Break your Writer’s Block

Thu, Jan 11, 2007 3-minute read

In writing, overly-ambitious goals often mean not writing at all.

It sounds odd, but it’s true. Take most tumbleweed-ridden, ghost-town technical blogs. From my experience, the vast majority of them have authors that are working on this educational, pedagogical masterpiece – but their Magnum Opus sits in a half-finished Word document on their hard drive somewhere.  All of the sudden, the joy of writing begins to leech away: they want to blog something, but this 2,000 word monster draft mocks them from the shadows. Instead, they put it off for another day when they have the energy to tackle this massive pile of words again. Internal resistance builds up, then the blog goes silent.

Writing doesn’t need to be this way. Writing is about expression, communication, and good old-fashioned fun. The world appreciates your input and insight, even if you contribute just a little.

You solve problems all day.  Even if it’s a relatively simple solution (script, house repair tip, way to get better gas mileage,) write about it anyways. Those looking to solve that same problem in the future will thank you.

One tip that’s helpful for getting into a state of writing flow is to get rid of “The Judge.” As you write, The Judge hampers you. He or she reminds you about spelling, grammar, or that you aren’t using words that sound smart enough. If The Judge feels particularly mean, he or she might comment on a much more personal level – maybe that your writing is boring, stupid, or a down-right waste of words.

It’s easy to tell when The Judge is around. You write slowly, re-thinking nearly every word you write. When he or she is especially ornery, you even second-guess characters in a word. When you finally squeeze out a sentence, you re-visit the sentence to add complexity, redundant words, and other language thickening  goop.

An excellent way to get rid of The Judge is to make him or her sputter in fury and give up. Open up a new Word document, and write as much as you can for one minute. Write whatever comes to mind – about your day, you current piece, or even The Judge. Mash the keyboard and get a typo? Who cares – keep writing. Don’t have anything to say? Then write, “I don’t have anything to say right now.” No matter what, just keep writing. Your goal here is volume. Output. The maximum word count possible. If you can touch type, I’ve found that closing my eyes helps a lot. If you can’t touch type, don’t even bother looking at the screen.

At the end of the minute, ditch the Word document and get back to writing the piece you wanted to. As you get more practice with the exercise, you’ll find that you can produce more random junk in a minute than you could have imagined.

And what’s most important – at the end of the exercise, you’ll find The Judge a lot less of an inhibition than before. So ditch your writer’s block, and enjoy writing again.