Your mind goes completely blank.
No, not during your meditation session, where this would be desirable. Instead, your mind goes blank when you sit down to write — when you want your mind to be bursting with thoughts and words. You do the following:
– You check your WhatsApp messages
– You call a friend and talk about everything that is supremely unimportant.
– You check social media
– You watch a YouTube video. And then a second video. And then a fifteenth video.
Soon, one hour has passed. And you quit the writing session and move on to other things.
It needn’t be this way.
The past few months, I’ve been learning and experimenting with writing techniques and strategies. Here are some that have helped me.
Prep the Page
This is the best suggestion I’ve come across till date. Online blogger and author Nicolas Cole offers this powerful trick – prep the page with appropriate bullet points. Write the headline. Write the subheadline.
Write the intro. In your intro, write:
– what is your article about (what)
– who is your intended audience (who)
– what will the reader get out of this article (purpose)
– and why should you write the article (credibility).
Now for the meaty chunk: you write down the main points of the article in bullets. All you have to do now is fill in the bullet points with your writing.
Here is a video where Nicolas Cole demonstrates this technique by writing an essay in ten minutes.
Work on Multiple Articles at Once
I read as many as ten books at a time. When I don’t feel like reading one, I switch to another. This way, I make sure that I read regularly, even if one book is hard to get through. In contrast, when I read one book at a time, I might go for a whole month without reading a book.
I tried the same tactic for writing. It works!
I start writing drafts of multiple articles. When I feel stymied writing one article, I switch over to another article and get some writing done.
Right now I have 5+ articles in my os.me draft folders in various stages, written using this approach.
Read Os.me Articles
Reading articles written by others may help jiggle the creative juices, getting you back on track. This might be the inspiration you might be looking for.
A word of caution: it is very easy to get into a rabbit-hole of binge-reading articles. Which may be okay on other occasions. Here, though, you started reading articles for the specific purpose of trying to clear out your writer’s block. It is therefore important that you return back to your writing after an article or three.
Take a Break
Sometimes, taking a break and coming back may work wonders. In his superb book Hyperfocus, Chris Bailey introduces the concept of scatterfocus – where we deliberately let our mind wander. You may do the dishes, water the plants, or do anything where you don’t intensely focus on the article.
Specific strategies pertaining to a break include taking a walk (especially if you have access to a natural setting), or a shower.
When you come back to your desk, you may find yourself with ideas which seemed to emerge out of nowhere.
Be Okay with Writing a Bad First Draft
A bad first draft feels terrible.
It makes you question your abilities as a writer. “Did I write this collection of drivel?”, you ask yourself. Among all writing advices, however, this is one of the most important and potent nuggets.
The first draft of anything is shit. – Ernest Hemingway
If you don’t write a first draft, there is no question of a better and refined second draft.
The advice of writing a bad first draft is well-known but difficult to implement. It is worth the effort to train the brain to write bad first drafts. To be a better and prolific writer in the long term.
Be Okay with Writing a Bad Article
What is the worst that can happen when you keep plodding at your keyboard when your mind draws a blank? The answer: you write a bad article.
If you make peace that you may well write a bad article, you will continue writing when you don’t feel like it.
Like the previous strategy, this is not easy to come to terms with. A similar reasoning can help with this: the more words we write consistently, the better we will get. Considering writing as one long game, a bad article today will help us write masterpieces in the future.
And the kicker: The article might not be bad after all.
But this is a bonus. Prepare for the article to be bad. And train the brain to accept writing bad articles. So that the words flow easier when you sit down to write.
Image Credit: Ryan Snaadt from Unsplash