Writer’s block: You know how to write. You want to write. But for some reason, you can’t write.
Take heart. Everyone gets stuck from time to time. Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Charlie Schultz, and Mark Twain struggled with writer’s block, too.
If “writer’s block” describes you today, don’t despair!
I have good news for you:
Writer’s block is temporary.
And here’s more good news: You can still make progress on your memoir.
This is your opportunity to spiff up your already-written segments, those chapters still in rough draft form, those beautiful stories that will someday—soon, we hope!—be compiled as your memoir.
By “spiff up” I mean to tinker, to rearrange, to polish—to revise.
“Writing evolves from a sequence of drafts,” Murray says. “Scientists . . . experiment . . . . Actors and musicians rehearse. Retailers test markets, politicians take polls, manufacturers try pilot runs. They all revise, and so do writers. Writing is rewriting.”
Professional writers know the benefits of revision.
So . . . Be like the pros: If you’re stuck with writer’s block, use this time to revise the chapters you’ve already written.
Revision, Murray says, is “re-seeing the entire piece of writing.” That’s so important.
This is your opportunity to re-see what you’ve written. Re-seeing will show you where, specifically, to revise.
Revision involves checking punctuation, grammar, spelling, diction (word choice), sentence length, rhythm, conciseness, organizing, and so on. I suggest you consider each separately as you evaluate your rough draft.
If you’re stuck in writer’s block,
this is a perfect time to revise because
distance and time are a writer’s friends:
They do wonders for objectivity.
The fresher the story is in your memory,
the harder it is to catch things you need to change.
Today, let’s consider clarity.
“Clarity depends . . . on your ability to put information together so that readers know at every point where they are, where they’ve been, and where they seem to be going,” writes Peter P. Jacobi.
“When we read, our minds work in linear fashion. We cannot grasp jumps and jerks or even the sudden shifts of scene. . . .” Jacobi continues. “We [readers] have to be moved carefully, smoothly, through the [story].”
Donald Murray encourages a writer
to read a rough draft the first time
as the maker of that piece,
and then read it again as a stranger—
as someone reading the piece for the first time.
Good advice, Don!
So, put yourself in your readers’ shoes. Does your vignette or chapter make sense, or does it cause confusion?
Does your story have “jumps and jerks or . . . sudden shifts of scene”?
Look for gaps:
Did you leave out information
readers need to know?
If so, they’ll have trouble grasping
your story’s message.
Remember, it’s not in your story
until it’s in black and white on your page.
Strive for clarity.
Also remember: “Revision is not punishment.”
Enjoy making your revisions!