Don't hate me, but I don't usually get Writer's Block. After so many years of writing for a living, I discovered that I only tend to get blocked when (1) I haven't done enough research or (2) I don't have a deadline.
Deadlines can be a great antidote to Writer's Block, but not always. Like today, for example. This morning, I was trying to write a longish case statement on water conservation that's due on Monday. I had plenty of research, some great quotes, everything was properly organized and annotated. I even started with an outline, but after three hours of work, I still had, in the immortal words of my third grader, "bagel."
(By the way, when did "bagel" get to be a synonym for "nothing?" Or is that expression limited to my house?) I digress.
So I went back to the list of writing tips I keep in a file called (no lie) "In case of Writing Emergency, Break Glass" and pulled out the first one on my list: Write the Big Finish first.
This is a tip from a friend of mine who writes fiction. Whenever she gets stuck in a story, she writes the climactic scene closest to the end of the book. (In my adaptation of the tip to marketing/fundraising writing, I consider the climactic scene to be the concluding section that comes right before the ask/call to action.)
You know, the section where you tie everything up and bring it all to an emotional turning point. Writing that section helps me focus not only on what my case statement (or other piece) is about, but what I want the reader to feel when they finish that section.
So far, writing the Big Finish first is working for me today. It helped me realize I was starting the case statement in the wrong place. My introduction was not going to lead seamlessly to my conclusion and my subconscious apparently knew it. And blocked me.
When I got the Big Finish down, the introduction came much more easily and now I've completed my first draft. It's solid, but not stellar and I'll take the next few days to polish it up before handing off to the client.
That's one last thing to remember: just because you write it, doesn't mean you have to keep it. The delete key is a marvelous thing. As is the "Save As" command. (Unpaid commercial here: I write with a Mac OS program called Scrivener that has a feature called "Snapshots." It lets me save versions of my draft within the same place in the document and I can name them and date them. It makes it easy to revise and rewrite without losing your original material.)
Back to regularly scheduled post now: I'm sure the Big Finish copy I wrote to get started today will undergo some fairly substantial revision. And that's okay. I just needed to get myself moving and have copy to work with. It's (almost) always easier to fix something you've already written than it is to write from a blank slate.
Disclaimer: Writing the Big Finish first doesn't always work, which is why it's good idea to start your own "In Case of Writing Emergency Break Glass" file and keep a list of things to try when you're desperate. If that tip hadn't worked, I'd have moved on to the next one on the list. I'll post about that one some other time.
But to get you started on your own Beating Writer's Block file, here are a few of my favorite writing sites:
Men with Pens (This is one of the few sites I read every day. The writers are engaging and thoughtful. They have great tips on writing, plus they're the kind of people I'd like to meet for a beer.)
Copyblogger (Another good site with writing tips -- especially for the Web -- but for other things as well. Well-organized and fairly easy to search by topic. Brian Clark also seems to be very generous to other bloggers and hosts many guest posts.)
Write to Done (Love the title. Especially since the best writing advice I ever got was "Stop whining and write until you finish the damn thing." Excellent links to other sites as well).
Still stuck? Go take a walk, read two more blogs on "Beating Writer's block" and then well, you're still going to have to finish the damn thing. So get to it.