*Updated: July 19, 2022
To write more quickly, you’ve got to kick your inner critic out of the room during the first draft and have faith that you can turn a mess into a masterpiece. This includes, of course, breaking through writer’s block when it rears its ugly head.
In the previous two posts in this series, we explored the power of your writing environment and how to harness outlines and the Pomodoro technique to your time-saving advantage. Now, I want to address a vitally important aspect of the writing process that many people never make past: the beginning.
This is the time to write with absolute abandon. A lot of times it will be a complete mess, punctuated by rare moments of surprising clarity, but it’s fruitless to agonize over sentence structure and word choice at this stage. Take comfort in the fact that every great novel (or blog post!) you treasure started with the initial act of writing sloppily. But letting go of any need for perfectionism is one of the best options for overcoming writer’s block.
Embrace the “TK”
When you realize you need more information, another interview, or are just plain stuck, drop a TK (journo-speak for ‘to come’) into your writing to show you need to return to it. This will help you avoid rabbit holes. Plus, since there’s no other combination of “TK,” you can easily search the term in your draft and fill in the gaps later.
The first draft is solely about substance and getting a story on paper–not having a publishable piece. What’s important is that you’ll have a framework to return to and refine, so don’t get in your own way!
By moving on to the next section of your piece, you shut down writer’s block before it even begins. By the time you return to that section, you may experience new ideas and inspiration. If not, it’s time to take a look at how to cure writer’s block and restart your creative process.
When you’re hitting a wall, get up and out.
Some people say writer’s block is imaginary, and as much as I wish I could agree, I think it’s ludicrous. You’re not a writing machine–why would you possibly be able to be creative and productive 24/7? Just like with any endeavor, sometimes your mind is mush and you’re not feeling it. Getting over writer’s block is simply part of being a writer.
What I’ve realized from many wasted hours staring at a blank screen is that you’ve got to get away from writing in order to get back to it.
It’s not about procrastination or waiting years for inspiration to strike. It’s about recognizing that you’ve got to generate some momentum. My advice is to ignore the articles offering to explain how to get over writer’s block and simply leave the situation, even for a second! Get out! Breathe. Live.
So often, you hear about how you must be a ravenous reader to be a truly great writer. While I agree, I think what’s overlooked is how important it is to get out into the world and live your life. New experiences translate to fresh material and ideas you would never have accessed otherwise. Taking a walk when you’re feeling stuck is ten times more beneficial than sitting there staring at the empty screen.
Even five minutes unchained from your desk can jog your creativity and save time in the long run. Listen to music, clean the house, walk the dog, call a friend–do whatever it takes. Once you get your mind off it, you’ll forget about the block and the words will start burning in your brain. Then, refer to the tip above and throw it all out on the screen.
That is the cure for writer’s block that we all seek – life!
Your writing speed drives the results you can achieve, and it’s my sincere hope that putting these strategies to practice helps you maximize your productivity, combat distractions you most commonly deal with, and regain focus.
I’d love for you to share your own tips and techniques in the comments below! How do you break through writer’s block?
Hannah Chenoweth is a conference producer and freelance writer based in Hoboken, NJ. She is a passionate storyteller who also enjoys reading, yoga, travel, road trips, meeting new people, and adventures. Feel free to check out her past work at clippings.me/hannahchenoweth/ or say hi on Twitter @hannahchen2!