A Practical Approach to Overcoming Writer’s Block

Words are simple and words are tough. I mean, there are those times where you want to write but the words won’t come to you. They are an angry two year old stomping their feet hard on the ground. Not because they hate broccoli but because they just don’t want to go without any sound reason. A writer’s block is the most difficult situations to deal with.

One evening, a friend and a fellow writer decided to offer a solution said something that stuck with me. Trying to tame his unruly hair, he said, “You realise that you have written for long enough to have enough inputs to tame the beast that writer’s block is, right?” For the longest time, I have relied on instincts when it came down to writing. But here it was, a sure shot escape route to mitigate the monstrous demon wreaking havoc on a gloomy morning. I had to channel this information logically to get an output and I did.

To be honest, I have been there but it took me a while to find an efficient and effective way to overcome the problem. But I got there and it was a four step process. 
  • Diverge
  • Converge
  • Rearrange
  •  Edit
The four-step approach to overcoming writer’s block

Step 1:Diverge

Think about everything under the sun. A random coffee shop. A small lane on your everyday commute. Or that man who lugs his backpack from work everyday but makes it a point to stop by at a particular street for a cup of tea. So the idea is to have a few themes, stray thoughts on a piece of paper. Once you have something that has a tangible existence, it gives you the necessary confidence to go on.
  •  I find it easy to do this at a stretch of twenty-odd hours, usually on Sundays so that I have a pool of ideas that I can work with.
  • On wee occasions, Google search has helped me too
  • Sometimes, letting go of any kind of bias how trashy the idea may sound gives spectacular results. I have even found some useless (initial) pieces fit in the groove so well in a plot much later

Step 2:Converge

So maybe you have ten or fifteen odd ideas on paper. But where are the details? Look harder. One and four can fit in a flow. Maybe eight will fill a perfect spot between three and eleven. Who knows? But well, no matter how dissociated your thoughts are, there’s always a pattern. In this step, you essentially look harder and identify a potential flow. It gives you a direction and this direction, will in turn help you navigate through the idea.

Step 3:Rearrange

Or as they call it storyboard. Except, the fact that you don’t need to look at a linear flow. Of course, there’ll be most pieces that are better told in this fashion. Factual information is best-suited when simplified. Nevertheless, Prestige and Shutter Island have taught me the value of non-linear forms of storytelling. The transition in this case is swift, smooth and has a nasty (but oh, so GOOD) surprise element to it.
This is the most labour-intensive process of them all. You must step into the reader’s shoes and ask questions like, for example, “how does paragraph one relate to paragraph two?” “Can I enhance the reader’s experience here by moving things around?” Basically, you question, struggle but create the optimum route for the reader to convey the message accurately.

Step 4:Edit

Hemingway said “Write drunk, edit sober.” We are so taking that route. From a couple of phrases, you have managed to create five hundred to six hundred odd words in a span of a few days after ages now. How do you feel about ruining that with a typo or a missed comma or worse, replacing a full stop with an exclamation mark.
To ensure the maximum attention of detail, I came up with the P.O.P. Principle.
  • Punctuate, because nothing kills a good piece of content like mistaking a semi colon for a colon or ending a bullet point with a full stop. Make one long sentence into two, if need be. 
  • Orthography; look at every damn spelling, every hyphen, word spacing, forms of emphasis and punctuation (again.) Go over every sentence multiple times. 
  • Polish;“Is there a better adjective that the current word can be replaced with?” “Would separating these two pieces of information into different paragraphs make sense?” You have to perfect every odd bit with utmost precision.
The first few times I did most of it unconsciously because it just felt right. With time, somehow the realisation crept in and stayed with me. Any new approach needs to be fine-tuned. The first few pieces I wrote using this technique, I had to rip the paper into shreds. But it got better with time.
The motive behind this exercise is to have something. It is better than a hand not stained with ink at all.

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