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What my career in journalism taught me about writer’s block

I’m just going to say it – writer’s block is a myth. Please don’t hurt me. The thing is, having a career in journalism, short though it was, kind of put the whole writer’s block thing into perspective for me. I realized that there has never really been anything stopping me from writing, expect myself.

To be fair, I spent the majority of my younger years buying into this myth the same as anyone else. I would actually ask my college professors for all of the writing assignments at the beginning of each semester (nerd alert). I would start working on those projects months ahead of time in an attempt to sneak past the big, bad writer’s block monster.

This method actually served me pretty well, until I dove headfirst into the journalism pool. All of a sudden, I was lucky when I had a week’s notice on an article. Many nights, I stared at my computer screen trying to think of the right words for an article. I wanted those writers blockstories to be classy, and snappy, and everything I thought good writing was supposed to be. It wasn’t long before I realized that kind of thinking wasn’t getting me anywhere.

Journalism is a fast-paced world and I had to change my entire writing process to keep up. Most importantly, this meant I could no longer afford to stare blankly at my computer until the right words just came to me.

Writing for media does need to be classy and snappy, but, more importantly, it needs to be timely and relevant. Often, I had mere hours to write a suitable article.

I actually did it, though. I ended up teaching myself (with the help of a few mentors) how to write quickly and consistently. Writer’s block became a thing of the past for me.

Honestly, the one single thing that helped me get to that point was a change in my way of thinking. Instead of writer’s block being an inevitable and unstoppable force that happened to me, I began to think of it as an annoyance that I allowed to persist.

This shift in my thoughts allowed me to bust through my self-imposed obstacles, and, ultimately, become a better writer.

I know that the writer’s block phenomenon is an obstacle that many writers face. So, in an effort to help, I’ve gathered three strategies that are helpful to me, even today, when the big, bad writer’s block monster tries to make another appearance.handsonkeyboard

Write through it
This first strategy may seem counter-intuitive to many writers. After all, writer’s block is characterized by an inability to continue your story. However, the only thing blocking you is the fear of not writing something that is perfect the very first time. Just keep moving. What is your next sentence? What is your next idea? Keep reminding yourself that you can always change it later.

Make an outline
Start with the very basics of your story, and write those down. For my journalism articles, this would be the who, what, where, and why. For my fictional short stories, this would be the characters, the conflict, and the solution. Then, go back and fill in the secondary details. With an outline drawn out, you’ll always know what needs to happen next, and you will taylor your writing to continuously head towards that goal.

The list method

If you are well and truly stuck, and absolutely cannot think of any string of words that could continue your story, you can use this method to give yourself a few options. Start with a simple piece of paper and pen. Number the paper from one to ten. Then, list ten possible solutions to your problem. Then, list ten more. Simply continue listing solutions until you find one you like. The important part is to get those ideas out in the open and out of your head. This way, instead of being stuck thinking about the same crappy ideas, you have allowed yourself to move on the the bigger and better ideas. I’ve used the list method for a variety of situations, including plot points, article headlines and ledes, and even planning my wedding.

Hopefully, with these strategies, you shouldn’t have any problems getting through your own writing obstacles. They may even help you tackle other types of issues as well.

I’m sure there are more strategies out there. Let me know in the comments how you combat writer’s block.