How to Fix Writer’s Block and Make Your Writing Sparkle
These five tips for fixing writer’s block are inspired by writer’s coach and author Daphne Gray-Grant. If you’re stuck for ideas, look no further! You’ll find ways to make your writing sparkle again.
Different writers overcome writers block in different ways, which is why it helps to read books like The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear by Ralph Keyes. It’s one of my favorite writing books; it’s not about fixing writer’s block per se, but it’s an excellent motivational book for writers.
Before the tips, a quip: “When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing.” ~ Enrique Jardiel Poncela.
The unfortunate thing about good writing is that it takes hard work! And if you’re struggling with writer’s block, then you can’t even get to the “hard work” part. You’re stuck and frustrated. And then what do you do?
And, here are five practical tips for writers…
5 Tips for Fixing Writer’s Block
1. Find an idea or “force” to pull you (and your reader) through your writing. If, for instance, you’re writing an article about the benefits of ballroom dancing (which I’m currently doing, for alive magazine), then you need to find the spark that will make your article or chapter come alive. This may mean figuring out the point of your piece, and expressing it clearly. For my ballroom dancing article, it’ll probably be a gripping anecdote. “You want your readers to be impelled through your work,” says Gray-Grant. “One of the best ways to achieve this is to be very clear with yourself about the point you are trying to make. Can you express it in a short sentence? Does every paragraph in your writing somehow echo this sentence?” To fix writer’s block, get specific. Find the force.
2. Embrace the editing process – even if it means throwing out chunks of writing. “Many writers are reluctant to undertake large, earth-moving edits of their work,” says Gray-Grant. “Instead, they poke at it, removing an adjective here, changing a verb tense there – hoping that by alchemy these minor changes will somehow lead to a major improvement.” The only way to make your writing sparkle is to drill into it, over and over. Reframe your work. You may have to throw out most of it — and by doing that, you may be throwing out the cause of your writer’s block! Kick it to the curb, fellow scribes.
3. Change the order you present your information. If your article or book chapter is already written, look at what comes first, what comes in the middle, and what comes last. Is it chronological or temporal? “Chronological order works well for anecdotes, but for other kinds of material it can be dull,” says Gray-Grant. “Instead, try putting your information in order of importance.” To make your writing sparkle, she also advises evaluating your logic. “If you’ve used inductive reasoning (going from the particular to the general), then try deductive (going from the general to the specific.)”
4. Is your most interesting, important material at the beginning? Hook your readers right away! “More people will read the beginning than the end,” says our publication coach. “Start with a bang. If your writing isn’t working, don’t accept it as The Way It Must Be. Don’t throw it out.” Learn how to rework your writing, massage it, shape it. The more you dig in to your writing, the better you’ll get — and the easier it’ll be to fix writer’s block. And, don’t hesitate to make bold changes in your writing! “That is, after all, why your computer comes equipped with copy, paste and delete keys,” says Gray-Grant. “Use them.”
5. Discard your weak anecdotes, examples, and stories. I know how hugely it sucks to delete whole pages or paragraphs of writing. To me, paragraphs and pages represent time…and time is my most precious resource. I don’t want to waste a second! But, an article or chapter peppered with weakness or drabness doesn’t just bore your readers — it can exacerbate writer’s block. After all, who wants to work on boring or weak material? Make sure your anecdotes, examples, and characters are memorable, interesting and on point.
How do you fix writer’s block and make your writing sparkle? Comments welcome below!
For more tips, read Writing Strategies for Beginners.
Daphne Gray-Grant is a writing and editing coach and the author of the popular book 8½ Steps to Writing Faster, Better. She offers a brief and free weekly newsletter on her website. Subscribe by going to the Publication Coach.