On Being Stuck
There are two kinds of writing blocks:
- Procedural Blocks — we
have difficulty deciding what to write next
- Psychological Blocks — we
cannot bring ourselves to write anything
- We can be in the position of not knowing what
to write next
At a global level we know and can specify clearly what we
want to write about, and we have no trouble putting one
word after another—we're lost in between—perhaps
in deciding precisely what we want in the next paragraph
- Procedural blocks are particularly acute at
the beginning—the problem arises because
we can visualize a set of alternatives without
obvious reason for selecting any particular one
- There are several reasons for procedural blocks
- Trying to pack too much information into
a sentence, a paragraph, leaving too many
directions to follow at once
- Digressions which we've been led into
by our developing ideas
- Our proliferating intentions getting ahead
- Crossing into a new section of the writing
- We can't let words come—the most difficult
moment with any piece of writing is at the beginning
when the first words should come
- It's not a matter of having no words, but we
can't bring ourselves to let them appear on paper
- There are three major reasons for not being
able to write:
- The magnitude of the task seems overwhelming
- Anxiety regarding our fears that what
we produce won't be good enough
- Being afraid we don't have anything worthwhile
to say—being reluctant to write anything
Strategies For Overcoming Blocks
- Write anything, no matter how irrelevant you
think it is
- If in doubt, PUT IT IN!
- Open a new file and experiment
- Too many directions at once?
List them and flesh each one out (brainstorm, make lists...)
- Don't have a beginning?
Start somewhere else.
- Can't get what you want to say next from what
you've just written?
Write what you want to say anyway (later you'll figure out
how to handle the transition)
- Not sure how to shape the next part?
Try a couple of alternatives
- Don't have the next bit sufficiently clear in
Take a walk, cook a meal, watch TV, sleep on it...
Our brain doesn't solve problems under pressure, give yourself
- Can't pick up from where you left off?
Begin rewriting the last paragraph, or just start somewhere
- Avoiding a particular writing project by answering
Stop procrastinating and make yourself write on the task
- DON'T EXPECT WRITING TO COME OUT RIGHT
THE FIRST TIME
Anything you write can be thrown away (or put in an "out-takes" file
for later rescue if necessary)
- Deadlines help!
a time for completing a particular writing assignment
- Writing blocks are resolved ONLY by