The cure for writing constipation

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Did you hear about the constipated writer who worked it out with a pencil? 

Okay, jokes aside, if you’re having trouble starting a writing project, or finishing one, or you’re having trouble expressing your ideas clearly and cogently, if you’re in a writing funk or “blocked,” I feel you. It happens to me, too. 

What do I do? 

The first thing I do when I’m stuck is to put the project away and write something else. Something completely unrelated. When I come back to the project, I usually find it easy to get back on track. 

But not always. Sometimes, I’m still stuck. 

I might do more research. Learning something new about the subject, hearing different stories or examples, will often help me see where I need to go. 

Another thing I’ll do is re-write my outline if I have one, or write one if I don’t. I might do a mind map, which gives me a visual look at what I have and how it fits together, and then convert it to an outline. 

If this doesn’t work, I have another ace up my sleeve: free-writing.

I open a new page and start writing whatever comes into my head. I do this without stopping to think about what I’m saying, without going back to correct anything or add anything, I just keep pushing the pen across the page or banging the keys on the keyboard.  

Free-writing acts like a lubricant for my mind. Getting the words flowing, no matter how vapid or unrelated to the project, helps me find my writing voice. 

Sometimes, I’ll free-write for five minutes. Sometimes, I go for twenty minutes or more before taking a break. 

When I’m really stuck and nothing else seems to help, I go for a walk and record myself speaking on the subject. 

I talk to myself about the problem I’m having and reason my way through it. Or I talk to the reader I have pictured in my mind and “explain” the material to them. 

As I dictate, I add notes to myself for ideas that occur to me that I want to explore later. I also ask myself questions I think my reader wants to know, and speculate about the possible answers. 

Writing every day has made me a better (and faster) writer and I don’t get stuck very often. When I do, one of these techniques usually does the trick.

No pencils necessary.

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