Posts Tagged ‘writer’s block’

Ad for the Commonplace Book

Attention: All writers.
Announcing a “must-have” item now available to stimulate thoughts and generate the flow of ideas. It’s been available for centuries, but I was only recently introduced to this fabulous item. And frankly, I can’t believe I’ve lived so long without it! Now that I’m paying attention, I find that a substantial majority of well-respected writers I’ve encountered in the last few months—modern, classical, or ancient and from all economical situations—keep/kept this item or it’s equivalent with them at all times.


Commonplace Book
The “must-have” for any writer or conscious thinker is the commonplace book—a pocket-sized (or purse-sized) notebook carried with you at all times in order to record what is uppermost on your mind at any given moment.

See if this sounds familiar: you’re driving down the road, or in the dentist’s chair, or suddenly awakened in the night with a brilliant, or at least interesting, idea, but you’ve no place to jot it down! By the time you get your hands on paper and pen, the thought has long since faded into the far recesses of your mind. Lost forever.

Don’t ya hate that?!

The commonplace book defeats the above scenario. That never has to happen again! The moment a thought hits, you whip it out, and write it down. Voile! The thought is saved from certain death. (Although, if you’re driving, I recommend taking the time to pull off the road before recording your thought.)

How To
A few things to keep in mind while getting used to your commonplace book:

  • The thought itself is important and should not be prejudged for quality.
  • The trigger and the idea it promotes don’t necessarily have to reflect one another.
  • Trust your instincts. Editing as you write may destroy the beauty of the original thought. So write it first, that way it’s safely preserved, and then hack it to pieces.

Also, among your jotted thoughts, please include thoughts from the following categories:

  • Dumb
  • Stupid
  • Obvious
  • Irrelevant

Any thoughts from the above may be, or lead to, your best ideas. In particular, obvious thoughts actually hold a fair amount of value, because they usually resonate well with the masses.

Give it a try. If you’re not in the habit already, pick up an inexpensive, small notebook the next time you’re at the store, and see if this works for you. I’d love to hear how it goes.

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Tips and Tricks Tuesday: Post-Haste

The internet is full of blogs that started off well, but for whatever reason the author lost steam and abandoned the project. I believe this happens most often when the novelty wears off, and writing the blog ceases to be a source of entertainment. Totally understandable.

When the initial energy and excitement is gone, hard work is mostly all that’s left. And while there are rewards, few people are thrilled about spending 6 or more hours at the computer on a 500 word post. So what’s the trick? How do we maximize our time at the keyboard and maintain positive blogging energy?

Here’s my “best of” list from some smart people who know how to write fast:

  • Set the stage. Michelle V. Rafter says, “Write when you’re on.” She claims 5am is her freshest time of day and reserves it for writing. She ‘un-plugs’ (internet, T.V., etc.) and removes all possible distractions.
  • Focus your topic. Jim Estill starts with a list of points to cover; marinades them for a few days, gathering ideas and honing the focus of his piece; and then tosses the items that don’t fit. (BTW Jim’s article was fantastic, definitely worth your time.)
  • Answer a question. Gill E. Wagner says turning your subject into a question to answer identifies what you need and don’t need to cover.
  • Pick your format ahead of time. Alisa Bowman recommends spending your time on writing rather than format. Her article identifies 5 common blog-post formats.
  • Write first; then edit. Get everything out of your head before you make changes. Breaking up the flow of your ideas requires you to spend time collecting them again.
  • The shorter the post, the better. Internet audiences are known for their limited attention span. The blogosphere has no use for fluff and filler. Write about what’s interesting and avoid everything else.

Can you do it now? Go pound away for a solid 30 minutes, and then move on with your day already!

Tips and Tricks Tuesday: Writer’s Block

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We all dread that moment. You know the one. You’re staring at the empty page or screen, painfully aware of an impending deadline, ie: a commitment to publish a blog post on a certain day every week (Oops, sorry again), but you have absolutely nothing to say. Aarg! What do you do about that?!

I’ve noticed a trend when this happens to me. There’s almost always something in the way. I’m hungry or tired or angry or stressed out. Often there’s just too many thoughts rattling around in my head.

So the first I do is address my needs. I eat or take a power nap or go for a walk to calm myself. If there’s too much going on inside my head, I take a minute and write down all the thoughts that demand attention. Once my needs are addressed, and my mind is cleared, I am almost always able to write.

Of course more often than not, I cannot meet all my needs before beginning. So in that case I turn to a few exercises to get me going:

  • If I have any great lines I want to include or points I want to make, I get those down first. For example, I wrote the last paragraph of this post right after I wrote the second paragraph of this post. Who says anything has to be written in order? I’m rarely able to think in order, so I rarely write that way.

  • I make an outline. Even if I’ve already done that. When there’s a few parts written out, I start fitting those into place and summarizing what needs to go in between. Once the in between parts are labeled and identified, it gets easier to write those parts.

  • My husband gave me a brilliant suggestion last night. He said if worse comes to worse, start writing alterations (the healthy, hungry hippo has to hijack a houseboat) or rhymes or work on some other literary trick. Write an elaborate description of an event or place. The point is to get the wheels turning in your mind. I haven’t tried this yet, but it makes sense to me. I bet it works.

  • John August suggests setting a time limit. He pledges to attempt writing for 20 minutes and then gives himself 10 minutes of freedom. I think it would be wise to use that 10 minutes of freedom to do something very non-mental. I would listen to music and stare out the window or at the ceiling for 10 minutes. I’d be ready to mentally engage after that.

  • David Hunter of The Writer’s Den suggests shuffling through discarded ideas and removing distractions like internet, phone, and TV.

  • And while reading David’s post from The Writer’s Den (don’t visit if you hate colorful language, sheesh!) I thought of another good idea: switch mediums! If you always type, try good ‘ole pen and paper for a bit, ect. Ask someone to take dictation. It might just be enough of a change to refresh.

  • Brian Clark of Copyblogger warns that writer’s block may be a sign of fear. (fear of rejection, fear of mediocrity, fear of success) He says don’t allow yourself to be your own worst enemy. Work past your fears.

  • Melissa Karnaze, also of Copyblogger actually believes a block can be a “secret weapon.” In her post she gives some great steps to reach clarity, find what it is you want to say, and most importantly, remember why you wanted to write that piece in the first place.

Well that’s it for me. Of course if none of this works, and the words still won’t come, listen inward. Maybe you shouldn’t write your story or paper. Maybe the timing is off, or your heart’s not in it. Trust your instincts. Put the thing aside. But good luck explaining that to your boss or professor! Now there’s a real problem!