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  • Writer's pictureLiza Engel

Breaking Through Writer's Block - The Journey and the Toolbox

Updated: Feb 20

As I sit here, fingers on the keyboard, then retreating to retype my last work again, I can't help but think the nasty irony of it all! Here I am, about to unravel the complexities of writer's block, yet I am, wrestling with it myself, rewriting this blog post more than any other. The backspace key now symbolises my futile quest for perfection. It's a stark reminder that the art of writing is not just about the words we finally see on the screen but also about the ones that never make the cut.

Writer's block, that all-too-familiar adversary, has a knack for arriving unannounced at the most unfortunate time. It can appear as a daunting wall of perfectionism driven by many underlying fears, other times as a void of inspiration and motivation, and occasionally as the crushing weight of external or internal expectations.

It leaves us wondering where to begin as the ominous presentation deadline looms ahead. But fear not! There are many paths to overcoming this obstacle.

Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

Here are some traditional tactics to overcome writer's block:

  1. Embracing Imperfection: Your first draft is not your final draft. This mantra is a reminder to free yourself from the chains of perfection. Let your words flow, however imperfectly. This free writing often breaks down the writer's block barrier. Remind yourself, that as you shift into the role of editing your work, your criteria for the first draft is not be the same as the final draft. Be kind to yourself.

  2. A Change in Scenery: Never underestimate the power of a new environment or physical movement. Whether it's a cosy cafe corner or your favorite park, a change of scenery can reignite the creative sparks. If that still doesn't work, ask yourself "what fear is blocking me?" or "what advice would I give to my daughter/niece/mentee?"

  3. Setting Small Goals: The journey of a thousand words begins with a single sentence. Set modest, achievable goals. Each paragraph, each sentence you write, is a step forward, a small triumph in the grand narrative of your writing journey. You can't edit what you haven't yet written.

Here are some ways you might use the power of AI in your writing process and still be proud to call it your own:

  1. AI for Idea Generation:

  2. Overcoming Perfectionism with AI Drafts: Switch roles and let AI draft the initial version, and you can be the editor who rewrites everything. It's an exercise in letting go of perfection, a first step that you can refine and elevate. You might even end up scrapping everything but still be inspired to write a new angle. Prompt for AI: "Draft an initial version of an article on [selected topic], focusing on main ideas rather than linguistic perfection."

  3. Structural Assistance from AI: If structuring your work feels daunting, AI can lay the groundwork, allowing you to concentrate on enriching the content. Prompt for AI: "Provide a comprehensive outline for a [type of work] on [chosen topic], including key sections and potential references suitable for [audience]." If you want to take it to the next level, include in the prompt your audience profile.

Recently, I've heard many boast about writing without AI assistance. Maybe it is "better", depending on your criteria. I am sure that in the late 80s many people also said, "I didn't use Excel for modelling these scenarios; I calculated them all by hand with my pocket calculator!" The good news is that you get to decide how you use your time and what serves you and your audiences best.

Every word you write, every sentence you construct, is a step towards overcoming this challenge. And who knows, this journey, with its trials and triumphs, might lead to your finest work yet. Keep writing, keep revising, and enjoy the creative process. After all, isn't the journey as important as the destination in the art of writing and bringing new insights to engage with your audiences?

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