Setting the Stage
There are times when you have to sit down and slam out your copy all at once. You have a tight deadline or you just have so much to say that you have to get it all out at once and quickly. If you have the time, there’s another trick to working past the writer’s block. I call it setting the stage.
If I’m working on a non-fiction story, I try to do this as soon after the interview or event as possible while things are fresh in my mind. If it’s for an opinion piece or essay, I mull things over in my mind until I have some general ideas.
When you’re ready, sit down and sketch out the piece. Write a lead or two – don’t worry if they’re good or not. Then write through the story loosely. You don’t need to stop and check quotes or facts, although you probably want to make a note to do it later. Don’t stop to fix commas or check spelling. This can be just a skeleton or it can be a very fat all encompassing draft. The most important thing is to get something on paper and don’t take too long to do it.
Now, walk away. Go read the paper, watch television, play Frisbee with the dog, make supper, down a Guinness.
Maybe you keep thinking about the story, maybe you don’t. Maybe you rework the lead in your head, maybe you forget what you wrote. Regardless of whether it’s top of mind or not, you brain will keep working on it. Way back in the recesses of your creativity, ideas about that story will be bubbling and churning and working themselves out.
Stay away for a few hours or even a full day if you can. When you come back, you will likely find that everything makes more sense. You’ll have a better feel for what the lead should be and what should follow. Maybe you’ll find that you like what you have and you just have to fill in the gaps. Maybe you will see a better structure. It’s sort of as if in writing down your ideas you have planted a seed in your brain. You return to find a nearly full grown flower.