Write to the Jagged Edge: a Tip for Breaking Writer’s Block
For the purposes of this post, I’m not going to get into the discussion about whether writer’s block is real or not (Google “myth of writer’s block” and you’ll have plenty of results). In the ways that matter, whether it’s “real” or not doesn’t matter.
We can all agree that writers sometimes get stuck. Sometimes we get stuck because we’re burned out or lack perspective. Sometimes we get stuck because we put ourselves in a corner. Reliably, we are our own worst enemies, often playing ostrich with our manuscript because we don’t want to deal with some thorny issue (which might have something to do with the manuscript, OR with our relationship to the manuscript).
This second kind of writer’s block (putting ourselves in a corner/playing ostrich) is entirely self-constructed and you can make this problem disappear, every time. My advice on how to do this doesn’t rely on (y)our ability to make a clear choice in the moment—because you probably won’t want to. Instead, we are going to learn how to outsmart ourselves.
Set yourself up for success—by cheating
Now before you think I recommend nefarious/ethically dubious/illegal activity, ask yourself this: What’s the number one problem we experience when we sit down to write?
Answer: we don’t know what to write about.
Of course this isn’t true, not really. We do know what to write about—sort of. What’s more true is we can’t figure out where to get started…where to grab hold of the thoughts and how to line them up in a row.
Sitting in front of an empty page, we easily think ourselves into a state of paralyzed anxiety.
So how do we overcome this problem? Easy. We cheat.Can you cheat yourself our of writer's block? Yes you can! Here's how Click To Tweet
The easiest way to cheat yourself out of writer’s block is to leave an unfinished thought for you to deal with later. Don’t finish the chapter. Don’t finish the paragraph. Hell—don’t even finish the sentence.
When you finish writing for the day, make sure to NOT wrap up your loose ends. Leave them dangling in the breeze.
The jagged edge
Are you annoyed even thinking about doing this? GREAT. Perfect! That is exactly what we want. Your fingers are veritably twitching to finish that sentence/thought/chapter, to put a nice bow on it. Seeing it dangling there, unfinished, provides you with endless frustration and…guess what? The desire to continue writing.
I call this leaving the jagged edge. You are purposefully leaving the writing unfinished, broken-looking—in need of repair. The magic is that by definition, you create the situation wherein you not only want to keep writing…you know what you want to keep writing about.How to use the jagged edge - and why it will help to overcome writer's block Click To Tweet
Try it a few times this week. Come back here and tell me how easy (or not, though I doubt this) it was for you to pick up where you left off and keep going.
If you really need to finish that thought, fine: keep going. Continue long enough to create another jagged edge.
You don’t have to make any decisions in the moment or the writing session. Ahead of time, before you write one word, you decide this is how you’re going to operate while writing the rest of the manuscript. You will finish every day (except for the day right before you send your editor your draft) on the jagged edge. You will leave every day’s writing unfinished.
Then, while writing, you don’t need to think about choices at all. Are you frustrated because you wish to keep writing? Brilliant! Come over here and tell me so in the comments, or ping me on Twitter or LinkedIn. I will shower you with high-fives.
The Bottom Line
Much of the time, writer’s block is a condition we give ourselves, and we usually use it as an avoidance strategy (it’s REALLY effective). One of the easiest ways to sidestep your own self-sabotage is to adopt the strategy of writing to the jagged edge. Try it. Trust me, human beings were not designed to be ostriches. We lack the requisite feathers.
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