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Writers-Block Busters for Bloggers

Date/Time Permalink: 08/25/07 12:09:17 pm
Category: HOWTOs and Guides

Eh, it isn't really a geek HOWTO, but a lot of geeks blog, too. And the formatting's funny because I wrote it in Emacs with hard line breaks. Because sometimes I just like to.

If I had a nickel for every time I've read one of those "top ten ways
to beat writer's block" articles, I'd have a cheap, trite
metaphor. Well, here's my own list for finding the start button on the
writing machine in your head, and even how to oil it up occasionally.

1> The - THE! - most important thing I can tell you about writing
is this: If the text is not fun to write, it will not be fun to read.

I can apply this test to a piece of writing and tell instantly whether
the author was a burned-out zombie shuddering with every line they
typed, or whether they were chuckling and gibbering as they zipped
along composing their brilliantly inspired piece. Use this to help
yourself: make writing as fun as you can, always.

For everyone, point number one needs to be amplified. Don't get angry
at what I'm about to say; it's just words on a page. But this is
iron-clad truth, and you can either accept it or leave because I'm
wasting your time. The iron-clad truth extending from point #1 is:


There's almost nothing you can do about that.

2> Store nuts for the winter - Whenever any silly idea is popping
into your head, jot it down. Save a big old folder of pieces you
started when anything interested occurs to you. You should never ask,
"What will I do with this?" You should just jot down that idea, plan,
rant, joke, funny phrase, or cool new word you've just learned, and
then afterward ask, "How can I use this?" Turn your inspiration to the
task, instead of starting with the task and trying to find inspiration
from there.

3> Vary your hangouts like a cat. - Every now and then, try to
write using a different program, different computer, a notebook in a
cafe, a cocktail napkin in a smoky bar, a change of office, a
different chair, anything. Monotony breeds boredom. Especially writers
tend to suffer from the "same four walls" syndrome, because left to
their own devices a writer will live like a potted plant.

4> Use our feet to wind up your brain. - It's a cliche that people
get their best ideas in the shower. But try this: try pretending you
are a street mime and, clothed and dry, pretend to take a shower while
not in the shower. What did you do? You stood up and moved around, and
stayed on your feet for a few minutes! That's actually what's going on
in the shower. That and it's also private, so there's fewer

Taking a walk always does it for me. Driving doesn't count. Evolution
has wired it into us since the wide savanna to stay on the move. Our
brains really do work better when our bodies are in motion. Either get
out and trot to the store, visit your back yard, or just roam around
the house and let your feet and mind wander.

5> Put your brain on time-out. - The Buddhists say "The mind is a
monkey"; have you thought that maybe the reason why your mind is
blocked is because you've indulged it into being an inattentive slug?
So sometimes, force a time-out period, deliberately not
thinking. Meditation is fine if you know how, but it's not
necessary. Do housework, run some errands, or other trivial
activity. Deliberately watching something mindless on television also
works. But set a time limit, and come back in an hour. Now is your
mind ready to work on the task?

6> Get inspiration from the funniest thing you can find. - In
addition to the usual advice to read better authors for inspiration, I
find that it is especially invigorating to read or watch something
funny. Not just mildly amusing, but screaming funny. Laughter makes a
chemical reaction in your brain. It will get you going.

7> When all else fails, write about your block! - In rare cases,
you might be blocked because the subject or assignment just isn't any
fun. So start out writing a paragraph identifying with the reader
about why it is such a hard subject to tackle. Ridicule the
subject. Criticize the previous literature on the subject. Scold
yourself for not being able to find a handle on it. This is a sneaky
sideways approach, but it will eventually lead into a hook where you
at last do what you were supposed to do, which is write about the

8> Write about something else entirely. - project be damned,
sometimes you want to write about what is interesting to you. So get
it out of your system. Completely turn off all thinking about the
project at hand - the writing you have to do - and indulge in the
writing you want to do. You might be able to lead this back to the
task. Maybe work it into the project, continue an idea from your
desert article back into your main course article, draw on the
activity period for inspiration, or just get back into the zone. Like
#7, this idea sometimes works in rare situations.
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