I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve watched a student staring at a blank page, frozen, locked up, paralyzed by writer’s block. I’d crouch down to be at eye level and ask what was wrong. And I get some variation of:
I can’t think of a title.
I don’t know how to start.
I don’t know where the story begins.
Have you ever done this? Yeah, me too.
A blank page can be a frightening thing to behold, especially for a new manuscript. There’s so much potential for greatness. And failure.
So how do you get unstuck?
Here’s a permission slip to start in the middle. Or at the end. Or with some random scene or chapter that you’ll include who know’s where.
Tim Grahl, the book-marketing guru, once said that the X factor in being successful is whether or not an author believes in their book. When I believe in my book, then I speak about it with enthusiasm to anybody and everybody. I’m not embarrassed to ask folks to buy it because I know they are getting a great value. Said value could just be entertainment, and that’s enough.
No one feels bad for paying for a movie. We fork over the ticket or rental fee happily to steal away from the world for a couple of hours.
Books are no different. Asking someone to buy your book is giving them an opportunity to enter a fantasy world or to learn something new or to peek into someone else’s life and reflect on their own.
You, as a writer, are providing a valuable service to readers.
Never doubt it!
You, as a writer, are providing a valuable service to readers. Never doubt it!
Still don’t believe me? Think about your own reading habits. Why do you read books? Aren’t you happy to support the authors who share the gifts of their words by purchasing books, borrowing them from the library, leaving ratings or reviews, telling friends about them?
Having good books to read is always important, especially in a time when the world’s needs are so great. I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have reading material right now. Keep writing and sharing your stories.
Last week we talked about writer’s block and viewing it through a different lens. Sometimes all you need to do is shift your mindset.
But in case that’s not enough to get the words flowing smoothly again, here are a few practical tools.
1. Consider writer’s block a luxury.
Writers, such as Tim Grahl (Running Down a Dream), Steven Pressfield (The War of Art), and Natalie Goldberg (Writing Down the Bones), have all written a variation on this advice. Goldberg even suggests that you open a notebook and write “I don’t know what to write” over and over until you’re bored enough that you begin to write something else.