offices in New York, and I was joined on stage by Seth Godin (you can see the full conversation right here: Don't Be An Anonymous Cog - CTRL ALT Delete With Seth Godin). Someone in the audience asked us about both the frequency of how much content we publish and where the ideas come from. Seth said that he doesn't believe in writer's block because we don't get thinker's block or talker's block. And, he concluded, he writes like he talks. It's true, you don't stop talking and you don't stop thinking, so why should you be blocked to write?

It's scary... but it's true.

Volumes have been written about how to overcome writer's block, but it could well be a term that writer's created as an excuse. Not every word is gold. The words don't always flow easily, on a consistent basis on every day. Sometimes it seems so easy. Sometimes nothing could be harder. But a blockage? Nothing? I don't believe it. Even it does exist, I don't want to hear about it or think about it. There are some tricks and advice that I've culled over the years. I am hopeful that this may be of use to you on your journey.

How to put an end to writer's block:

  1. Read the book, Do The Work by Steven Pressfield. It's a small and brilliant book that is a riff on his original book, The War of Art. In short: bring a blue collar work ethic to your writing. Much in the same way that the construction worker wakes up, gets ready and hits the work site, as a writer you have to do the same thing. Put in the hours. Take a small break in the morning, maybe an hour for lunch, but plug away at it. 9-5 five with no excuses.
  2. Overdose on content. The more you read, see and feel, the more ideas you will have. Blogging once a day is easy when you have to choose one of five items to blog about. The more I consume during the day, the more inspiration I find to write, and the more of a catalog I have to pull from. Be an infovore.
  3. Keep notes. It may be Evernote, a voicemail, an email, handwritten note on scraps of paper or a fancy shmancy Moleskine. When something pops into your mind, capture it. If you don't... it's gone.
  4. Learn how to freewrite. I can't thank Mark Levy enough for this technique. If you think you have nothing to write, you're wrong. Pick up Mark's book, Accidental Genius, or listen to my podcast with him (SPOS #221 - Unlocking Creativity And Your Accidental Genius With Mark Levy) and get that writing going. If you don't have time to read the book or listen to our podcast, do this: take the topic that you want to write about, set a time for five minutes and just make a list of everything you know about the topic. Once the five minutes are done (and don't stop making that list until the five minutes are up), review the list and choose the three most important bulletpoints from the list that interest you the most. Then take five minutes for each bulletpoint and freewrite (no focus on spelling, grammar or form... just write). That whole exercise took about twenty minutes. Still think that you have nothing to write about?
  5. Free yourself. People often say, "I can't write on a plane," or "I need my special chair to write," or "I need it to be quiet," or "I need the hum of a coffee house" or... whatever. Four words: shut up and write. I used to work with a close quarter combatives coach, and a lot of our clients were military personnel. On the way to a war zone, their senior officers would often come over and tell them to grab some sleep. And, guess what? With all of the pressures of the pending combat, the stress, the motion of the bouncing truck or cargo plane, they would get some shut eye. They forced it. Force yourself to write anywhere and everywhere. It's going to be hard. It's not going to feel right. Keep at it. You will get there. Write everywhere. Find a plug and start plugging away.

Now, quit reading this... and start writing! 

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Mitch Joel

    Great ideas on overcoming writer’s block.

    You suggest overdosing on content. I agree. Then the next step is to comment on the blogs you read. Write and save your comments in Word so they can be revised and expanded later for your own blog.

    -d

    Reply
    • Posted by Jay Oza
      Jay Oza


      I often do exactly what you suggest in your comment and it is one of the ways to generate ideas for blogs. So I will comment on ten and keep track of it and if I don't have an idea then I will go back and see if I can turn one of my comments into blogs.

      I even wrote a blog on how I do it.


      Reply
  • Totally agree. Sometimes I go through a rough patch (for a day, a week, or a month) but it doesn't stop the flow completely. Sometimes working out is easier, and sometimes it's not

    You can always write to an extent. It just takes a while longer on occasion

    Reply
  • Posted by Peter Pallotta
    Mitch Joel

    With this day and age of google I don't think you'll have a hard time to find something to write about. Naturally there is always something that is of interest to you. Also, another excercise, is to just look around you and pick the first object you see, then look up its history. This will get your noodle going.

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    Great post. Thanks for introducing me to Do The Work and your podcast with Mark Levy.

    There is a reason that writers always write about how much they hate the empty page and that is because there is work to be done.

    Time to get busy.

    Reply
  • Posted by Miller
    Mitch Joel

    Really great post. Writer's block, or a brain cramp as I like to call it, is something I struggle with off and on. Now I can try some of your suggestions. Hopefully they will work!!

    Reply
  • Posted by Brian Sol
    Mitch Joel

    Great post, I do agree that I don't think writer's block exists. When I'm having problems writing it's because I have too many thoughts, so I like to go outside with a notebook and pen, leave all my technology inside, and just write all my thoughts.

    Reply
  • Posted by Michael Taggart
    Mitch Joel

    Or you can rewrite a post you wrote a month ago! http://www.twistimage.com/blog/archives/the-one-key-to-successful-content/ Just yanking your chain ;)

    Reply
  • Posted by Jeff Goins
    Mitch Joel

    Love it. Amen.

    Reply
  • Posted by Kristen Lamb
    Mitch Joel

    But persistence can look a lot like stupid. Many new writers don't understand how to create an antagonist with a core story problem in need of resolution. Thus, they hit 30-40,000 words and the subconscious puts on the breaks. With no idea of the endgame, how can you create misdirection, dramatic tension, setbacks...if you don't know the end?

    Yes, laziness and fear can be major culprits, but too many people assume because we have command of our native tongue, that qualifies us to write novels. No, it's a skill that has to be learned. If we are missing the most critical piece? TRULY understanding how to create the core antagonist and story-worthy problem, we can work hard at getting nowhere. We have no direction.

    Reply
    • There is no doubt that you can't dismiss the mechanics of what makes a great story. Still, for many, they're not even putting in enough time writing to come to the realization the the form isn't flowing.

      Reply
  • Posted by Rex Williams
    Mitch Joel

    Well, you did it, Mitch, you got me to write.

    It's been nagging me for a while, so after I read your last sentence, I dropped everything and started writing. And actually came up with some good stuff.

    Thanks.

    Reply
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