“The work of the world does not wait to be done by perfect people.”
Have you ever had writer’s block? That paralyzing anxiety that convinces you that any word you put down on paper would be meaningless so you refuse to even try? I used to get it ALL the time. It is hard to beat, but not impossible.
First, get over the fear of being wrong, doing wrong, saying something wrong.
The world will not come to a halt if you split an infinitive. Mrs. Allen, the toughest English teacher the sixth grade has ever seen, does not stand behind you, her red pen in hand ready to slice and dice your manuscript. Just write your words and save them to your hard drive.
Second, embrace the delete key.
Hitting that delete key is one of the greatest joys a writer can have. In a flash, your mistake, your inane sentence is gone, finished, forever. You can’t dwell on it, can’t go back and reread it, can’t see it. So how do you know you even wrote it? You can’t prove it, can you? It’s gone.
Third, you can’t fix something that isn’t there.
You need to write without editing. Just write. Write anything and everything you can think of. Don’t worry about too many adverbs or “to be” verbs. Those can all be taken care of later. Just get the words on paper because words are like rabbits and tend to multiply placed in close proximity to each other.
Fourth, get off the computer.
Print out everything you have written. The good stuff, the bad stuff, the scrap file, everything. If you still haven’t shaken your writer’s block, you need to get physical with your manuscript. Grab a legal pad, a pair of scissors and a roll of tape or a glue stick. Legal pads run 8.5x14 and give you more length but not too much for physically cutting and pasting your manuscript together. You can also handwrite transitions between the cut outs.
Why does this work better than cutting and pasting on the computer? I don’t know exactly. Maybe it makes the manuscript more tangible rather than lines on a screen. Maybe the change in situation refocuses the brain. All I know is that it works when nothing else will to jump-start my writing and creativity.
Fifth, don’t give in to it.
No one’s perfect. No best seller was ever written in one draft. Don’t even call it writer’s block. Don’t give it that acknowledgment. Make yourself write anything—new words to your favorite song, new dialogue for the inane sitcom your kids watched last night, great comebacks for the next time your sister makes you crazy. Do anything to get the words to flow. The next thing you know is you’re ready to work on that manuscript.
Amy Munnell is has been a freelance writer and editor for over 25 years with her work appearing in various publications including the Chocolate for a Woman's Soul series, Saying Goodbye, From the Heart, Points North, ByLine, Athens Magazine and Georgia Magazine. Find Amy on Twitter: @amunnell