Eight Surefire Ways to Beat Writer’s Block

Barry Lenson

You know the symptoms of writer’s block. You sit looking at a blank computer screen. You just can’t get the words flowing. Writer’s block is no fun. But here are some surefire cures that I have developed during my 25+ years as a professional writer. They really work to get those words flying onto the page.

Tactic one: Don’t start at the beginning. Just write down the first thing that comes into your mind about whatever your topic is. That will get you started, and you will soon be adding other thoughts. Don’t even think about writing your first paragraph until the rest of your paper or report is done. It will be a lot easier then.

Tactic two: Write your last paragraph first. You probably know what you want to say last, so write it down first. You might be surprised to find that your last paragraph will work pretty well as your first paragraph too, so why not put it there instead? That’s what word processing is for – moving stuff around.

Tactic three: Write whatever you can in just one minute. That’s right – write for one minute, and then go take a walk, head off to school – whatever. When you return to writing, you’ll be energized to pick up where you left off. This tactic breaks the logjam of writer’s block a lot more effectively than setting aside an hour to “tackle” a big project.

Tactic four: Start writing your project on something unusual, like an envelope or a napkin. There’s a reason why some great screenplays and novels were born on Starbucks napkins. Give it a try.

Tactic five: Get sneaky. While you are sitting in a boring class or meeting, write sly little notes in the corner of your notebook – anywhere where other people won’t see them. Sneakiness is a great motivator.

Tactic six: Write your first paragraph while you are taking your morning shower. Just let your mind roam across the subject matter you have to write about, and ideas will come. After you get out of the shower, jot down what you created.

Tactic seven:  Use a mind map to outline your project. Write the first idea that comes into your mind anywhere on a sheet of paper, and circle it. Then write another idea anywhere on the same sheet, and circle that. Keep going until you run out of ideas. Then pick the first idea you want to write about, write the letter 1 next to it, and draw an arrow from it to your number 2 idea. Keep drawing arrows until you have connected all the points you want to make, in logical order.  Presto! There’s your outline. This works a lot better than starting a writing project at the beginning. Also: If you have eight ideas and you need to write a two-page paper, that means you have only 1/8 of a page to write about each idea. This takes the pressure off and makes writing your project easy, like assembling a piece of furniture from IKEA.

Tactic eight: Keep a pad and pen by your bed and write for a minute or two as soon as you wake up in the morning. Many people report that this is a great way to write a first paragraph or get down a big idea.

But here’s the catch . . .

These tactics only work if you start your writing project or English composition paper early – preferably, a week before it is due. Leaving your project for the last minute lets writer’s block get hold of you. But now that you know how to prevent it, why would you ever let it happen again?

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