As a writing coach, one of the first things I do is encourage my clients. Don’t be intimidated by the act of writing. We have all these set notions about what it takes to write. These go back perhaps to our stuffy and dull English classes where the secrets of writing were rarely taught. The most important real secret is that writing has to be communication. Don’t let fear and intimidation get in the way of what you have to say.
I tell beginners (and blocked writers) to start with three (3) actions. If you are a writer who has encountered writer’s block and needs to get out of that rut, these should work for you as well.
- Write about what you know. I realize everyone says that, but it is nonetheless true. You have mastery in certain areas, and sharing things you’ve learned along the way is helpful to more people than you can imagine. This activity has a corollary: Choosing a topic. Narrowing your topic or the scope of a chapter can save you time and effort. If you have a sharp focus, you will not be tempted to write about other things that you may or may not use. Hone your topic on a few points within your area of knowledge. Tip for the Blocked: Go back and look at your topic for the book and the topic for the chapter you are writing now. Have you defined it narrowly enough? What question(s) are you trying to answer?
- Set aside 15 minutes three days a week or more to write. If you are serious, I recommend five days a week. Don’t worry initially about whether you are writing about your topic; just put the words down and begin the process. Even if what you write is total gibberish, the act of writing will help get you started. Some writers with whom I have worked began with something they might have deemed “stupid” and finished with some well-written content for their topic. Tip for Blocked: This process works well for you too. Sometimes you just need to get the flow going again in order to get past the block. Be gentle with yourself and allow yourself to write about anything.
- Create a way to be accountable. You could join a writing group where you have to contribute each meeting (weekly is best) or share your writing with a friend who will not let you off the hook for neglecting to do the writing. Another option is to hire a writing coach who will help you move through the writing process and who demands that you have new pages each time you meet. Tip for the Blocked: Any of these options might get you moving again, but if you are really blocked a writing coach might be your best option.
July 2014 Drew Becker