Guest Author - Terrie Lynn Bittner
There are many variations on writer’s block. Although we tend to think of it as being unable to think of anything to write about, often it’s really just being unable to think of what to say in the article we’ve started. There are several ways to handle this problem. This article presumes you have the topic, and may even have a deadline. The article is not a researched one, since you’d know what to say if it were, but one that requires your own thoughts or expertise.
You’ve carefully typed the title, set the font, style, and every other stalling technique in your bag of tricks, even written the first paragraph, and then…nothing comes to you. For me, this is usually caused by three possible problems. First, it may be a bad idea or an idea without enough substance. Secondly, it may be a subject you’ve given little thought to in the past. Finally, and this is the most common problem for me, it may be a touchy subject.
I dealt with just such an issue this week. I was writing a religious piece that had the potential to offend if handled badly. I had no desire to offend. I trickled through the article, dragging each word reluctantly onto the screen. Clearly, this was not working. It was time to switch to Domestic Diva Mode.
I finished the first paragraph and went into the kitchen to load the dishwasher. As I worked, I thought hard, because the rule is that when the dishwasher is loaded, at least three more sentences must land in the article. I returned to the computer and dragged out the three sentences I had more or less created while working. Then back to the kitchen to put away clutter and wipe down the counters and then to the office to type some more sentences.
I am not, by nature, a domestic diva. There are few things I dislike more than cleaning. So, I soon realized that it was in my best interest to think of more than three sentences. After all, I live in a cottage without small children, so if I didn’t hurry and finish the article, I might have to do something drastic, like, oh, pull out the sofa and sweep under it. There are only so many basic chores a domestic disaster can really do before she gets mistaken for a diva.
And so, the house got reasonably cleaned and the article got written. The secret to this trick is to have tasks that don’t require thought, so your mind is free to create as you work. It also helps if those tasks are things you hate to do, so you’ll be motivated to finish the article faster in order to avoid doing tasks you’ve been avoiding for years.
If you’re not on deadline, start a file on your computer called, “Unfinished.” When an article isn’t working for you, tuck it away, and return to it another day. It may just be that you’re in the wrong mood for that particular article, or you need time to let the ideas settle. I generally have five or six unfinished articles in my file. They are my security for the days I have plenty of motivation (and a deadline for my column) but no ideas. I open the file, select and article and start writing…or cleaning, depending on how the project works out.