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    The Ailment: Writer's Block

    Friday, November 14, 2008

    The Ailment: Writer's Block

    The Cure: The Strategies That Follow

    Have a headache? Take a couple of aspirins. Eyes a little itchy? Apply some eye drops. Feeling drowsy? Drink a cup of joe. If only all ailments could be cured so easily.

    One work-related ailment that you may occasionally suffer from is writer's block, the inability to begin or continue an important letter, proposal, news release, or so on. The cure for writer's block doesn't come in tablet or liquid form; instead, it comes from applying one of these writing strategies directly to a piece of paper.

    Free Writing: Writing nonstop for 5-10 minutes will break you out of the I-don't-know-what-to-say doldrums. The operative word here is "nonstop," as in no stopping, period. If you get stuck, keep writing "I'm stuck" until something relevant comes to mind.

    Here's a first line to get you started: I'm suppose to write about… or I'm writing to                 about…

    Listing: This is really another form of free writing, except you list words and phrases rather than write complete thoughts. Start with a key word related to your writing, and list ideas nonstop (no cheating) until you feel ready to tackle the actual writing.

    Clustering: Begin a cluster with a nucleus word related to your writing. Then freely record ideas around this word. Circle each new idea and draw a line connecting it to the closest related idea.

    After 3 or 4 minutes, a starting point for your writing should begin to emerge.

    Direct Dialoguing: Create a dialogue between two people (you possibly being one of them). Keep the conversation going as long as you can. The give and take of the dialogue will generate plenty of writing ideas.

    You: Maria, we've got to talk about staffing in shipping.

    Maria: Okay, what's up.

    You: Well, I've just received the operating budget for next quarter and…

    Audience Appeal: Address a completely unrelated audience in an exploratory writing. Consider a group of retirees, a live television audience, the readers of a popular gossip magazine, or so on. This strategy, just like all of the others, should take care of your writer's block.

    5 W's & H: If you're suffering from a slight case of the ailment, answering who? what? when? where? why? and how? about your topic may be all that you need to get started or to continue.

    The Bottom Line: Find out which of these strategies really work for you. Then make sure to apply one or more of them whenever you're ailing from writer's block.

    —Dave