Writers block… something most writers are all too familiar with. It presents either as no ideas at all, or tons of ideas that disappear as soon as we try to put them on the page. Frustration, anyone?
I had a client, years ago, who simply could not get the words out of her mind onto any form of paper or recording device.
She had an avalanche of ideas, perfectly formed sentences and paragraphs, but as soon as she “actively noticed them” they disappeared. Her mind was filled with perfectly ordered words only so long as she didn’t try to focus on them. No matter what she tried, it didn’t work.
Here’s what we tried:
I didn’t know if this work for her or not, as I’d never tried it before, but she agreed to give it a go, and it turned out to be a really good strategy for getting words out of her head and onto the page. So if you suffer from a particularly stubborn case of writers block, the read on.
I suggested that she start with one sentence. As soon as these thoughts came barrelling into her mind, she was to focus on snatching up one sentence only. Never more, even if they felt like they were within reach. (I reasoned that because it was so much goodness that came to her in one go, she caused her own block by panicking about getting it all out onto the page.)
So she was to write down one sentence only, any one, and carry on with the rest of her day. If, an hour later, she could recall another sentence, she was to write that one sentence down. Again, only one, and then carry on with the rest of the day. If she didn’t recall any other sentences an hour later, she was to simply write down any sentence, then carry on with her day.
In this way, she was able to write at least twelve sentences for the first few days.
Now, I realise that doesn’t sound like much. It’s only two or three paragraphs, depending on how long each sentence is. But I was teaching her to relax about getting her thoughts from her head onto the page, and I was confident that within a few days, she would be able to write more than one sentence. But we had to start somewhere! Those of you who follow my writing know that I’m a big proponent of baby steps, and the idea that we only ever have to do one thing, take one step, write one sentence etc.
Of course, it worked for this wonderful woman – who was a truly great writer. She was one of those who made writing seem effortless. By the end of the week, she was able to write down two or three sentences before that blank wall rose up again. She kept at it though, and after a few weeks she could control her anxiety when the sudden downloads came to her, and get most of it down on paper or into her phone recorder. Enough to work with later anyway.
Your takeaway from this article
You only ever need to write one sentence. And I know – and, more importantly, you know – that you can do that. Because after that, it’s only another one sentence. Whether you write them an hour apart or seconds apart from each other, it’s still only one sentence at a time. Focus on a sentence, a good one, and forget about the 70 000 words you’re trying to reach. One sentence… That’s all it takes.
And we can all write one sentence. Even when we have writers block.
Click here to receive my 21 Day Creative Prompt Challenge. For 3 weeks, you’ll receive a short illustrated prompt in your inbox. Use it to write one sentence at a time, especially now during the holidays when we tend to get a little slack on our writing;-)