Conquering Writer’s Paralysis

broken pencil There are many times when you might encounter writer’s block. It might feel more like paralysis. A colleague called me this week because she was stumped trying to summarize a piece that she had already tightened up so much that she just couldn’t figure out how to cut it even more. She was absolutely paralyzed.

Below are a few strategies I have used over the 20 years I have been doing this professionally.

6 ways to overcome paralysis:

  1. Set a timer. Write for just 10 minutes.
  2. Have someone else draft it, then edit the heck out of it.
  3. Dictate it.
  4. Go for a walk. Or just do anything else that won’t let you think about the writing. In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron advocates that painters write freeform each morning to clear their minds for the day’s creativity. Being a writer, I flipped this advice and started each day by sketching.
  5. Comit to writing a terrible version. No pressure! Hardly anyone writes a good first draft. Just get something down, then treat it like point 2.
  6. Give yourself a really short deadline. Sometimes the best work comes out of the harshest timeline.

5 ways to summarize material:

  1. Explain it to someone who doesn’t care. Try a small child who has a cupcake in front of them that they can’t eat until you’re done. Every time you see their eyes glaze over you will look for a more concise way to say it.
  2. Explain it as though you’re on an escalator and your reader is going to run away as soon as you reach the next floor; maybe sooner.
  3. Write out what you want to say, then write “in other words” and finish the statement. What comes next will probably nail it.
  4. Use the outline view in Word to gather just the first line of every paragraph, then edit that. Or use just the subheadings.
  5. Tweet it. 140 characters are all you get.

 

Have you ever suffered writer’s block? How do you get going again? I hope you’ll share your tips in the comments.