Monday, June 29, 2009

Breaking Writer’s Block, Part 10: Forget about It

Writer’s block is a state of mind, isn’t it? Then if you’re in that state, move to another state! Some people do this at their desk by assuming a yoga pose, some by meditating, others by praying, and still others by the trendiest positive thinking technique pulled from the best-seller charts. Whatever works—just block out writer’s block.

Here are links to books on writing by Philip Vassallo:

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Breaking Writer’s Block, Part 9: Work Out

Writer’s block could be a constant source of contention for you because you’re not in physical shape. It’s no secret that working out invigorates the body and enhances endurance during the workday. Enough isn’t said, however, about how a fit body contributes to a fit mind.

So here are two thoughts to consider. John J. Ratey. M.D., an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, believes that regular exercise directly affects the functioning of the brain ( Also, Benjamin Opipari, Ph.D., a writing instructor for Howrey LLP, an international law firm, insists that a consistent running regimen can induce creative ideas for writers (

Get the picture? If you want to keep your writing pencil sharp, work out!

Here are links to books on writing by Philip Vassallo:

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Breaking Writer’s Block, Part 8: Talk it Out

Maybe you get writer’s block because you can’t get out of your way. It might just be that you are the problem: your paralyzing perfectionism, or your crippling lack of confidence, or your inhibiting inability to relax, or your slothful lack of urgency.

Then get over yourself by checking in with teammates sitting in the next cube or phoning friends. Explain to them what you’re working on. Just by talking it out with someone willing to listen, you might get on the right track to completing your first draft. You could also get invaluable insights from them as well.

Here are links to books on writing by Philip Vassallo:

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Breaking Writer’s Block, Part 7: Take a Hike

Nothing can clear the clutter from your head as much as getting away from it all—if just for five minutes. Take a walk around the office, in the parking lot, down the street, through the park, or across the field. Start by thinking about as little as you can (nothing is ideal). Then slowly let the topic you’ll write about enter into your consciousness. Visualize the finished form of the document you have yet to compose. Read what it says. Make sure you have a pad and pen in your pocket to jot any ideas you want to remember. Now you’re ready to start drafting that message. Get back to your desk—hurry!

Here are links to books on writing by Philip Vassallo:

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Breaking Writer’s Block, Part 6: Recycle

Nothing under the sun is original, right? Then why not get your mind focused on writing by borrowing something you yourself wrote? Look through files of proposals, reports, or meeting minutes, or just retrieve a starting sentence or two from a jumpstart the composing process. Remember that the intention of the first draft is simply to get all your thoughts down. The finessing of language can come later.

Here are links to books on writing by Philip Vassallo:

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Breaking Writer’s Block, Part 5: Rewrite

Sometimes you might have a legitimate reason for contending with writer’s block: weariness, brain drain, or environmental discomforts, for instance. It may help in such situations to know that writing is a process, requiring distinct steps of planning, drafting, revising, editing, and proofreading. If you get stuck, maybe you could move to a less taxing step of the writing process.

The creative steps (planning and drafting) seem more demanding for most writers, while the analytical steps (revising, editing, and proofreading) require greater attention to self-criticism, rules, and structure. Why not move to those tasks to maximize your writing time? Shift from the first draft of document one to the second draft of document 2. Your next transition—from rewriting document 2 to drafting document 1—might be a smoother one.

Here are links to books on writing by Philip Vassallo:

Friday, June 05, 2009

Breaking Writer’s Block, Part 4: Imagine Readers

OK, so you’re intellectually paralyzed, unable to write the first word of an executive summary that your boss has asked you to draft for her boss. Writing not to the next level but the level above that one—that’ll land a lot of writers in a creative dead end!

One way to deal with this dilemma is to picture yourself in a face-to-face meeting with all your readers. What are their concerns? Would they counter your statements with statements of their own? Are the who, what, when, where, why, and how enough, or would you need more specific details, perhaps three what’s and four how’s? Write the dialogue as it unfolds in your mind. If your fingers can’t keep up with the keyboard, then use a microcassette recorder and speak the dialogue aloud and play it back when you’re ready to copy what you’ve “heard.”

Again, the idea is to break through writer’s block, to get the creative juices flowing. Once they do, jump into drafting mode.

Here are links to books on writing by Philip Vassallo:

Monday, June 01, 2009

Breaking Writer’s Block, Part 3: See Connections

This tip for breaking writer’s block cannot be overstated. Our failure to produce words is often the result of our failure to see connections between ideas where most people see no connection. Consider the connections that Mario Puzo saw between love of family and ruthless killing, which reaped him a fortune when writing The Godfather. Or the connection Pablo Picasso realized between contrasting perspectives of the human image in bringing cubism to a world audience. Or the relationship between electronics and music that gave birth to the synthesizer and forever changed our concept of music.

So there you are at work, stuck, trying in vain to get started on a report about a three-day information technology conference you just attended. You know what you experienced at the conference, but you don’t know what to write about. Where do you turn? The company’s mission statement? Its new initiatives? A market trend no one in your company has yet addressed? The clothes you wore today? The unseasonal weather? The Los Angeles Lakers’ chances of winning another NBA championship? A Rembrandt painting you saw at a recent art exhibition? The coffee crop in Bolivia? The sticky F4 key on your laptop? A 16-year-old high school student you saw in an elevator this morning with a 1950s hairstyle? The price of cotton during the American Civil War? The likelihood of Keanu Reeves recording a platinum song?

The answer is: All the above. As long as you keep your purpose in mind—to make the conference report relevant to management—you can let your imagination run during the planning or drafting stages. Let serendipity happen. When you’re struggling through a draft, take an everything-is-connected mindset rather than a self-defeating what’s-that-got-to-do-with-it attitude. Good things will start to happen.

Here are links to books on writing by Philip Vassallo: