We've all experienced it: Staring at a blank page and finding no words with which to fill it.
We call it writers block and we rail against it as if it was a physical being standing between us and the words needed to fill that empty page. It seems real, almost palpable, and frustrates us to the point that we give up before we even get started.
Thousands of writers have written thousands of words about how to beat writers block into submission. Theories as to its origin and nature surface regularly. Solutions are tried and abandoned. Yet it persists in frustrating would-be and experienced writers to the point that many truly wonderful works never get written.
The irony is: Writers block is a myth.
Writing words on paper is an action, like virtually every action you take, from getting out of bed in the morning, to eating, walking, reading email, or paying bills. Have you ever had walking block, reading block, or eating block? Of course not.
Nothing is stopping you from taking the action of writing. Anybody at any time can type the word "the" onto a computer screen. Anybody.
In fact, one cure often proposed for writers block is to take some other action, like walking, reading, etc.
So why do we get blocked?
Most of the time, we write with ease. We think nothing of answering an email, of jotting down notes at a meeting, of dashing off a comment on a forum, or of writing a personal note on a birthday card.
Why are these writing tasks easy? We know our subject well. We are confident our message will be well received. We have the time. We need to write these messages or bad consequences will ensue. We won't be criticized for the message we send.
This is the answer to writers block. In essence, writers block is the fear of action, a fear that what we write may not be good enough, that others will laugh at us, criticize us, throw rotten tomatoes at us, and that we might make fools of ourselves.
Here are five key items that keep you from writing and how you can overcome them:
1. You do not know your subject well enough. In fiction, your characters may not be well developed. You have no idea how they will act in a certain situation. In non-fiction, you have not done your research or have not thought through your position.
2. You do not give writing priority. If your writing project is not important enough, you will never complete it. We find time for "important" tasks, like going to a movie, watching television, going for a walk, or taking a vacation. Make your writing more important than your other priorities and you will write.
3. Your writing is never good enough. Hemingway once said that all first drafts were garbage (he used a much stronger word). If you try to be perfect the first time, you will never write a word. Give yourself permission to write very badly, then go ahead and write. Writing is a profession, learned with time and practice. Put in the time and your writing will always be good enough.
4. You expect writing to be hard. Writing is no harder than any other action you take. In fact, some actions are much harder. It is a matter of perception. We steel ourselves for the difficulty we expect when writing. Then, of course, we experience that difficulty. Relax. Let the words flow. You'll be surprised how easy it is.
5. You never take action. It is far easier to think about writing than to actually do it. Action exercises the brain. The more you write nonsense the easier it will be to write pieces that make sense. Recreate the brain pathways that allow words to flow easily.
Above all, never give up. Writers block is an excuse to not write. Stop waiting for inspiration. Stop doing low priority actions to avoid writing. Write your ideas down. Do what the pros do: Write, good, bad or indifferent, but write.
To learn more about how to overcome these mental blocks to writing, get Lee's five part email course "How to Break Through Writers Block" at http://www.writersblockmyths.com
Lee Pound (http://www.leepound.com) edits and publishes books for professionals and entrepreneurs who want to establish themselves as experts in their markets. He is also co-producer of two seminars, Speak Your Way to Wealth and Market Your Way to Wealth. He is author of 57 Steps to Better Writing, editor of Coaching For the New Century and editor of Adapt! How to Survive and Thrive in the Changing World of Work.