For those of you who have read the “Outliers” by Michael Gladwell and/or my 30-second review on it, here is a marvellous infographic that shows what exactly 10,000 hours of practice look like.
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Bottom line is there are two types of writers: those who believe in writers block and those who don’t. Neither will deny the magic and energy that possesses an author when inspiration rears its mysterious head, but where their approach to writing differs is how the time is spent between those moments of inspiration.
Picture a blank page and what do you see? A canvas waiting to be filled with your words and your voice? Or a taunting emptiness that has you despairing over your first line?
When you are daunted by the incessant cursor winking at you from the shoreless white sea on your computer, one of the biggest mistakes a writer can make is succumbing to doubt.
Here are five practical tips that will snap you out of your daze and dissolve your writers block so that you can get back to the book you’re dying to write.
1) Just write!
Remember that nothing is perfect the first go-around, and if you let a blank sheet of paper intimidate you, you’re doomed from the beginning.
A book doesn’t write itself after all.
Take a walk and clear you head. Put on some music and brew some coffee. Then crack your knuckles, sit down in front of your computer and type out ideas, images – whatever pops into your head. Perhaps transcribe a dialogue between two friends, or something you overheard in line at the grocery store; before you know it, you’ll have painted an entire scene.
Maybe the language and tone aren’t your best ever, maybe the flow is all wrong and a section or two jumps into a completely different dimension, but now you have something real, something to work with and mold to your liking.
Even if out of an hour’s worth of work you keep only two or three sentences, you now have direction.
At the very least you now know what to avoid the next time you write.
2) Make an outline
Think about the beginning, middle and end of your project. Where are you starting, where are you headed and where would you like to end?
Jot down general ideas and details you plan to mention. Find a rhythm and progression to the entire project.
Reestablish your authority and realize that you can speak confidently on the subject you’ve chosen.
Once you have your bearings and a firm grip on your subject, you’ll move ahead with greater clarity and less stress.
Writing exercises are another great way of dodging writers block. Sometimes all a writer needs is a little push in the right direction, and exercises can be just the ticket.
In addition to sharpening your writing skills and developing your own voice, exercises also get your creative juices flowing.
Take a few minutes, step away from the project that has you sweating, and write something for fun. These exercises can range anywhere from using a word randomly selected to detailing the dream you had the previous evening to the quirky how-did-this-green-umbrella-get-in-this-room explanations.
Long story short, you can’t write if you’re not enjoying yourself. Remember the reason you’re writing at all. Exercises can help you laugh, learn and realize your passion for writing all over again.
4) Practice makes perfect
Inspiration comes in spurts, but, like sleeping, you can regulate your cycle.
Set aside a specific hour or two each day devoted strictly to writing. Say you prefer writing in the morning. Then wake up an hour early, brew some coffee, and pull a chair up to your computer.
Before the end of the week, you’ll have a writing schedule ingrained in your daily routine, and you’ll discover that your creative groove makes its appearance at the time you’ve established.
5) Who’s listening?
Don’t forget that you’re writing for an audience – one that targets your writing for its authority and knowledge on a given subject.
Like you, your audience wants the whole story. They want the facts and scenes delivered to them without hesitation, without vagueness, but most importantly, without dilly-dallying. The last thing your audience wants is to be bored.
Writers block can be a good indication that you’re simply bored with what you’ve written, and you can safely deduce that your audience will be as well when they open your future book.
Go back and read what you’ve written. Where did the energy fizzle out and the tone take a nosedive? What was the most interesting part and what made it so invigorated? Your readers are smart people, not unlike yourself, and the flaws as well as the virtues you notice in your own writing will be the same ones your audience sees as well.
Some authors envision a single person to whom they are telling their story in order to give their audience a face, a listening ear and a doubtful expression.
For example, Kurt Vonnegut pictured himself writing to his sister when he started a book. For him, she acted as the devil’s advocate, frowning when a sentence sounded sour, laughing when a scene tickled her.
Don’t get bogged down by the incomprehensible size of your audience. Take a page from the Vonnegut book on writing and picture a friend, a family member, anyone you trust, and let them be your guide!
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