Would you like to experience a continuous writing session where all the right words, sentences, and paragraphs just flow from your head to your pencil? What if writer's block were a thing of the past, never again blocking your creativity or from fully illustrating your point?
I can quite honestly tell you that I never have so-called writer's block. I may have had it in the past, but whenever I follow the tips and guidance I'll share with you, I don't get writer's block.
In fact, when I follow this advice well, I can get the opposite of writer's block: having so much to say that my hand doesn't move as fast as I want it to, or far exceeding the expected word count of the essay or article I'm writing. Before I dive into the details, let me make my point clear…
How Do You Prevent and Cure Writer's Block?
The main point of this article is that by being thoroughly prepared, you can greatly reduce the occurrence of writer's block. Through the pre-writing process I'm going to describe here, you'll be able to kiss writer's block goodbye.
Pre-writing can be defined as writing before you write. But…it doesn't mean you have to write everything down in a linear fashion or that you necessarily have to do an outline. You only have to dump everything out of your head onto a paper, even if it's a mess.
And by the way… if you've tried pre-writing before and found that it didn't work, take this process and give it a try – I think you'll find it different, refreshing, and that it works.
Some Reasons Why Writer's Block Occurs
1. Lack of knowledge of the subject matter
Of course, you're probably thinking that if this is the case, I'm going to tell you to "get knowledgeable on your subject." That's viable advice, but you know, even if you don't know everything you think you should know about your subject, you can still use this process to some extent. You probably know what your point is, and just need the knowledge, or facts, to back up your point.
2. You're too tense, panicked, or otherwise not in your best state of mind.
Of course, writing, like most other performing arts, occurs best from a relaxed state of mind. And to me, relaxation comes from having the confidence that you're going to put on a good show. Furthermore, confidence comes from competence, which is what this article will help you gain.
3. Correcting yourself as you write.
This is a big one: impeding the stream of thoughts flowing onto your paper because you're always looking in the rear view mirror, wondering if that last sentence you wrote was correct.
I'd like you to keep this in mind. I can't say that this thought originated with me, so I don't take credit for it. (I think I got it from The Elements of Style): "There are no great writers, only great re-writers."
A+ papers don't come from creation, they come from refinement. (That's a thought that just originated with me a minute ago. Another way of stating it is: An A+ paper is a C+ paper, only more refined.)
4. You don't follow a template or a format.
A few weeks ago, Alex Goad, a very successful entrepreneur whom I'm happy to work with, said something that I had known for a while, but he said it in a way that I hadn't quite thought of before. I'll paraphrase what he said: "A lot of successful things can be template-ized." He was talking about how a certain type of site has a flow and process to it that can be replicated over and over again, for different markets.
The same can be true of your writing. Whether it's the A+ paper you want to write within the next hour, or the next chapter of your book you want to finish, this process can be the template — the step-by-step method you use — whenever you want to produce a great piece of writing…fast.
Preparing To Give Your Best Writing Performance
Preparing to write at your best is a four-phase process: brainstorming, mind mapping, outlining, and then, delivering. One reason why this process works so well is that by the time you get to the delivering phase, you're so well prepared (and rehearsed) that you know exactly what you want to say, when you want to say it.
1. The Brainstorming Phase
You've probably heard of brainstorming, right? (If so, have you heard of Mind Mapping?) Brainstorming is simply the process of writing down anything that comes to mind, with no concern about the order in which you're writing them down. As far as writing is concerned, a lot of good preparation comes from asking yourself the right questions. After all, if you ask the right questions, you'll get the right answers, and those will help you when it comes to the actual writing.
Before you read any further, I want you to take out a pen and paper and brainstorm your answers for the following four questions:
Who's my reader?
Who's going to be reading this? Your professor? Your colleagues? People whose respect you have to earn?
When I asked myself this question, I wrote down that my reader was “the writer who thinks they have writer's block, and wants to experience flow.” (Would you say that that's an accurate description of you, and why you're reading this?)
What do they want to get out of reading what I have to say?
People won't read for nothing — they want to get something out of what you've written.
If your professor's going to be reading your essay, they'll want to be convinced that your paper deserves the A+. If your colleagues will be reading this, they want to know that you're the one they can rely on to effectively communicate what needs to be done. If you write for a print magazine or newspaper, your reader will want to be convinced that they should continue purchasing the publication you write for.
Here's one question that a lot of writers don't ask themselves, but if they did, would really shed a lot of light and help steer them in the right direction…
Where is my reader now?
If you have to prove a point or convince your reader of something, the question is: what's the reader's position on this issue? If you'll be writing on a more straightforward, objective subject, this question can be phrased as: In order for my reader to follow what I'm saying, where do they need to begin?
From this question, it follows that you have to ask…
How do I get my reader from where they are now, to where I want them to be (or where they need to be)?
If you've determined that your reader is at point A, and you want to take them to point D, you have to obviously get them from A to B first. You should aim to explain point B so well that they can easily agree or grasp what you're saying. You do the same for point C…and D.
Remember, we're still in the brainstorming stage. It's a non-linear stage of the process. For now, just try to visualize what the main points would be, and don't be concerned about the order they should come in or how they relate to each other.
When you feel that you've answered these questions, you should also write down all the thoughts, discussion points, and ideas that come to your mind. You simply want to empty your mind onto your paper, without caring about the order in which you're writing things down.
Once you've exhausted the brainstorming phase and feel that you have enough raw material to start with, it's time to continue…
The Mind Map Phase
I first read Tony Buzan's The Mind Map Book in high school. Boy, did that give me some of the ideas I use to this day.I define a Mind Map as the brainstorm you just created, taken to a higher level. That is, you draw lines from one related idea or concept to the other.
For example, if you see that on the bottom left of your page, you noted one idea, and on the far right of your page, you noted another idea that relates to it, just draw a line between those two.
I've noticed that when I simply draw lines from one related concept to another, the order in which I have to present them become obvious. That is, where I had two random ideas, I now have two related ideas.This is how outlines begin to take shape. First, you go through the non-linear process of brainstorming. Then, in the mind mapping phase, you look for relationships between the random ideas you jotted down when brainstorming. You draw a line from one idea to the next.
Then, the linear part of it becomes apparent: The A-B-C emerges from the lines you've drawn from one idea to the next. With the A-B-C's, you can now look at your mind map, and create an outline. This should be easy: just list points A to Z from top to bottom, in the order that you'll present them in the final writing.
Now, You're Ready To Write!
Take a look at your mind map and your outline, and simply write what you have to write. You've done a lot, if not all, of the preparation that you need. It's now time to start writing!
As you put pen to paper, you'll be able to write what you want to say much more smoothly than ever before. I think that if you're serious about your writing, and you practice this process about three times, you'll begin to find out what works best for you. Then, writer's block will be a thing of the past!