Her name is Melissa. Her resume came in a stack of 150 resumes. She was my only interview. She had it on paper — an top-notch education in Instructional Design — and proved it in person — intelligence, enthusiasm, and willingness to learn. Melissa was a perfect match for the entry-level editor’s job I had to offer. She lived up to it ever day and became a dynamite writer and editor.
While Melissa was training, she and I would meet weekly. When we got to month three, she came in with a problem. “I just can’t get my writing done.” she said. “I get myself and my workspace ready, and then I’m stuck with nothing.”
I asked her to tell me about her day.
Her description wasn’t surprising.
Melissa was working in the wrong order.
Very often without realizing, we send the muse packing. We build our own writer’s block instead — simply by how we order our day.
After a short conversation, Melissa solved her problem. She made one change and never had an issue with getting stuck again.
Working in the Wrong Order
What Melissa told me was with this: Each morning she cleared her desk of details and took care of actions that required contacting people on her projects. She would
- Check her email.
- Make phone calls.
- Check facts and do research.
- Straighten her files.
- Clear her in-box.
Those tasks needed attending. No question about that. They are important and necessary to organization, communication, and lowering project stress. But by the time she finished the list, people started adding email, calling her, and putting more stuff in her in-box. Melissa never had a chance to get away from the details she had a goal to finish.
The issue was one of timing. Melissa had that list at the wrong part of her day. When Melissa left the list to write, the unfinished list was still on her mind. Those details became her block.
How to Stop Building a Writer’s Block
As writers, we need to access our ideas and our subconscious when we write. Our subconscious is where the proverbial muse lives. It’s also where we can’t seem to get when we feel we have writer’s block. That access comes more easily through a clear mind and reflection, than it does after time working with details and fragments of information.
Here’s how Melissa stopped building her writer’s block.
During our conversation that day, Melissa decided to rearrange her day. She moved the list to two places — after lunch, when everyone feels not so thoughtful, and before she left her desk at the end of the day. She also let everyone know her new routine, so that they knew not to expect things from her during the first two hours each morning.
Melissa’s motto became Write first, then hit the “to do” list with a vengeance.
One way to deal with writer’s block is to not build one before we start.
When we start with an uncluttered mind, writing is faster, easier, and more productive, because we have no clutter, details, or irrelevant thoughts to break throught, no interfering noise to set aside.
Even if you write the news, you might try this version of re-ordering. Read your sources the night before. Choose your topic and a possible approach to it. Let your unconscious work while you sleep. Then in morning, focus on reading only those main sources with news-breaking details for your story. That will keep your mind free of information that it doesn’t need when you sit to write.
Still, the writing process is individual.
Have you found the order that works best for you?
Would you tell us so we might try it?
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Liz can help with productivity problems, check out the Work with Liz!! page in the sidebar.