Friday, August 4, 2017

Tips for breaking through writer's block

Talking about overcoming the artistic equivalent of writer's block, the artist Chuck Close famously said "inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just show up and get to work." Many experts say that writer's block is often about perfectionism resulting from an overly harsh inner critic that thinks nothing one does is good enough so, as a result, nothing gets done. The best way to overcome it, therefore, is to follow Chuck Close's advice by just sitting down and getting to work. Don't worry or even think about whether what you're saying is "good enough" - just write. Lynn Gaertner-Johnston's excellent Business Writing blog offers several additional tips for overcoming writer's block many of which revolve around the central strategy of forcing oneself to put aside the harsh inner critic and just do it. Among those tips:

  • Imagine you are talking with your reader.  Think about the things your reader wants or needs to hear from you. Then "tell" (write) any part--beginning, middle, or end. Don't worry about the perfect opening or a knock-'em-dead awesome close. Just start and keep going.
  • List the questions your reader would want answers to, such as "What do you want me to do?" and "What do you recommend?" and "Why should I care about this topic?" Answering those questions will get you started and help you continue.
  • Ask yourself the question "Why am I stuck?" Focus on writing the answer to that question; then transition to the real writing when you have a clear answer. 

You can read the rest of Ms. Gaertner-Johnston's helpful tips here


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These are good suggestions for breaking writer's block. Everyone I know, especially academics, experience this every day. We should not assume it is unusual, or that writers exist who never experience it. Author and social scientist Howard Becker wrote a very interesting book directly addressing this problem. It would be beneficial to read it.

Posted by: Emil A. Ricci | Aug 6, 2017 7:25:57 AM

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