Writing Through Writers Block

Writing about how writing through writers block is all good and well when the tank is full and the brain is buzzing—enter writers block, and writing is impossible. None of the ideas take root for longer than a sentence, and every sentence looks flat and colorless. Grinding out one sentence after the next feels like punishment for a crime you didn't want to commit, and the longer you spend laboring over words, the less you can think of to say. It's a vicious cycle. Most good writers say that the best way to break writers block is to write through it. I've said it myself, on days when I wasn't experiencing the dread sensation. But days like today, it's difficult to take that advice. Terribly difficult. It feels like every word on the page is awful. And it doesn't make sense, and the jokes aren't funny, and the witty insights that are usually so good just sound like I tried too hard.

But, even though writing through writers block is so hard, and so awful, there is good news. It doesn't last forever. And you can always edit.

Because maybe tomorrow, when your brain isn't slogging under the weight of ill-clarity, and you look at your work again, you'll see that it wasn't as terribly awful as you thought, and without that word that's clogging things up over there, and that other phrase that's in the way there, it could be really not too bad, maybe might even be good!

The Importance of Creating Curiosity

A writer's main goal is clear communication. Even if you have the most excellent point in the world, if you can't communicate it clearly, no one will understand it. Writers will intentionally leave some things bare, so that it can be clearly understood the first time, and strikes up a healthy desire to do further research. Belaboring a point doesn't provoke deep interest with the average uninterested target.

Promotional writing is a good example of this. An advertisement is not supposed to be a long explanation of every facet and value of a product. The potential buyer doesn't want to know everything about the product in the 'information collection' phase. One of the most enticing pieces of product advertisement for the consumer is the option to do his or her own research. An advertisement is simply the enticement to learn more, the invitation to be curious.

If you bore your audience with details, their curiosity has nothing to latch onto. Over-explanation is the death of wonder, and the birth of boredom. And a bored audience doesn't buy your project (or support your kickstarter, or subscribe to your magazine), they look for something else that better entertains them (or interests them, or validates them, or just isn't boring).

It isn't always easy to write clearly and provide adequate information while still provoking interest and curiosity, but if writing weren't a challenge, there would be no satisfaction in the victory of success.

Doughnut. Doughnut. Doughnut.

The desires of an audience are always changing. In some cases, they want you to be intentionally vague: "Core speed 5x faster than before."

"Packed with twice as many nutrients as our previous version."

"Tomorrow, fly to work."

They don't want to know right upfront, really, about the processors that make the speed faster, or the chemicals that brought out the nutrients, or what and how you're going to fly to work tomorrow. It's the idea that if you give the general picture, people who want to know more will do the research, and everyone else will be content with what they've been told.

In other instances, though, it's not helpful being vague. Imagine going to the doughnut shop to buy a doughnut (without knowing what flavor you wanted), and when you arrived, every one was labelled:




It would be ludicrous (especially now, in the age of 'if-you-can-invent-a-flavor-we-can-doughnut-it'). People would complain, because even if it was clear what they were from looking at them, there is a certain amount of comfort in the over-explanation when it comes to making choices that directly effect you.

When you're writing, figure out how much information your audience wants, and provide them with exactly that. Not more, not less. Not only does it streamline your writing for clarity and purpose, but it also makes it much more enjoyable to read.

A Month of Sundays

Authors are notoriously dilatory. They seem to live by months of Sundays, rather than the typical gregorian calendar month. Although it is hard to get your writing written, with dogged determination, a will of iron, and a hard deadline, it's a little easier. If you're going to make a commitment, keep it. It will earn you long term respect.

And if you realize you can't keep it (Aunt Bertha passes away, your computer falls into the Adriatic Sea, a piano falls on your head and erases the rest of your plot-line), tell whoever you're writing for as soon as it happens. Not three weeks after it was due.

Don't be a 'month of Sundays writer.' Be an, 'on time, good condition, just like I promised' writer. It'll get you a lot farther in the long run.

Persistance in Writing

When college teaches you how to write an essay, you learn this structure: #) Tell them what you're going to tell them.

#) Tell them.

#) Tell them what you told them.

Or, simply stated, say your point three times to really drive it home. Don't be afraid to be persistent; that's when people remember what you said.

Don't be afraid to say it again. It makes it memorable.

Repeat your main point. It will be annoyingly unforgettable.

Worth Saying Well

"It’s a unique way to process transactions between riders and drivers." This is an eleven word sentence that has absolutely no clear meaning. It could be referring to a "fee of a handshake" that might be imposed on the city buses. Or a new payment system in taxis that enables you to pay with something besides commonly accepted currency—like a five gallon can of gasoline, or a gift card. Maybe it's referring to a dated method of transportation (like horse-drawn carriages) coming back into vogue.

Because there is no defining language, it's almost impossible to judge what the sentence means. If you're going to write stand alone sentences, try to make them crystal clear—not clear as mud. It only takes a word or two more, and sometimes it even cuts the word count:

"Shaking hands to pay for city busses makes riders trust drivers more." (12 words)

"Taxi drivers love the new 'pay with a gallon' method of payment; full gas cans and gift cards accepted." (19 words)

"Horse and buggy travel is more relational than public transportation." (10 words)

It's not a burden to make your language clear and easy to understand; it just takes a little more thought and intentionality. If you're reading something that makes no sense, and has minimal explanation, two tricks to figure it out:

#) Look at the context. Even if a sentence seems to be derailed from any contextual meaning, at least it will give you some clue about what the author is talking about in general.

