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Writer’s Unblock: A Freelancer’s Tips for Finishing What You Start

I can sure sympathize with American journalist Gene Fowler when he sized up the challenge of writing by saying it was easy – “you just stare at a piece of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.”

Amen, brother!

I’ve spent many a sullen afternoon nursing cups of cooling coffee because the words stayed belligerently away.


In my case, it’s usually because “Information Underload” had a date with “Low Motivation”. Although I don’t have a perfect solution for either problem, when I solve one, the other generally slides into place.

Here are my quick fixes:

  1. Revisit the research and figure out what’s missing. If you have enough information a document should almost write itself but if you’ve been lazy you might not have enough source material to get the job done.
  2. Prioritize the information. Some of it is more important than the rest. If it all seems pretty much the same then you haven’t thought enough about what you’re writing.
  3. And WHY are you writing this piece? Be clear on what it’s supposed to do for you or your audience and you can tackle the job with more conviction.
  4. Give yourself a deadline with teeth. If a written piece needs to be done “sometime this spring” it’s a friendly task utterly lacking in urgency. Give it a deadline on your calendar to make it real.
  5. Give yourself a consequence for non-completion or a promised treat for success. I know it sounds childish but sometimes my subconscious mind will drag its heels and play with gum wrappers in order to stop me from writing. Sometimes the antidote is to either decide on a penalty (no checking emails until it’s done) or a treat (half an hour on Skype when it’s finished).

I don’t know what our friend Mr. Fowler did to ease the strain but I’m always looking for new ways to keep the train of thought on track. Got any? Let me know!

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