4 ways to write your way out of writer’s block, fast

Bust Writer's Block

Having writer’s block and a looming deadline can zap your creative juices faster than a cat can claw you for rubbing its belly.

There’s always typing with your eyes closed but sometimes —such as when your brain is stressed — closing your eyes just gives your brain time to invent horrors that will befall you should you fail.

Most often, when you’re blocked, it’s not because you can’t find any words; it’s because you can’t settle on the right words. You expect perfection the first time out.

Add to that being under the proverbial gun to produce, and you’ve got pressure.

So much pressure.

Sometimes you thrive. Other times, you need an escape route.

Give yourself something to edit.

Write a letter

All writers (should) write to an audience. Our job is communicating with people.

So when you’re stuck, try putting the meat of your message in a letter to someone you know.

Dear Uncle Miles,

I know you’re struggling with an old, worn out eReader. It doesn’t support your aging eyes the way you need it to, and it’s keeping you from reading the rest of the Twilight series you love. But that’s okay. Because this newest eReader from Awesome eReader Makers has the latest large-print fonts and bright (yet soft) backlighting to make it easier for book lovers of all ages to enjoy their favorite literature any time of day and in any lighting conditions.

You don’t need to finish the letter. You just need to get down what you need to get down so you can organize, edit and polish.

Vent

When your internal editor has a stranglehold on what’s considered the ‘right words,’ go rogue. Throw down the wrong words.

When I’m at my wit’s end, I’ll write like I’m Jesse in Breaking Bad; oodles of profanity.

Just be sure to edit carefully before you submit your work.

Can’t stress that enough.

Write alternatives inline

Surfing the type-delete-type-delete wave means you can work on one sentence for thirty minutes and have nothing to show because you deleted most of what you wrote.

Instead, put optional phrases in brackets or parentheses as you write. Separate them with a vertical line, comma or asterisk. Or just write mega-run on sentences.

There’s a million and one ways (oodles, buckets of options) to say this most awesome sentence (life-changing sentence, sentence that will inspire people everywhere to recycle and save this good planet) but it will only come to fruition (happen | occur | call me maybe) if I get the idea down on the page (get it written, get the words out, make up my ever-loving mind).

This keeps you writing and lets you compare your options side by side so you can choose your best phrasing.

Insert [TK]

This one’s courtesy of Andrew Blackman’s guest post The Two Letters That Will Help You Write Faster on The Renegade Writer. “TK” is journalistic shorthand for where you need to fill in the blanks because you need to look up or verify information—after you’re done with your initial drafting.

According to Blackman, “Just type TK, with a short reminder of what you need to do (for example, “TK section on costs”) and keep moving.”

Just like I did when I wrote that paragraph to find the link to the original article.

Blackman’s intent was centered around writing faster but let’s face it, sometimes we’re blocked because we get distracted by fact-finding. Or we have so much information that we try too hard to cram it all into one piece.

Using “TK” can help us break out of that mire.

Whatever gets it on the page, get it on the page.

First drafts are expected to suck, remember? So don’t be afraid to do what you have to do to get the words on the page and then make ‘em pretty.

Now, over to you. Any crafty ways of getting around writer’s block when you’ve got a deadline looming? Share in the comments.

11 thoughts on “4 ways to write your way out of writer’s block, fast

  1. Great advice, Erica! I have used the TK and the brackets with optional language before, but when I am REALLY blocked and under the gun, I type out unrelated prose or verse – nursery rhymes, the preamble to the Constitution, recipes, whatever – until I get my mojo back. I usually do this in a separate document, although I have been known to occasionally leave a Monty Python quote in my work products, LOL!

    • Thanks! For the kind words and the additional good tip.

      “… I have been known to occasionally leave a Monty Python quote in my work products…”

      You have my respect. That’s pretty fantastic. 😉

  2. Hey Erica,
    Happy to see a new post. I love your light style that still hits home. It’s what I usually shoot for as well. You know I love the topic of creativity. I never use the words “writer’s block” but I’ve used most of these techniques and more when I’m stuck. I often open a magazine and just type to get words flowing. I usually try to pick articles I’ve read so that I’m not typing and trying to read (comprehend, understand) at the same time. (See what I did there?)

    The statement about, “What is Writing” on my home page came about staring at a blank screen and typing that question.

    I came up with…
    “A writer looks at a screen or piece of paper like a canvas. They see a country unexplored, a picture unpainted, a tale not told. They dare to venture into the barren land, explore its dark corners, and paint its pictures. Then they unveil the epic with the goal of compelling people to visit their newly discovered territory.”
    …which I thought was quite cool for having started out stuck and it got me going.

    The TK is a great technique to use. I use it a lot for posts. I think I first heard about that from Linda on Renegade Writer.

    I haven’t used the venting much but I may try it if I’m really stuck. 🙂
    Have a great day,
    Peter

  3. Hi Erica

    I’m not one of those people who think you’ve gotta write at practically the same speed as a typist. Plenty of bloggers and writers advocate this, but it just isn’t me.

    But anything that helps you to speed up, whatever your writing approach, still has to be a good thing.

    All these tips fundamentally help increase your earning potential as a writer. So that’s why I like ’em.

    • Hi Kevin,

      Glad you like them. I’m not a proponent of writing as fast as possible at all times. However, as I’m a cubicle-dwelling copywriter at the moment, I do know that we’re often given unreasonable deadlines that we have to hit anyway. So the faster we can get over the hump, the better. 😉

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