Yesterday, I submitted an article. Since it was first one in over a year, to say that there was rust that I needed to shake off would be an understatement. It was a labor to find my rhythm. It was tough to reconnect with my voice. But today, I’ve already started my next article – one month before the deadline. What’s my trick for beating the block? A friend of mine asked me this because he wants to get back into writing, and I’ve decided to share my answer with you, too.
As so many have said before me, writing daily is at the heart of beating writer’s block. But when you’re facing a blank page, you’re stuck, or you’re struggling with the tone or shape of your piece, setting a daily goal of writing 500 – 1000 words right out of the gate could stop an otherwise promising practice in its tracks.
My advice? Write daily, but ditch counting words. Count sentences.
A sentence is a complete thought. When we have writer’s block, getting thoughts down on the page is our struggle, not an inability to write a magic number of words. My trick gets those thoughts flowing again by asking you to tackle your block sentence by sentence. In fact, if you’re really stuck, start with the beginner version above – as you can see, on day one all it’s asking you to do is write one single sentence.
One sentence is an achievable goal. It may not seem like much to celebrate, but it is. You see, every sentence you write is a decision you’ve made about what you’re writing – for someone fighting writer’s block, that’s a big deal. Decisions move a project forward, and every step forward bolsters confidence and builds momentum. In essence, these sentence-by-sentence challenges nudge you to articulate more thoughts and make more decisions on the page day by day.
Which happens to be our ultimate goal as writers.
So today I share with you these three different challenges – beginner, intermediate, and advanced. These structures are modeled off of daily exercise challenges that use number sequencing to strike the sweet spot between an attainable goal and a challenging one.
That said, my beginner challenge is built to help you succeed. Its low numbers make it easier for you to hop back in the saddle if you miss a day of writing. Missed writing 3 sentences on day 3? Don’t quit! Add those sentences to your day 4 goal to write a total of 8. Depending on the length of your sentences, 8 sentences is somewhere between 80 – 120 words. See? Totally doable!
It’s possible that during one of these challenges, you may realize that you don’t need to count sentences anymore because you’ve found your flow and you’re able to move full speed ahead on your own. In fact, I hope that happens! These challenges are meant to jump start you, not to hold you back, so whenever you’re ready to set your own daily goal – GO FOR IT.
And they’ll always be here for you if you ever get stuck again.
Remember, your sentences don’t have to be perfect. And they probably won’t flow seamlessly right off the bat – but don’t stop, and don’t go back! That’s what revision is for, and the time for revision isn’t now.
Now get to it and BREAK THAT BLOCK! Feel free to post about your experience in the comments. Remember, whenever I post an activity, prompt (like this one), or a guided writing exercise in the Support For Writers section of my site, I will always write a blog post about the activity as well. That way, if you follow my blog you’ll always know when new exercises become available.