Early disclaimer: Take this all with just a grain of salt because what works for me might not work for you. I have just found these particular tips to work pretty well and get some writing actually done.  There have been many times in my life as a writer when I have sat down with the sincere intent to get some writing down and kept putting it off because it just didn’t seem to be coming to me, so to speak. I would go back and forth between the blank text file and everything in the world that was not related to writing – and hour after hour would pass with no result.

One of the biggest challenges that I personally face is that of procrastination. I genuinely intend to write a short story, or an article, but then I think to myself I will do it after I play a certain game or look at a certain website. Once I am done playing the game (however many hours later that might be) I, of course, come up with another excuse to not write.

An approach I have found that actually works really well — even though it seems somewhat indulgent — is to set limits to my distraction. For example, I will decide that I am going to play a certain game, but only until a certain time, and then I will write.

Conversely, what I also do is decide that I will write, ass on chair, for a set period of time and then I can “reward” myself for making it by playing that game. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy writing in itself, but when I am in a procrastinating mood, the “reward” idea is excellent.

Sometimes, the problem that I face, is that I just can’t think of what it is that I actually want to write. I find that the worst attempt at a solution to this problem is to just stare at the screen until you think of what to do.

Many years ago when I used to write simple programs in Pascal, I would come across a bug in my own code that I could not seem to fix. The solution to the bug would most often come when I had walked away from the problem itself and gave it some time to air, so to speak.

Sometimes, when you can’t think of what you want to write, the best thing to do is to just walk away from the computer altogether. Whether it is taking a walk or having a conversation with a friend, sometimes something remarkably simple will trigger ideas.

Another thing I like to do when I am really stuck is to just freely write. I will flip open a magazine and find a random photograph and start to write about the photograph — what is happening in the photo and perhaps even tell a little story. What happened in the time that led up to the photograph being taken, and what happens afterward?

Lastly, I would like to suggest creative writing prompts. Though there are plenty at the web site creativewritingprompts.com, simply searching for the term ‘creative writing prompts’ can get you more. A creative writing prompt is a simple idea or a phrase to kick off a story — fiction or nonfiction — that can then bring more ideas into your mind for what you really want to write. At least, they usually do for me. So to they should work for all of us.

7 Comments

  1. Lovely article, Gordon!
    It’s interesting how you choose to write. Several times in the past I’ve given you article ideas and you’ve written none of them. Are you only able to write what you inspire yourself?

  2. Thank you, David.
    I honestly have a huge problem with organization and remembering things. I will get up to do something and if I don’t stay focused I will forget about it. I should (should being the key word) have a google docs spreadsheet with article ideas that I will therefore never lose. Thank you for reminding me – I remember you have given me the ideas and then something shiny catches my eye… let’s see what I can do to improve that! 🙂

  3. I’m reticent to get too reliant on medication. I’m also generally fearful of any medication that alters the mind in a curious manner (ie we aren’t 100% sure of what it is doing) – I only indulge in alcohol because years of ‘experimentation’ have taught me exactly what it does to me. 🙂 I have numerous techniques to deal with the problem but it’s just a matter of keeping on top of them! 🙂

  4. I hope it works out for you, Gordon. Don’t be too afraid of medication. I know a lot of non-functional people who found a neutral happiness by taking some light medication to even out the chemicals in their brains.

  5. Hi Gordon,
    I need to read a lot to write something…if I stop reading…I can’t put forth a single line on the paper.
    I am not a writer, making me write is solely David’s credit. At the most, it is a productive pastime for me, which eventually I enjoy.What I understand as a basic is one needs a lot of self disclipline to undertake writing as a profession.
    For that matter if a daedline for is looming over you…you won’t have the luxury of procrastination – you have to produce something…