In the last week, I’ve written my call-to-ministry story, a book review, two other blog posts, a Mother’s Day sermon, a funeral sermon, and several personal journal entries. No writer’s block for me this week, but whenever I run into that proverbial brick wall (even when it’s a great looking wall like this one), here are five strategies that get me going:
Write through it. When I’m feeling blocked, I can sometimes write through it by setting a timer for 10 minutes of freewriting, then let the momentum carry me from there. Or I might start by simply listing the ideas that I need to include, and again let momentum take over. Sometimes I start whatever I’m writing as a personal journal entry, which seems to take some of the pressure off and frees me to write. As blogger/writer Jeff Goins notes, “You overcome writer’s block by writing.”
Talk it out. I find that talking to other people tends to dilute my writing energy and gives me one more reason to procrastinate. But somehow talking out loud to myself helps me clarify my thoughts, form words into sentences, and gets me back to writing. Perhaps that’s the preacher in me—although I prefer to think of it as the poet in me!—but the sound of the words helps me write.
Switch writing projects. When I have trouble writing, sometimes it’s not really writer’s block, but book block or sermon block. In other words, it’s not me, it’s my project that’s having difficulty—at least that’s what I tell myself. And it seems to work since I find that switching writing projects can be a good solution. If I’m having trouble with my book review, I can switch to writing a different blog post. If I’m having trouble telling my own story, I can work on my book review.
Add Music. Sometimes writer’s block is caused by a too-strong internal editor. I no sooner write a sentence, and my internal editor wants to change it, and after an hour I might still be stuck in much the same place. But I’ve discovered that music helps keep my internal editor occupied. I’m not sure whether it’s a left brain/right brain thing or what it is, but adding music has often helped me get unstuck. For my first book, listening to Gregorian Chant was an important part of my process.
Give in. Writer’s block is sometimes described as something to overcome or outsmart, but at times writer’s block is a sign that I need a break, that I really am too tired or doing too much. There are times when my ideas aren’t ready to be written, and need more time to simmer quietly in the background while I’m doing other things. So sometimes I take a nap, water my plants, go for a walk, pray, read a book, make some tea, play the piano, work on a jigsaw puzzle, wash the dishes—do anything but write—and come back to it later.
Writing/Reflection Prompt: Is writer’s block a problem for you? How do you deal with it?
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