The Street Smart Law Blog

Writing 2
  • Alan Golik

How to Get Started Writing When You Have Writer’s Block

We’ve all hit our own versions of writer’s block before. Whether it’s an essay, a presentation, a blog post, a research article, etc., sometimes it’s difficult to get our thoughts and ideas onto paper. I’ve found myself in the familiar hole of blankness plenty of times in my collegiate experience. Fortunately for us all, writing itself is a fluid and malleable process that anyone can improve upon through consistency and thinking outside the box. The following are three writing techniques that I’ve found graciously useful over my years, with the aim of helping those who struggle with getting a piece started.

The first approach is arguably the strangest one due to its unconventional manner. It’s called stream of consciousness writing. This method is when you quite literally write and write and write with no commas no care for correct grammar and punctuation you’re just putting words on the paper or computer screen and no one is stopping you or telling you you’re wrong when you’re right. That colossal run-on sentence is how stream of consciousness works. It’s where you simply free write your thoughts and ideas down, and then later down the road go back to fix the sentence structure. It’s undoubtedly weird, obscure, and goes against everything you’re taught to do in writing. Yet, it’s effective because when we write we’re wired to compartmentalize our sentences to the perfect, correct format. When you take that sense of structure away, you’re unrestricted to get all your thoughts on surface, rather than concentrating on if the sentence is composed correctly, if it makes sense, if what you wrote is something of value, etc. This technique is especially useful when using an audio to text dictation app. Instead of worrying if the app will perceive your sentences correctly, you can just candidly speak and express your ideas. After you’re done, THEN you can go to work on placing your words in an orderly fashion.

The second style for producing ideas is more commonplace: bullet pointing everything. It may seem redundant, but stripping away the sentence framework and listing concepts out can bring about ideas you would have never thought of if you were to just follow one sentence idea after the next. Bullet points are typically used as a means of listing out a few statements in a fragmented sentence structure. You won’t see many writings with more than a handful of points as too many bullets can be perceived as off-putting and unorthodox. However, when it’s used for drafting out a writing, they can be strikingly advantageous. Bullet point rough drafting may be used in the following construct:

--- This is where you produce a main idea / thought

-- Then you support it with a subsequent bullet mark

-- These are ideas that will then transform into sentences

- You can go even further and further to explain one or two things

The last writing procedure is more familiar, but can be glossed over pretty frequently. I call it the “One Focus” technique; it’s when you write about one and only one idea at a time. Let’s say you’re writing an article about a rising fintech company. You want to describe its history / origination, what the technology they created does, and its potential efficacies in the future. You have the outline for the article, with a total of three headlining points that you want to cover. Rather than sitting down and trying to write out thoughts on ALL three points, the One Focus technique is when you pick just one of the points, and target that one idea ONLY. In this instance, write about the history of the company first. Don’t even pay a single attention to the other two main ideas. Just get that one portion of your writing done. Then, let it sit and marinate. Come back to it later. An hour, an afternoon, or a day later. This will give you a fresh look at what you created, and ensure your thoughts are complete. Once that one section is finalized, move on to the next. Oftentimes we try to get everything done in one long take, just to burn ourselves out and perform with a lackluster effort. This method ensures that you get your writing done slowly but surely with a sense of understanding and accomplishment.