Writer’s Block

So far, I’ve been blessed not to suffer from writer’s block on the job. Writing for myself (fiction) is often another matter, but when it comes to the heavy lifting of writing on the job, the work is there, the deadline is there, so I do it. In cases of a temporary block–say, on a word, sentence, or paragraph–I will occasionally write “blah blah blah” and then come back to it later. But really, as a writer, there is nothing better for curing writer’s block than a deadline.

I recall a great Bloom County cartoon where Opus is banging his forehead on his (typewriter) keyboard, struggling to come up with an idea. Suddenly his editor shows up bearing a stopwatch and an AK-47. “You’ve got five minutes,” says the editor, or words to that effect, and Opus’s fingers start hammering away as he says “I’m rollin’!”

Writers have to eat. To eat, we have to write, and the best way to stay out of writer’s block is just to put your fingers to the keyboard and get to work. Sometimes you have to blahblahblah your way through it just to get the job done. That means experimenting a bit, writing without trying to do it the prescribed way. You can do what an English professor of mine called “metawriting,” writing about writing. “I have no idea what this topic is, I don’t know what’s going on with the organization, and I don’t know where this content fits into the big scheme of things. I think this report is talking about how the government oversees engineering activities on NASA programs.” And so forth. You talk yourself through the process until clarity returns.

With any luck, you won’t need someone holding a stopwatch and an AK-47 over you to get the words down.

About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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