Article writing tips, techniques, strategies

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Battling Writer's Block

Hitting the wall", "Writer's Block", "Brain Cramp", "Drawing a blank"...whatever name it goes by, it's every writer's worst nightmare. "It" defies logic and spits in the face of reason. We're writers for writing out loud! Words are our dearest, closest friends. We've been very good to them, and they are normally very good to us. Then, when we least expect it, we can no more string coherent words together than we can fly. It's that evil presence with multiple nicknames, and even when we aren't in its grip, it hovers in the back of our minds, letting us know it can spring on us at any time.

There've been enough books written on the subject to pave a road from Des Moines to Miami. Truth be told, there are enough on my own shelves to cover Iowa alone.

Every writer has his or her own "take" on writer's block. The common consensus seems to be: get away from what you're working on for anywhere between several minutes to several days. The belief behind this advice is that the longer you try to work through a total blockage of the mind, the more frustrated you'll get. While there's a great deal of truth behind these teachings, and following this path would be the one of least resistance (not to mention a sanity preserver), sometimes this just isn't an option.

For example, if you're working on a deadline, you can't kill valuable time. And if you're working for someone else, it isn't your time to kill. You simply haven't the luxury of leaving your blank page behind and getting back to it when you're able to fill it up with brilliance. The brilliance had better darned well come right now!

If wit and wisdom are being elusive, you have to coax them out of hiding. I've found two "coaxing techniques" that I swear by. The first one is so simple and obvious that it's often overlooked. It's You type in a word you're working around and you're given pages of snazzy words, categorized by synonyms, antonyms, and parts of speech. This is the one tool that instantly takes your vocabulary from here to THERE, and can plow through that proverbial wall.

The other remedy I use? Quotations. I've collected quotes since bell bottoms first pealed. It's mentally intoxicating when someone takes words for a joy ride, and I collect the especially memorable rides. They prove invaluable at times when I'm stuck. Never more so than when I haven't a clue how to begin a piece. Unbeknownst to him, Mark Twain alone has launched many an article all on his own! When you find a really great quote, it serves as a mental spark plug to get your motor started.

For example, if you're writing about originality, you could use another great launcher, Booker T. Washington's quote, "Do a common thing in an uncommon way." You could begin by giving the quote and the quoter, then go on to elaborate. Mr. Washington did the hard part already.

Keep in mind, no matter how frustrating it makes you feel, experiencing writer's block is proof that you are exactly what you always wanted to be. You're a writer!

This article is excerpted from, a website offering a comprehensive book featuring brilliant quotations and phrases. Feel free to e-mail the author at


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