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    Cracking Writer's Block

    Thursday, May 05, 2011

    We've seen the cliche onscreen countless times: the bleary-eyed writer staring blankly at a keyboard, a wastebasket full of crumpled paper next to the desk. It's the very image of someone facing "writer's block."

    Chances are you've faced writer's block at some point yourself. If so, you know that each passing moment just adds to the pressure, making the writing task ever more difficult. So what's a writer to do?

    I've found it helps to take a lesson from stonemasons: Just start chipping away. Anyone shaping stone with a hammer and chisel is aware that it's going to take a while. You have to acquire the mindset that this particular piece of writing can't be molded like wet clay. Instead, it will take shape one small gain at a time.

    Personally, I start with a list of thoughts, sometimes just significant words, in whatever order they occur to me. I keep going at it until the ideas run dry. Next I begin arranging those ideas or phrases into some sort of order—what should be presented first, what second, what to close with, and so on.

    From that basic outline, I can identify some places to begin drafting. Generally that's a matter of noting the softer, easier spots—sections where my notes are richest because my thinking is clearest on them. It's a mistake to tackle the rockier sections just yet. No use banging your head against that stone.

    As more words fill the document, momentum builds. Writer's block is officially broken. Confidence grows. New perspectives are revealed on the previously toughest sections of the task. You start to feel like a writer again, a pro. And that feeling more than makes up for any blockage at the beginning.

    Do you have any other tips for overcoming writer's block? We'd love to hear them. Just click the "comments" link below.

    —Lester Smith

    Photo by takomabibelot