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April 6, 2015

Avoiding Writer’s Block

Filed under: Main — Tags: — admin @ 12:01 am

In my process of furiously writing text, the goal is to finish the document without suffering the pains of something called “writer’s block.” I don’t suffer from writer’s block. That doesn’t mean I don’t get it from time to time, I just know how to best deal with it.

The problem with writer’s block is that it stops you cold. You’re writing text, clipping along at a good pace, or you’re just starting out. And there it sits: The blank page. Your mind isn’t idle. Instead, it’s most likely overflowing with words. You just can’t manage to put them on the page.

To help you avoid writer’s block you first need to recognize it: You’ve reached an impasse. I’m not talking about the brief pause where you search for the proper word. That can be a form of writer’s block, but not the debilitating kind. No, I’m talking about the inability to start, continue, or work through something. Recognize it.

Once you recognize the writer’s block you can deal with it in one of several ways.

Often times writer’s block is due to a lack of material to work with. It’s always easier to edit text than to create it. So my first suggestion is to write anything. Not “blah blah blah,” but just something that’s not up to par. In other words, lower your standards. Write something you know is crappy, and which you dedicate yourself to fixing later. The idea is to get the ball rolling.

Yes, it’s possible to lower your standards. For some people it takes great effort, but you can do it. Even if you write only one sentence and know that you’ll beef it up later, it’s better than nothing.

Luke Skywalker didn’t want to stay on Tatooine.

That’s it! Go back later and flesh that out.

Another way to deal with writer’s block is just to skip over the chunk that’s bugging you. Granted, that’s difficult when the chunk is the opening paragraph of text. In Word, I use three techniques to mark text as “come back later and deal with this”:

1. I write SOMETHING in all caps. Yes, that’s the word “something.” So as I’m flying through the text, in a hurry to get to point B, I type SOMETHING so that I’ll hopefully catch it later and fix it.

2. I highlight the text. Use the highlighter tool (which isn’t a text format) to bring out the stuff that needs fixing or further attention.

3. Color code the text. My favorite shade is red. I just swipe the mouse over the block that needs more attention, click the Text Color button, and move on.

When I’ve completed my first pass, I scroll through the document looking for the word SOMETHING or highlighted text or text colored red. Then I deal with it. Or, if a muse flies in the window or I’m inspired before then, deal with it right away. Sometimes my documents have lots of “go back and deal with it” marks, depending on how frenzied my brain is acting.

These techniques may not cure you’re writers block, but they’re the tools I use to keep me going.

3 Comments

  1. Im curious, dont most book publishers have templates that they give you, since most technical books seem to have their own signature graphical layout? A prime example would be the XXX for Dummies series which a set style of how chapters are laid out.

    There are self-publishing publishers now like Lulu that provide MS Word templates for the graphical layout of a book. Some day I want to write a programming book, probably for an obscure language, which is something Im into.

    Comment by BradC — April 7, 2015 @ 9:28 pm

  2. Wiley offers a For Dummies template with all the styles they use. It features a few styles, such as Author Feedback and Editor Feedback, that we use to exchange thoughts or make notes. I still highlight text when I need to come back to it.

    It would be cool if ebook publishers offered a format that was conducive to technical books. I’m not entirely pleased with the way Kindle handles its layout; sometimes the figures are really tiny and other times they go from margin to margin. But I understand that not every book needs figures.

    Comment by admin — April 8, 2015 @ 7:08 am

  3. I agree the kindle format is awful, many 1 star reviews on Amazon are about how the Kindle format makes technical books unreadable. I cant believe they have never fixed that.

    My personal choice is the .chm format. Instead of a mile long single scroll page like with .pdf’s it breaks up chapters into links. It is also very good for embedding content, so instead of having to download source code separately you can have all the content inside the .chm file itself.

    Comment by BradC — April 8, 2015 @ 5:11 pm

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