I Don’t Believe in Writer’s Block
This blog is long overdue. We’ve had a very busy and productive spring going into summer going into fall going into winter. We understand that marketing, building our brand, and connecting to the local and online business and writing community is important. But when we are up against a deadline or three, we choose to meet our client commitments and push blog writing to another day.
When I finally have time to sit and think about writing a blog my writing brain withers away and a blank void replaces it. I stare at the screen with fingers poised, feeling the ticking away of the 30 minutes I’ve dedicated in my schedule to actually write something… anything…
I recently did a writing tips presentation for grad students where I argued that there is no such thing as writer’s block because I don’t like the concept. It feels like a wall that is just sitting there that we run up against. It is outside of ourselves and outside of our control.
And I don’t think that staring into the endless void of my unwritten blog is outside of my control. Usually when I am struggling to write something – be it a research paper, a blog, or a client project – there is a reason behind my struggle.
For me, the three most common reasons are lack of time, structure challenges, and not being confident in my content.
Not Enough Time
This is an insurmountable task for most of us. But this is often a challenge of priorities rather than time. We have put off posting blogs because we are busy. Ideally, we’d put out timely and perfectly crafted blogs each month. But something must give, and we need to make practical and realistic choices.
This year, hitting client deadlines has been more important than getting blogs done. But we are seeing that time crunch as a challenge that we need to fix and we have been doing other things to maintain an active online presence.
We decided to focus on our social media marketing. We have divided tasks, set up scheduling, and made it a team project to share the workload. We hired a new writer who is already increasing our capacity so we can get back to the marketing and administrative tasks that are important.
If you aren’t finding time for writing and you are choosing other priorities, that is okay. This can be necessary for the short term. But we also have to make some changes because blog writing and maintaining our website is important to us.
Finding the right organization for my writing is generally my biggest roadblock when I am working on projects. In some ways, there is an infinite way that information can be organized and grouped but I like to think about what ways are best for the audience. I start spinning up ideas and spiraling about what to do.
Sitting at my desk and working on the computer all day can be hard on the back and hard on the brain. Sometimes I need a change of scene, so I go for a walk, do some exercise, or finally have a shower while my brain processes my ideas in the background. Even just going to my kitchen to make a cup of tea and stare out the window for a few minutes can be enough to get things going.
Other times I need to verbalize my thoughts, so I call a friend to talk out my ideas and get some feedback. The great thing about having our Scriptorium team is that I can reach out to our other writers who are always ready to work through the challenges.
I have been learning graphic facilitation and taking art classes. Using paper and markers helps me in the planning stages. It is great for working out my structural challenges because it tends to be less linear than an outline.
Changing the medium doesn’t require great art. Use words and boxes and arrows. Borrow your kids’ crayons and make it colourful. Cross things out. Scribble. Doodle. Let it be messy. This is the time to play with ideas. Sometimes I take that messy page and tape it up on my office wall while I write so I can see it.
When there are multiple ways to organize an idea and a document, this can halt all progress because you need to decide. But the great thing about modern technology is that we can pull and shift and move our content easily. This means that if I don’t get the structure right, I can pull it apart and try something different. I tried two different structures for this blog before I decided on the final flow.
Not Confident in My Content
I have a pile of half-finished blog posts in a folder on my computer. Some are a few sentences. Some are a few paragraphs. This post started as a seed of an idea that sat for months. It wasn’t until I did the presentation that the ideas connected and the words started to flow. These ideas sit stagnant because I am not confident in my content. I didn’t have a complete plan for what I wanted to say so I couldn’t write it.
When this happens with a client project or a paper, I can’t just sock the idea away until the idea just flows. I need to consider where the gaps in my knowledge are and figure out how to fill them. This can be through extra research, asking for help from the client, or interviewing subject matter experts. When I gather enough information, the writing becomes easier.
Start with an easier section and get your confidence up. Commit to just 10 minutes of writing and see how it goes. Write something else for a while to get warmed up. Write something down because something is better than nothing, even if that something is not your best work. Remember that it’s okay if the first draft is terrible. Just get the ideas out on paper and work on editing and polishing them later. Even masterworks of literature went through multiple drafts.
Ultimately, when you are a professional writer, you just need to muscle through the times when you feel stuck. I write every day. I am used to just getting it done. It gets easier with practice.
I wrote this blog after all. It only took eight months to get one on our website again. But in the meantime, we’ve all written, edited, taught workshops, and created a solid amount of work for our clients. So yeah, this blog took longer than I’d have liked. But we’re here. Still writing. I am taking it as a win.
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