Writing 101: How to Overcome Writer’s Blocks

This article was not meant for publication since it was a personal experiment on how to overcome writer blocks. But I eventually decided to publish it, since thanks to the principles underlined I was able to overcome my block. You will notice at the beginning of the article that I didn’t even know what the topic was supposed to be until I figured it out naturally.

This is an experiment. I heard many stories of people that have writer blocks, and suddenly they manage to get out of them. A few days ago I was reading a book, “Intuition Pumps” by Dan Dennett.

At a certain point, the author asserts that most of the time writer blocks are due to our tendency to look for perfection (although the topic of the chapter was not related to writing), and our hardwired fear of making mistakes.

Therefore, I am going to write whatever comes to mind without trying to think what the topic is and how to organize the article. And that is what I am doing right now. I am not sure this is working, but I notice that words are starting to flow and I am still trying to make sense out of it.

But let’s proceed with an order. Why am I not able to write whenever I want? Wouldn’t be cool to be able to write at command? Then, why is it so difficult to achieve that?

Sometimes it is a lack of inspiration, some other times, laziness, and others fear. The problem lays in the fact that we all want to tell something interesting but not so many of us succeed in that. (I was still trying to figure things out).

For instance, there are times in which I don’t write for weeks and then a day I start writing, and it feels so natural that I finish a 1,000 words article in less than an hour. Other times it feels frustrating.

What I noticed is that this is also because we try to write things that can be appealing to a broad audience. May that be the real problem? Shouldn’t I focus on just writing what I love, also if none may care about it?

That may be the solution: “write what you love, independently by the fact that others will like it or not.” (Here it seems I figured what I was going to write, although still in the process of shaping the content)

Eustress vs. Distress

Another huge problem with blogging (if you do it full time) is the fact that it becomes like a job. And as we know when things become forced on us, they lose the attractiveness they once had and suddenly become stressful.

You can now seem to understand those people that value money over time; until you put things in perspective. You have already been through the “rat race,” part of these people, sitting in their cubicle, hating their job, and looking forward to the weekend.

But if we are not part of that group of people, then how to avoid falling back into “I just do it for the paycheck” fallacy?

The right thing to do is to make sure that most of the tasks you perform as the freelance writer or blogger are interesting and also engaging to you. Although you may feel stressed at times, this is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, in modern society, everyone is familiar with the term “stress” that has actively entered our vocabulary.

You may not have known that there are two forms of stress: eustress and distress. In fact, the latter is the one which you want to avoid since this leads to negative physical and psychological consequences; the former is a form of stress that is more natural, and it allows you to overcome barriers. Let’s try now to see how to make ourselves more prone to eustress rather than distress. Here I want to analyze three things that help me in overcoming writer’s blocks, like for instance, in this case.

Avoid Perfectionism

 Our fear of making mistakes is sometimes greater that our willingness to act. It, in turn, leads to inaction and lack of motivation. Think of how many times you had wanted to do something, but didn’t find the momentum to act on that, because you feared to be judged by others on your lack of perfection! It is time to stop that thought before it arises and just start writing like I did in this article. The problem also lays in the fact that too often we hear everywhere things on productivity, organization and so on. It feels like we have to have a preset plan also to write an article. While this method may work in normal times, when blocks arise I would suggest you do things without any preconceived idea. Don’t worry eventually you will figure things out and even if the article at first won’t make sense as you hoped, you will see that part of the content you wrote may still be useful for other purposes. In short, writing is like reading, the more, the better.

Rule n.1 (don’t take me too seriously with the order of the rules, they are interchangeable): Write without premeditation or a preconceived plan. You will figure things out eventually.

Stop Procrastinating

This point connects to the previous one, although less deliberate. In fact, while when we look for perfectionism, we deliberately chose not to act, because the result of our writing may be not as good as hoped to be; in this second case, instead, we don’t choose but find excuses not to act (write). Think how many times you said yourself I am going to write that article, about that interesting topics, “but before I do that” I have to read another article, watch that YouTube video, finish to read that book that may help me to write the article, and so on until infinity.

Well, do you want to overcome procrastination? Stop to say, “Before I do that” and just do it. Remember, if you write a line or ten pages, what matters is that you act now! I am sure that to write an article researching into the topic is a vital thing to do, especially if you are someone that follows a content marketing strategy. On the other hand, I found that most of the best research I’ve done for my articles happened when I eventually decided to write. In fact, most of the times when I start writing I also figure out that many of the research I wanted to include in my article would bring me way too far from the topic. This is due to a huge Gap between thinking and writing. Indeed, when we think we do so in images, while when we write, we do so through words. It implies that we use different parts of our brain, which need to coordinate if we want to come out with something that makes sense. How many times did you think something that seemed so bright and brilliant in your mind and suddenly it loses meaning when you end up writing or expressing it in a word? Don’t worry this is normal to any of us.

The only way to pass that psychological barrier is to order that set of images that you have in your brain, and that seems so clear, and make sure they also make sense on a piece of paper.

Rule n.2 “What appears to make sense in your brain may not make sense on your computer’s screen. Therefore, do not look for excuses; write, write, write.”

 Praise Yourself

 This is the one I like the most since I do not often follow this advice. In fact, other main reasons for writer’s blocks are due to our tendency to be hard on ourselves, up to the point of burn out. To avoid that, it is right at the end of any achievement to stop, celebrate, and take some time off. From a psychological standpoint, this allows you to be less hard on yourself. From a biological viewpoint, this allows your body to keep in check all the chemicals in your body and mind that will favor your productivity and creativity in the long run.

Rule n. 3 “Don’t be too hard on yourself when making a mistake. Praise yourself when achieving an objective (small or big it doesn’t matter).

Monetization Problem

 The last point that I want to touch is the fact that most of the time what makes us stressed is the fact that we think of our writing concerning money. In short, we often ask the wrong question: “how much money will this article make?” in fact, this kind of question puts you in the wrong mindset. At that point, there is not difference anymore between being a freelance writer (notice the word free into the word freelance) and an employee in suit and tie.

But what is the right question? Here some helpful questions, “will my article contribute to other’s people lives?” and also “will writing this article improve the depth of my understanding of the topic of my interest?”

In fact, with this kind of reasoning, I get out of it as a winner in any case. Indeed, if the article helps others, then this would be the best-case scenario. But also if eventually, people don’t find my article interesting, I still made the most out of it, because I wrote about a topic of my interest and I improved my understanding of that subject by writing about it.

Summary

In conclusion in this article, I wrote about my experience with writers blocks. And I found that the strategy of writing whatever comes to mind without a preset agenda helped me in writing this article. In fact, if you told me I would have been able to write an article of well over 1,000 words before starting I would have deemed it impossible. But apparently, I was able to overcome my block and also deliver hopefully something that could be helpful to others. The best cure to inaction (due to our tendency to be perfect, lazy or fearful) is to act independently from the consequences it will lead.

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thefourweekmbateam

Gennaro Cuofano, International MBA. Author of "The Enlightened Accountant," and "The Art of Mentorship."