I enjoy having written. That’s my usual response. We writers like to talk up the challenges of process. We have our ways of avoiding the “pain” of putting words on paper. But procrastination is part of every profession. Writers are no different, but they make more movies about frustrated writers than frustrated doctors or lawyers.
A lot is made of writer’s block, but often it’s the case that writers block – we block our creativity, our momentum, or our progress.
Writing on Purpose
When you’re writing for someone else, whether an assignment, a contract, or a commission, that obligation weighs heavily on you. When you’re a creative writer, it’s easy to blame your lack of inspiration on the patron. But that’s just a diversion.
My definition of writer’s block is lack of preparation. New writers working on assignment think they can just start typing. And then they’re surprised when the words don’t flow. If you are good at just starting without an idea, you can type yourself into content, or a corner.
Free writing is a fine technique, but be prepared to edit. It’s lousy for contracted work. You need instead to do some research, and if you have trouble figuring that out then start by writing questions. It’s easier to write questions than answers; and it’s easier to answer questions than it is to think of things to say.
Writing for Purpose
When I’m doing creative work, I heed the words of one of my writing professors, Richard Wiley, who said, “Writers write to discover what they have to say.” You don’t have to know your thoughts in advance. You have a perfectly blank space to fill with all your thoughts, which you are free to winnow later.
In my work for businesses, I built a career being a great first-draft writer. I’m excellent at editing in my head. You can imagine how difficult it is to shut that editor off when trying to discover something new. The discipline of writing rests on knowing when to apply a particular technique, and it won’t surprise you to know that the best way to develop that discipline is practice.
So, you can see free writing is helpful for either creative or business writing, so long as you adjust your goal for each. Research also is important when you remind yourself to research to get started not to avoid starting.
Writing for Fun
When it’s challenging, I remind myself that’s the process. For an experience to feel like a breakthrough, you have to feel thwarted at some point. When you apply technique to break inertia and gather momentum, that’s when it starts getting fun. Because who doesn’t enjoy it when things start to fly.
Image Credit: Beyond Neon, Twisted (cropped from original)