Consider the following situation:
- You have an idea for what to write.
- You go to write down that idea.
- You get a new idea right as you’re about to type.
- You think about that idea instead and go to write down that idea.
- You get another new idea right as you’re about to type (or sometimes even before).
- Now your brain suddenly goes into overdrive mode, bouncing between the three ideas almost seamlessly, while also developing new ideas, so much so that you never actually write anything down.
Whenever I have this problem, it seems as if the ideas come as quickly as the cursor blinks. And since the blinking cursor does not help me actually get anything written (but only reminds me of the time I have wasted), I have decided to call this syndrome Writer’s Blink (Blink for short).
Blink is a subset of Writer’s Block and a common problem many writers face. It can apply to all types of writing, though in my case, it often materializes for my non-fiction writing (and I’ll get another kind of Writer’s Block for my fiction writing). But there are small steps you can take to alleviate the problem’s zero productivity effect.
1) Find your confidence. Do not let the fear that someone won’t like your ideas keep you from writing. Yes, you do have to be aware of your audience and that should help shape your piece, but do not shoot down every idea because someone (note that that is singular) won’t think they’re any good.
2) Write down the actual ideas. You don’t have to write anything beyond that, but getting all of the rambling thoughts out of your brain and onto paper may help you see which idea is better to pursue for your purposes.
3) Flesh out a few of the ideas. Just jot down a few things about different directions you could take several of the ideas. Does one idea seem to be flowing better or have more material than another? Maybe choose that one as the idea you’ll pursue.
4) Ask someone else for help. Maybe you have a writing friend whose opinion you trust. If you’re still struggling with Blink, see if that friend (or even several) has some insight into which idea might be better for you and your audience.
5) Make a goal or deadline. If you already have a deadline, then awesome. The closer the deadline comes, the more your brain will realize you have to write something, and hopefully it will focus more. If you don’t have a deadline, make one, or get one of your writing friends to make one for you.
6) Take a nap. Sometimes when I suffer Blink it’s because I’m exhausted and I’m trying to force my incredibly tired brain to function without proper sleep. The wonderful thing about sleep is that it can relax your brain and make you more focused. It also brings the deadline closer, so it is a two-fold benefit.
7) Just write. It doesn’t have to be perfect right away. You can always edit it. And it’s not like picking one idea to write about means you can’t write about any of the other ideas later. You can explore the other ideas later. But eventually you just have to ignore the other ideas vying for attention and focus on just the one.
I’ll be honest; I had Blink when working on this piece. Writing about Blink wasn’t even the first, second, or third idea I had. These steps helped me to formulate this piece (though, admittedly, I didn’t do step number four this time). These are guidelines and don’t always have to be followed in order. Give them a try; they just might work to get you through your Blink too.
By Tracy Buckler
Images from FreeDigitalPhotos.net. Image credits in order of appearance: renjith krishnan, smokedsalmon.