The first draft of anything is sh…

From Unblock Writer’s Block: How to face it, deal with it and overcome it – with over 70 writing exercises to get you started and keep you writing

As Ernest Hemmingway said, “The first draft of anything is shit.”

So you don’t have writer’s block if your writing isn’t as good as you want it to be or if it is not flowing smoothly and eloquently. Smooth and eloquent writing is as much a part of the editing process as it is of the writing process. And if you stop writing because your first drafts are not perfect, you inflict writer’s block upon yourself.

Again, I would never deny that some writers who want to write don’t write. And I know writers who have indeed stopped writing. But I know many people who don’t do a lot of things, or have stopped doing things they liked doing. When it comes to writing (or pretty much any other activity you are able to do), you only lose the ability to produce new work (or engage in the activity), if you stop. That doesn’t mean you have lost the ability. It means you’ve stopped.

As someone who has been writing his own stuff for over 40 years, has been paid to write stuff for over 35 years, and has taught writing for over 25 years, I know that it can take work to start writing, to restart writing and to keep on writing.

Are you willing to do the work required to break through the block? That is the question.

This book is full of work you can do to start writing, but only you can choose to do the work.

And if that sounds a bit daunting, feel free to rephrase the above, two sentences: This book is full of play you can do to start writing, but only you can choose to play.

Play. Doesn’t that feel better? Because that is what we are going to do here to help you overcome writer’s block. We are going to play—play with words, situations, characters and stories—and make writing fun.

But allow me to digress for a moment and differentiate between writer’s block and writer’s procrastination.

Writers are famous for procrastinating. Or as the saying goes, “I’ve never met a deadline I couldn’t ignore.” Give writers deadlines, and watch them post thoughts on Facebook or Twitter, surf the web, update iPod playlists, check repeatedly for email, even check repeatedly for snail mail.

The writers may say they are blocked. They are not. They are procrastinating. Why? It might take a Dr. Phil or a therapist to answer that simple question. But if you have something to write about and you are frittering away your time, you are procrastinating, not blocked.

Just so you know, though, sometimes a bit of procrastination can be what you have to do to distract your conscious mind from the task at hand so your unconscious mind can process the work you have to do before you plunge in and start to write. So allow yourself a little procrastination time.

Having said that, sometimes you have deadlines to meet. Deadlines can be motivating, especially if missing one means you won’t get paid for an article or won’t receive an advance for a book. But if you have problems meeting deadlines, then you might be able to apply some of the writing exercises in this book (especially freefall and clustering) to do the work you have to do when a deadline is looming. There will be a bit more on this later.

Many writers, however, often work on projects—a novel, autobiography or work of non-fiction, for instance—that has not been sold to a publisher. Such writers lack deadlines. Where is the deadline motivation supposed to come from? In other words, you have to be self-motivated when you don’t have a deadline. It can take a fair degree of self-discipline to motivate yourself. Look at all the published books out there that started as figments of the imaginations of writers who had no deadlines. It can be done.

Without a deadline, you may find yourself feeling blocked when you are, in fact, procrastinating. With that in mind, we’ll also look at how you can impose deadlines on yourself to help you combat the lack of motivation and the procrastination that might accompany the lack of a deadline. For now, though, let us not confuse writer’s procrastination, something a self-imposed kick in the butt or the fear of losing a pay check can cure, with writer’s block.

From Unblock Writer’s Block: How to face it, deal with it and overcome it – with over 70 writing exercises to get you started and keep you writing


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