Reminder: Sugar-Free Syrup is Not Dish Soap: Staying Focused

OK, here’s the thing: I just landed a pretty good writing gig, and cannot think of a thing to write. It’s gotten so bad that I can’t stay focused and wound up pouring sugar-free syrup into my dish water instead of dish soap. Trust me, syrup does not do a very good job of cleaning the dishes.

Here are some things that I try when the writer’s block hits:

Do the research for all of the articles first, then write each one.

Read the style sheets from the client. Sometimes, this shakes something loose and removes whatever unconscious obstacle I have to writing. It is also a quickie refresher that prevents articles from being sent back for rewrites.

Write that article intro last. Sometimes the pressure to come up with a catchy lede can unnerve me to the point where I just cannot get started. Writing the rest of the article first reminds me what the topic is about, how the article treats it and why it’s important, all key areas of the intro.

Fake it until you make it — good advice from writing friends. Unfortunately, this approach usually lands me with a bunch of rewrites and/or rejections. So I do some other writing instead, like now, for example. Sometimes writing a blog post primes the pump.

Get up from the computer and do other tasks. Sometimes thinking about what I need to write while doing other tasks helps me organize an article in my head. And sometimes I just end up pouring syrup into the sink because I’m not paying attention. In that case, I go for a walk, and stay on the sidewalk away from cars.

Think of ideas that are opposite of the assigned title. For example, when writing an article on the benefits of macadamia nut flour, I would come up w/ opposite ideas — i.e. the nasty effects of it, the taste, the consistency, the way it screws up recipes calling for flour. So if it has all of these negatives, why would anyone want to use it? Which usually leads to research which leads to organizing that research into a coherent article. Or not. Maybe it leads to abandoning that title.

Know when you are procrastinating. Any task that I’m doing while trying to get back on track is just procrastinating if I’m not making headway on figuring out an article. That is when it is time to sit down again and write. Anything, just write.

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