Can You Really Call It Writer’s Block If You Don’t Know What the &*%$ You’re Writing?

I’m a riffer. I like to riff. I like to sit down at my keyboard and just kind of freestyle, and write what comes to me in the moment.

Then I read what I wrote. And a lot of the time, I hate it.

Riffing can be fun. It can be easy. I’m actually riffing right now – I had the idea for this post while eating a bowl of special k and got so excited I dropped my spoon. I swear. And I ran to my office and I started writing, and, hey, so far so good, right?

But then there are those other times. Those times when I sit down and start writing, and suddenly, I forget what the &%$@ I was trying to say. So I look at what I’ve already written, hoping it will provide some sort of clue, and it all sounds like a bunch of nonsense, or self-indulgent crap, or insert-your-own-insult here.

And I find myself totally and completely blocked.

Now, as a lot of you already know, there’s a thing I do when I get writer’s block, and it generally works pretty well. I even made it into a special, FREEwriter's blockstops here. (3) guide you can download HERE and use yourself.

However. As great as the guide is – and it is super, super great – it isn’t completely foolproof.

Because it doesn’t work if you don’t really know what you’re writing about.

A few weeks ago, I tried to write a blog post that was basically along the lines of, “Can you really call it writer’s block if you don’t even know what you’re writing?”

And I got blocked. So I never finished it.

(Until now, I guess…)

So now we’ve at least identified the problem. But what can you actually do to break through writer’s block when the normal stuff won’t work?

I know what I will do next time – because that’s what I figured this out in the middle of a bite of Special K.

The next time I get writer’s block when I don’t know what the bleep I’m writing, I will…

…Write an Outline.

To be honest, I’m kind of shocked I didn’t come up with this sooner. My primary job, besides writing stuff about writer’s block, is writing books and – and here’s the important part – coaching people through writing their own books. And when I coach people, the number one thing I tell them to do, before they start thinking about titles or designing covers, is to WRITE AN OUTLINE!!!!!

Why?  Because an outline is like a map that keeps them from getting lost. If they ever feel like they don’t know what to write next, all they have to do is look at the outline and it should be right there.

So.  Wouldn’t the same principle hold true with something smaller? Like, say, a blog post about writer’s block???

I’m about to finish this piece. So that proves that it did. And I’m betting it will work for you too.

(But if it doesn’t, let me know – I may be able to help.)

How do Professional Writers deal with Writer’s Block?

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I’ve said before that, when your job is writing, writer’s block is pretty much an occupational hazard. Spending hours making up stuff every day, day after day just about guarantees that at some point, your brain is gonna check out and say, “we’re done here.”

And if it happens to the pros, it probably happens to you. So what can you do about it?

The playwright and essayist Paul Rudnick, who I think is hilarious and brilliant, is famous for saying, “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials. It’s a matter of doing everything you can to avoid writing, until it is about four in the morning and you reach the point where you have to write.”

That sounds about right.

Anne Tyler, who wrote The Accidental Tourist and lots of other great books, struggles so much with writer’s block that sometimes she has to force herself to work. “The one ironclad rule is that I have to try. I have to walk into my writing room and pick up my pen every weekday morning.”  Why? Because she also said, “If I waited till I felt like writing, I’d never write at all.”

In fact, some of the best writers in history have used tricks and little motivational phrases to basically force themselves do their jobs. Norman Mailer told himself, “Being a real writer means being able to do the work on a bad day.” James Thurber’s mantra was “Don’t get it right, just get it written” (which is so pithy and clever it probably took him a whole day to come up with it). And William Faulkner advised, “Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.”

That one I know from personal experience.

I’ve followed just about all of that advice and tons more over the years. Eventually, I combined the best stuff – the stuff that worked for me – into a just-about-foolproof plan to beat writers block. And right now, I’m sharing those tips in a little guide I wrote called, oddly enough, The Positively True Actual Professional Writer’s Guide to Beating Writer’s Block. You can download it for FREE HERE! – it’s quick and simple and, best of all, it actually works.

I hope you’ll check it out. After all, as Mark Twain said, “The secret to getting ahead is getting started.”