Due to its phrasing, I think “How do I cure Writer’s Block?” is a question that leads to counter-productive answers.
That’s because, in 2021, the term “writing” is a gross oversimplification. For example, the Eskimo-Aleut language groups have hundreds of ways of describing the word snow. Here are just a few:
- qanuk: ‘snowflake’
- kaneq: ‘frost’
- kanevvluk: ‘fine snow’
- qanikcaq: ‘snow on the ground’
- muruaneq: ‘soft deep snow’
- nutaryuk: ‘fresh snow’
- pirta: ‘blizzard’
- qengaruk: ‘snow bank’
Yet we have only a single word to describe writing. At least most of the time.
Writing Is Actually Six Different Processes At Once.
That’s right. Writing is not monolithic. There are actually six processes hiding inside the “writing” process.
In my opinion, unless someone can deconstruct writing into its constituent parts, their success over Writer’s Block may not last. That’s because they’re essentially shooting in the dark. In the same way that the field of medicine has evolved, we know more about writing today than we did 300 years ago. We can have a more educated and nuanced conversation about it.
Here’s what the process of “Writing” looks like in 2021:
What we’re reading/watching and storing.
The moment we “decide” what we want to write about.
Creating the first draft. What’s typically referred to as “writing”.
Revising and improving the first draft. Where a lot of time is spent.
Deciding when and where to distribute.
Making sure those distribution channels succeed.
I’d actually pair all of these processes off, into their own phases.
- Pre-Write: Consumption/Brainstorming.
- Writing: Drafting/Editing.
- Post-Writing: Publishing/Promoting.
A Breakdown In One of These 3 Areas Results In What We Commonly Refer to As “Writer’s Block”.
These processes help us decide exactly where we need to focus our energy and time. Are we not reading enough? Perhaps we need to improve our consumption habits. Are trying to write and edit at the same time? Perhaps we need to revise our drafting process. The conversation becomes more nuanced and the possibilities for a “cure” become more numerous.
Let's take a look at the three major phases of the writing process and see how we might improve each one. 💡
1. Pre-Writing: Consumption & Brainstorming.
Improve Your Input.
“Writing” begins with knowing what to write about. What information sources are you consuming? What are you reading & watching? Are you consuming actively or passively? Do you have a note-taking system? Is it easy to use? Is it accessible? Or are the contents lost forever once they’re put inside?
Connect The Dots.
Are you able to see all of your ideas in a single place? Are you engaging and connecting the dots between all kinds of different subjects and disciplines? Do you have a system to capture your ideas and topics the moment they happen?
2. Writing: Drafting & Editing.
Try Not To Write & Edit At The Same Time.
We wouldn’t drive by pushing the gas pedal and the brake at the same time. So why do we try and write and edit at the same time? The easiest way to clean up the drafting process is to first realize it’s a drafting process and not an editing process. Let the first draft flow out of you and then edit it later.
When Editing, Strip Away All Excess.
KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) is the operative idea here, especially if you’re a content creator. Is your story or content discussing too many ideas at once? Are there other articles hiding inside this one? Can it be reduced? Does it need to be reduced? Is it too complex?
3. Post-Writing: Publishing & Promoting.
Don’t Get Hung Up On Metrics When Writing.
So often we might get blocked because we’re thinking about the results of our writing before we’ve even finished it. “What will they say about me?”, “How will this be received?”, “What if nobody reads it?”, or “What if everybody reads it?” are all questions you might ask yourself when writing.
Try To Focus On The Process.
The cure for the above is to focus on enjoying and being mindful of the content creation process. Focus on improving these six areas and mastering your craft, don’t allow yourself to get myopic about where & how your content is received. Inversely, don’t ignore this area completely. Balance is the key.
Find Opportunities to Repurpose Your Content.
Ideally, perhaps, a creator could turn one long-form piece of content like this article into a YouTube video, a podcast episode, a series of LinkedIn posts, and a series of Tweets. Not every channel requires new content from scratch. Look for opportunities and synergy between your different channels.
“Writing” Is About More Than Just Writing ✅
Learn these different processes well. Anytime you’re stuck, zoom out and take inventory of which area requires further attention. Are you fixated on results? Take a deep breath and refocus on the editing process. Are you anxious because your article is getting larger and larger? Maybe it’s time to begin editing that behemoth down to size.
If you can keep these six processes in mind, you’ll be well-positioned to reduce the corrosion of Writer’s Block on your productivity.