Do you need a cure for writer’s block? Do you find writing a chore? Do your words come out sounding awkward, while your ideas come out sounding vague or confused? You may be the victim of a bad writing habit that afflicts millions of people: trying to be creative and self-critical at the same time.
The problem is this: the brain’s two hemispheres produce contrasting types of activity. The right hemisphere expresses and creates– that’s the side that writes. The left hemisphere discerns and criticizes – that’s the side that revises. If you sit in front of your computer and try to exercise both functions at once—writing and revising—chances are you’ll end up with either a mish-mash, writer’s block, or both.
Don’t Strip the Gears
You can’t effectively create and criticize yourself simultaneously. Trying to write at the same time as you evaluate what you’ve just written is like trying to drive a car while throwing it into reverse. Judging what you write as you write it strips your gears just as literally.
No one could write well if someone stood over their shoulder talking the whole time, taking apart each sentence and paragraph as it went onto the page. We’d never tolerate such behavior from others, yet many people do this all the time to themselves. And then they judge themselves as inherently incapable of great writing!
When you write, silence the inner critic. That’s not to say the inner critic has no place in the development of your manuscript. But the critic should be put into the driver’s seat after the writing phase is over, after you’ve got your first draft. Criticizing what you’re writing as you write it is self-sabotage.
Keep Them in Separate Rooms
Enlist the help of your creative self and your critical self separately, and you’ll find they won’t interfere with each other. Each one has its unique task to do. When you’re generating ideas, be free-flowing. If the phrasing that comes to you feels awkward, write it down anyway. Leave a blank for a word that doesn’t come up when you call for it. Flow and be easy. Just write.
Then when it’s time for revising, be as critical as you wish. You won’t hurt the flow of ideas at that point, because you’ve got them solidly down on paper. Call on your inner editor to make them sound better.
If you find writing a disagreeable chore, chances are it’s because you’re a gear-stripper. By consciously separating the forward movement of writing from the reverse movement of revising, you’ll find your inner conflict is eased. Words will start to flow more naturally, and you’ll hone them more automatically. The more you practice working in this manner, the easier and better your writing will become. In fact, the cure for writer’s block is easier than you think.
Jessi Rita Hoffman … book editing by an industry professional