You’ve probably heard of “writer’s block.” It’s a common “thing” in the writer’s world.
In my mind, it’s a myth. There’s really no such thing. We can always write something. It might not be what we want to write, like a chapter in our book or a brilliant blog post.
But every single one of us can probably crank out a quick “to-do” list or a paragraph describing our favorite meal right now. We think we’re creatively blocked because we can’t write what we want to.
We’re not “blocked.” We just haven’t figured out what we want to say.
This step in writing can look VASTLY different for every person, but it’s one of the most important steps to writing something that has some meaning for both us as writers and for our readers.
I spent 15 years teaching English to teens and college students. I was required to have a poster on my wall with “The Writing Process” on it and every poster started with “Pre-Writing.” Teachers are required to follow the curriculum, so every elementary and middle school teacher would require their students to produce some sort of evidence of pre-writing. This usually looked like students putting together some dumb mind-map or outline AFTER they’d actually completed their writing assignment. It had nothing to do with writing better. It was training in “how to get a good grade” and check the boxes off on the grading rubric.
It’s what leads to feeling blocked because we’re trained to dive right in and “write” before we’re ready.
This whole process annoyed the hell out of me because as a writer, I know that if you give students/writers TIME to explore ideas and perspectives through journaling, discussion, asking questions, taking notes, THINKING, they always have something to say.
My students writing was much better when they had something to say (which was important when you have to read 150 papers).
All writers, whether you’re a seasoned pro or an aspiring author, need time to ideate, or come up with their ideas and explore them.
Here are a few ways you can do this on your own:
- explore it on the page in your journal
- meditate on it
- do a traditional mind-map/brainstorming session on paper
- take notes/journal after you have “thinking time”
- give yourself thinking time while you’re in the shower, staring out the window, taking a walk, or doing the dishes or laundry
You can also ideate with others, which is one of my favorite strategies, especially after I’ve explored my thinking on my own. I also get a LOT of ideas/thoughts/clarity while I’m talking through something.
When you’re discussing ideas with others:
- stay focused on the topic or what you want to achieve ie. clarity on a chapter idea/character etc.
- ask one another questions to deepen your thinking ie. What if?
- push one another for clarity
- offer alternative perspectives
- play the devil’s advocate
Allow yourself the time to think, to find your story, your message, your thoughts. And, I offer idea generation sessions if you need a “thinking” partner to expand your ideas.