“Yes, you can extend your writing deadline, but it will be $1,000 per day.”
For five years I procrastinated writing my first book, so I paid a writing coach to enforce a five week deadline. Her approach was fierce, penalizing procrastination with hefty fines, but her tough love worked.
A few months later I had a final draft, a cover design, a book launch team, and an Amazon #1 New Release.
None of this would have happened without six crucial tips that saved me from writer’s block.
1. Think of the Finished Piece like a Letter
Writer’s block can happen when you try to write for an entire group instead of one single reader. If you struggle to find words for this opinionated audience, focus on the face of one person you hope reads your piece. Whether this ideal reader is your inner child or favorite client, vividly imagine their face and write as if writing them a letter. This will re-connect you to the tone you wish to use and the words they need to hear.
2. Verbally Process with Imaginary Conversation
You are rarely at a loss for words when speaking, so you shouldn’t be at a loss for words when writing. The next time you stumble over the written word, put down the pen. Explain the idea or tell the story as if speaking to a friend. If you can’t remember what you said, pull out your voice memo app and record the hypothetical conversation.
3. Let Technology Transcribe Your Thoughts
If you need to verbally process without the hassle of transcribing voice memos, let dictation software like SpeechNotes and Dictation transcribe your words as you speak directly into your computer’s microphone. If you have a flash of inspiration while driving, you can upload MP3 files to paid services like Descript and Trint transcribe them later on.
4. Get Creative Juices Flowing with Digital Inspiration
If you feel creatively zapped, engage with websites like Writelight, MindNode, and Evernote. Writelight helps you get in the habit of daily free-writing. Their well designed website allows you to set a timer and free-write to thought-provoking prompts. If you are a visual person, you will love MindNode, which lets you create mind maps out of thoughts, images, and links that you discover. They use a layout to “always make sure it is readable and beautiful” - turning your half-baked ideas into future starting points. If you need a place to get organized without the visual flare, download the Evernote App. You can find all of these resources on the web, app store, and on Instagram.
5. Productively Procrastinate
Sometimes your mind is too scattered to write anything worth saving. In these scenarios, take a five minute break to release mental stress and create space for new ideas. Go on a walk, do yoga, meditate, wash dishes. As soon as you get out of your head, you’ll be running back to your desk with ideas now that you’re not forcing them.
6. Set Positive and Negative Rewards
Break your writing goal into big and small benchmarks. For each benchmark, set an appropriate completion reward such as a mini dance party, or five minute coloring session. For each big benchmark, set a bigger reward like buying those dream jeans or taking a day off to hit the beach. On the flip side, set big and small penalties for not hitting benchmarks. Possible penalties include donating money to a cause you don’t support or going to work on Saturday. These penalties are still rewards because they lead to the ultimate reward, your finished masterpiece.
If you employ these tips, you won’t need a $1,000 fine to motivate you (unless that’s your self-inflicted penalty). I waited half a decade to bust through writer’s block and hold a finished product. You don’t have to wait that long. When in doubt, start small, set your timer, and write a heartfelt note to your ideal reader. Remembering the words of a writer who overcame his fair share of writer’s block, “If I had more time I’d have written a shorter letter.”
Thanks Mark Twain, we will keep that in mind.