#) Ask for explanation. Perhaps you're lucky enough to have a communicating relationship with the author; if not, ask other people. Sometimes a second or third pair of eyes can see what the first might have missed.

It's not hard to avoid this by writing clearly. If it's worth saying, it's worth saying well.

Why Running (Writing) is so Good

There are three kinds of runners:

  • I've-got-to-get-away runners. They take massive strides, covering ground like a charging rhino; running like they're a) going somewhere, b) getting away from something,  or c) trying to forget life. Their lungs might explode mid-run, but they won't notice.
  • I'm-doing-this-for-the-cardio runners. This seems to be the largest group, not in it for the adrenaline or the high; it's for the exercise. The woman and her look of misery, the heavyset man on a slow jog with sparkling clean running shoes that look like they've never been worn.
  • I-love-this runners. A conundrum to the rest of us. They run for the sheer pleasure; not because they need the exercise, not because they need the freedom. They enjoy it.

Every runner fits somehow into one (or maybe all three) of these groups. However, after years and years of running, usually the members of the first and second group become members of the third. Many people who start running because they must keep running because they want.

The same could be said about writing. Some write with fervor and passion, pounding it out to cope. Others write because they have to, because it's an assignment or a deadline or a letter to Great Aunt Mabel. But a few write for the love of writing. They write because they know the feeling of having written; the euphoria of seeing their words on a page, and knowing them to be not only okay—but good.

Even if running (writing) is mere drudgery, keep at it. It's healthy, good for your body (brain), and keeps you flexible. And, after all, there's a slight chance that before forever happens, you'll enjoy it.


Four Tricks for Better Script Writing

Script writing focuses on both hearing and seeing. While writing the script, you need to be hearing what it will sound like as the spoken word, and seeing how the script will interact with the actors for final production. To write a good script, your mind must to become a video reel with a quick pause and rewind button; playing the scenes as they come, stopping often to fix or replay. Four tips to writing a good script:

  • Know exactly what you're trying to say. If you're writing a script for a promotional video, know the content you're trying to advertise before you begin. If you're writing script for a fictional film, know where you want to end up—then you'll be able to get there.
  • Look at what other people are doing. If you're trying to sell a certain flavor of juice box, look at other juice box ads; not to copy them, but to understand the lingo that works (or doesn't work).
  • Edit relentlessly. Read it out loud with your voice. Read it out loud in your head. Read it out loud with your best friend, or your spouse, or the old lady sitting next to you on the bus. The more you hear it, the more you'll hear what needs to go.
  • Learn to write dialogue well. Script writing is dialogue heavy—knowing how to write dialogue well makes the flow of the script much smoother.

It's a thrill to watch people saying words you put in their mouths; not deviously, of course.


3 Tricks to Writing Better Dialogue

Jack said, "Please, good sir, be so kind as to pass me the wrench." Bob replied, "Certainly, my good man, it would be my pleasure."

Then Jack said, "Why thank you. I will now unscrew this bolt and take the cover off of this engine."

And Bob said, "Wow. That's a big job. It is a good thing we have a lot of time to do it after lunch." And Jack replied,

"Yes. I anticipate it will take several hours."

Bob said, "Okay. Well we should start up." Jack nodded, and said,

"Yes. Lets."

We've all read dialogue like this—stilted, unmeasured, uncomfortable. It is clunky and unbelievably dull. Here are three tips to avoid flat dialogue:

  • Read your dialogue out loud. You'll be surprised how fast you spot inconsistencies and dull phrases—and things that no one in his right mind would say.
  • Think of your characters as someone you know: Uncle Jack, next door neighbor Sallie, grocery bag boy Tim. Then, try to hear them saying your words in your head; if they can't say it, or sound ridiculous, it's probably a sign that you should cut it down.
  • Edit rigorously, over time. You'll find that a sentence that seemed fine yesterday, or even this morning, has three extra words when you go back to read it later. The more you edit, the slimmer your dialogue can be. In real life, speech is very relaxed.

See this adaption from above:

Jack nodded, and said, "Wrench?"

"Sure, dude."

"Thanks. Looks like we gotta take the whole cover off." Bob looked at his watch, as his stomach growled.

"That's gonna take a long time."

"Probably. Let's do it." Bob sighed and nodded, saying,




It's easy to spend a lot of time wasting time to justify being too busy to do the things that matter; focusing on the bells and whistles instead of the engine and the brakes. And when the time comes, excuses, even though they don't satisfy anyone, are still always allowed. But, at the end of the day, having a real product to show for your work is better than a pocketful of accessories that you spent time putting in order. Like this blog. It's easy to choose a hundred different templates, fonts, colors. The look is an easy way to avoid focusing on the content. But, when it boils down, what's valuable is what it's all about and what it does, rather than what it looks like.

Introducing: A blog about what it's like to be a self-published and always publishing author, striving for success, but working towards significance.

Join me on the challenging journey of creating something that matters.