Whining away the hours

“Writing is the ability to think clearly on paper,” my boss, Henry Raab, is fond of saying. Update that to include a few more screens and you have a timeless saying. But what if you’re like millions of authors and you’re stumped? Is it a sign of laziness, or chemical imbalance?

Neither, says Mark Ragan, CEO of Lawrence Ragan Communications. In an article entitled “The cure for ‘writer’s block,’” Ragan calls the malady “the inability to think clearly about what you want to say.” While he’s talking to public-relations practitioners and other non-fiction specialists, his advice applies to all types of writers. When people say they have writer’s block, he says, they are dealing with information block. “They don’t have enough detail to make the story flow effortlessly from the brain, or don’t understand the volumes of material at their disposal.”

That’s a very left-brain way of looking at the creative process, one that doesn’t take into consideration emotional blocks, including lack of confidence and anxiety. But since this is blogging and not therapy, we’ll stick with Ragan’s more finite solutions. His tips:

  • Establish what you think the story is about and capture that in one paragraph.
  • Make a list of reasons why your reader should care about the piece.
  • List every conceivable question you need to answer.

He then borrows a few suggestions from Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird) and others like Natalie Goldberg (Writing Down the Bones):

  • Begin in the middle.
  • Allow yourself to write crap on the first draft.
  • Write the story as if you were writing a letter to a friend.
  • Get a cup of coffee.

There’s more, but I’ll let you discover the secrets. Meanwhile, here’s a video from Steven Patterson called “Whine Away Your Deadlines with Writer’s Block.” They say humor helps the juices flow. It might work better than coffee.