When I think of writer's block, images of Jack Nickolson slowly going bonkers in that big big old hotel send chills down my spell. But after 20+ years of making my living as a writer, I can honestly say I've never come close to murdering anyone – not even my (ex) spouse – while trying to find the right mix of nouns and verbs to fill an empty page. I've heard all sorts of advice over the years about how to be a productive writer and frankly, most of it makes me cringe. The idea of setting goals for writing X amount of words or for X amount of hours each day is much too rigid for my taste. After all, I'm a creative soul, not a corporate slave. Do I really need a seminar to develop efficient time management skills? I do not think so. I've never missed a deadline in my life. Have I procrastinated? Sure. Like most professional writers, I spend more time on the hourly French Press ritual than actually writing.
I go for walks, lots of them, because it makes me feel self-righteous about taking care of my health. And occasionally I remember that I have not called my best friend back in Oregon in a while and well, that's just rude so why not chat him up now while I'm thinking of it? But back to the matter at hand: Writer's block. I figured out very early on in my career how to avoid the beast. It's simple yet effective, just a little trick that I play on my own mind whenever: I resist sitting down at the computer, motivation eludes me, or writing feels like work. If you're like most writers, you've left notes for yourself all over the place.
They may be story ideas or bizarre facts or snippets of conversation you overheard at the supermarket or great titles that just need a few hundred thousand words to turn them into best sellers. You never have any trouble scribbling these notes, right? So the next time you feel stuck, grab a mug of coffee and tell yourself you're just going to jot down a few thoughts on the subject at hand. You're not "really" going to write anything today and you're not going to work. Tell yourself that tomorrow you'll look over the notes before you buckle down and get to work. So what happens now? While you're relaxed and not paying attention, your inner writer escapes his cage. He's doing the work for you and it's brilliant! Tomorrow, you'll see what I mean.
I can not tell you how many times I've scribbled my notes while telling myself that I'll clean it up tomorrow, thinking it's just a mess of disjointed thoughts. And on the following day when I take a look at my ramblings I'm blown away by what I've done – without thinking! More often than not, I do not even have to do a rewrite. You've probably heard the advice, "never let the reader see you at work." That's because the harder you try, the more you shut down the natural writer within. So loosen up. Pour a fresh cup. Go for a walk. Chat up some strangers on the street. Scribble some notes. And do not even think about working today. Tomorrow you'll see what a writing genius you really are!
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