Writer's Block - the writing process

Part Seven

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The Writing Process

Today is the penultimate part of the writer's block and stress series.  Today I am going to provide tips on how to overcome perfectionism in the writing phase. The first thing to do is to separate out the creative, the writing and the editing processes.  It is important to allow the writing to flow without that ‘critical’ head on and holding you back. When it comes to editing, perfectionism can still be a problem – of course we want to clean up any spelling and grammar errors, and tidy up the wording of phrases here and there, but at some point we have to say ‘ok, that’s it; it’s done’.  Easier said than done?  Well let’s see:

The writing process

This element requires both task focus and creativity as we need to come up with the words, the phrases and shape our ideas into a rough product before moving onto the editing process:

DO NOT EDIT AS YOU WRITE! - I’ve already said this several times, but it is the first critical step and worth repeating at the outset.  Save the editing for the end and just let those words flow, uninterrupted.

Remove the ‘it’s got to be perfect’ inhibition from the initial writing process – most writers produce at least a first draft, knowing they’re going to come back to look at it later and tidy things up.

Write for the bin - This is a phrase I’ve heard song writers and poets use.  It is a way of getting over the perfectionism by telling yourself from the outset that much of what you write will be changed or trashed before you reach the final version. In amongst the stuff you’ll ultimately throw out will be some hidden gems, which are less likely to make it to the page if you’re stressing over getting it perfect first time.

Practice writing imperfectly - Perfectionism is a habit developed over time, so a great way to counter that habit is to create a new one.  Create a session in your writing time where you deliberately set out to write some rubbish.  It might freak you out at first, but that’s what you have to practice getting over.  Go further – publish it in a blog (make up a false identity if you must) but do it.  Get past the need to present only perfection and your writing will flow (works for me this one), and you may find your ‘rubbish’ really isn’t that bad, either!

Work to ‘numbers of words’ targets - Setting a time target (I will write for an hour) may seem sensible, but for perfectionists this can mean hashing and re-hashing one beautiful sentence, that we’re still not happy with, for the full time period. Throw out the time target and work towards a measurable outcome – 500 or 1000 words, perhaps. Combine this with the previous tips and instruct yourself to write ‘any old crap’ (or words to that effect).  The point is, you will then be 1000 words closer to your overall target and you will have plenty of ‘stuff’ (technical term) to edit later – winner all round!

Tomorrow, the editing process

Keep an eye out for the next blog.

Dave Algeo
Motivational Speaker on resilience and men's mental health. 

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