Writer’s block is something that you can’t afford if you make your living from writing.
Not only is it frustrating, but it’s also extremely costly. As a writer, you’re not only selling your expertise, but you’re selling your time. Unfortunately, writing for a living is a ‘dollar per hour’ kind of occupation for the most part – irrespective of what rate is being charged. In other words, the time you don’t spend writing, is time you cannot bill for.
With writer’s block seemingly such a big issue for most writers, I’ve decided to share my ‘secrets’ to ensuring that I NEVER have to deal with it. My solution is pretty simple:
- I keep a notebook where I jot down interesting bits of information and ideas on a continual basis. When I’m stuck for an idea, I will pull out this notebook and read through it. I also keep a ‘swipe file’ of material from other writers and projects. Sometimes I’ll find an idea that is usable for my project, and other times, it will simply spark an idea that’s usuable. Whichever way, it’s quick, painless and very helpful. An example of how I’ve used this is my post: “What the weavers of Ecuador taught me about marketing” (http://www.jackiecooperwriter.com/2009/01/15/what-i-learned-about-marketing-from-the-weavers-of-ecuador/). At the time of this post, I was stumped for ideas. Looking through my notebook I found observations I’d made about the way the indigenous people of Ecuador market themselves – a perfect ‘lesson’ for my blog.
- I interview my clients in-depth. When I first began in this business, I used to interview my clients but often walk away with less information than I needed. This especially happened when I interviewed a client with a strong type A personality. This type of client often charges at the interview, takes control and tells me about what’s bugging them at that particular moment.People with this personality type are often easily distracted and race from one issue to another as they go through their day. They don’t like the tedium of sitting down and working logically through things. My solution is to make sure I have a list of ‘must know’ questions that I work through with the client. If they deviate, I listen until I’ve gleaned enough useful information from their insights and then quickly bring them back to the point we were discussing. I never, ever leave an interview without doing my best to make sure I have all the information I need, and getting their agreement to a follow up interview should I find areas where I need more detail. I also ask them to refer me to other sources who may be helpful in filling in details.
- During the research process I usually jot down a few possible ‘themes’ for the project. Then I begin with the favorite and go as far as I can. Usually I will get the entire draft outline completed. If not, I make sure that I leave off at a point where it will make it easy for me to pick up again when I get back to it. This ensures that I can continue with the project without too much time spent trying to regain my train of thought. Then I leave it for a few hours or a day or two, depending on the deadline.
- When I get back to the project, usually it will have coalesced in my mind and I will be able to quickly refine it, or change approach to make it better.
Using this basic format has prevented me from suffering from writer’s block for years.
Of course, it doesn’t prevent not necessarily feeling like working on a project. We all have times like that. Overcoming the ‘don’t feel like it’ issue is a matter of simple discipline. Actually, I suspect that a lot of writer’s block is not really writer’s block at all, but more a situation where one is caught up in the feeling that ‘I just don’t want to do this right now’. Usually thinking about how great it will be to get the piece finished and billed is enough to bump me into action.
I’d be interested to hear from anyone who puts my methods into practice as to how it works for you. Leave your comments below.