Of the challenges a reporter faces every day, the actual writing portion of his or her duties is sometimes the most overwhelming.
For instance, part of my job includes writing a column and today I'm having writer's block. Indeed, I have no idea what to write.
Scratch that. I have a few ideas, but when I start thinking about how to begin, so far this morning I'm hitting a brick wall. So, instead I thought I'd write about writer's block.
Merriam-Webster defines writer's block as a psychological inhibition preventing a writer from proceeding with a piece. Whether it's fear of your piece not being good enough or fear that you really have nothing interesting to contribute to the conversation, every writer struggles with it or they're lying.
This was one of the most important lessons that I learned in the college advanced writing class I took during my sophomore year. I was required to take the course in pursuit of my English degree and I felt overwhelmed when comparing my writing to some of the juniors and seniors who were also in the class. Some of them had won writing contests, or in a couple of cases, had even been published. Dr. Larry Long, the instructor for the course, however, reminded us that all writers face writer's block at some point.
One of the most important ways to combat writer's block, he said, is to write. We were taught to simply start writing whatever was in our head, without worrying about editing or making sure the piece makes sense structurally or grammatically. As a perfectionist, this part was very challenging for me. But, he said, by writing words on a page nonstop for 30 minutes, eventually words will form sentences, sentences will form paragraphs and paragraphs will combine to find meaning.
After 30 minutes, he recommended taking a quick break before coming back to read what we’d written. Hopefully we’d find a few nuggets worth developing further.
I’m reminded of some very wise words from a very famous fictional character: “Do or do not; there is no try.” In other words, you can talk and talk all day long, as I have on occasion, about how you’re trying to write a story but you’re having trouble, and actually accomplish nothing.
But, if you just sit down, and begin pecking keys on the keyboard, it actually won’t take long for the piece to take shape. And, when you think about it, this lesson applies to all of life. You don’t really learn until you start moving.