9 ways to conquer writer's block

In the writing process, there will be a time when you get stuck and can't write. It may be anxiety, a boring topic, self-criticism or something else that keep you from getting words on paper (or screen).

To become a more fluent writer, try these strategies:

Trust your hands. Forget your brain for a while, and let your fingers do the writing — or typing.

Adopt a daily routine. Fluent writers prefer mornings. Afternoon and evening writers (or runners) have the whole day to invent excuses not to write (or run). The key is write rather than wait.

Build in rewards. Any routine of work (or not-work) can be debilitating, so build in many little rewards: a cup of coffee, a quick walk, your favorite song.

Draft sooner. Many writers use reporting and research to fill up the available time. Thorough investigation is key to a journalist's success, but over-reporting makes writing seem tougher. Write earlier in the process so you discover what information you need.

Count everything. Don Murray's favorite motto is "Never a day without a line." Not a hundred lines. For the fluent writer, every word counts. Learn to judge your own work by quantity, not quality.

Rewrite. Quality comes from revision, rather than from speed writing. Fluent writing gives you the time and opportunity to turn your quick draft into something special.

Watch your language. Purge your vocabulary (and your thoughts) of such words as "procrastination" and "writer's block." Call it "rehearsal" or "preparation" or "planning."

Find an ally. We all need one helper who loves us without conditions, someone who praises us for our productivity and effort — not the quality of the final work. Too much criticism weighs a writer down.

Keep a daybook. Story ideas, key phrases or a startling insight can be fleeting. Carry a notebook to jot down the ingredients for new writing.

Taken from The Writer's Workbench: 50 Tools You Can Use, a self-directed course by Roy Peter Clark at Poynter NewsU.

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    Vicki Krueger

    Vicki Krueger has worked with The Poynter Institute for more than 20 years in roles from editor to director of interactive learning and her current position as marketing communications manager.


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