I get a lot of emails from writers who think they’re suffering from writer’s block. But are they? See if this sounds familiar to you:
“I keep going back to fix things.”
“Sometimes, I hate the words I just wrote.”
“When I watch what I’m typing, I write much cleaner sentences with less typos, but I feel like I’m never going to finish my novel.”
Ring any bells? Good news: you’re not blocked. You’re just a perfectionist. That’s okay, so am I. But I’ve learned to beat it, and so can you. Here’s how.
First, understand what’s really going on inside your head: your writer brain is trying to create and edit at the same time. But those are actually two different activities. To be an effective writer, you need to write something first, then go back later and edit it. Trying to do both simultaneously will just choke you up.
Luckily, I’ve got a sure-fire way to fix it. Two ways, in fact:
1) Crush your laptop.
I don’t mean literally. I mean shrink down the window you’re using. If you’re in Microsoft Word or something similar, squash that window until you can only see a few lines of text at a time. It looks weird, but it works.
See, one of the hidden dangers of writing on a computer is the fact that it’s so easy to go back and change what you’ve already written. With a single click of the mouse, you can jump back in time and undo an hour’s worth of work. And when you have a screen full of first-draft words staring at you, it’s easy to second-guess yourself. You’ll start editing when you should still be writing. Get caught in that trap and you might never escape.
Instead, if you focus your attention on just a few sentences and hide the rest, the problem goes away. Make your window as tiny as you can stand. It narrows your focus to just the words in front of you, so you won’t get distracted.
2) Ditch the laptop and get a word processor instead.
Yes, I mean the clunky old kind with a tiny screen. A crazy idea? Maybe. But the less time you spend staring at your own less-than-perfect words, the less tempted you’ll be to change them. A smaller screen makes it easier to stay focused on the present. Plus, you won’t be able to heed the siren’s call of email or social media.
Old battery-powered word processors are easy to find on eBay or Craigslist. Personally, I’m a diehard fan of the AlphaSmart Neo. Will you look hip and cool writing on it? Not so much. But you’ll probably write faster and finish your novel sooner, which gives you a better chance to get an agent and a book deal. So, which sounds better: looking cool or getting published? Your choice.
Stay tuned for more ways to write better and get more done. In the meantime, leave me a comment and let me know how this works for you!