Overcoming Writer’s Block and Finding Your Voice
There’s been substantial debate over the legitimacy of writer’s block. Some chalk it up to procrastination or lack of effort, others to the real neurological experience of feeling ‘stuck.’
American writer Jodi Picoult put it this way: “Think about it – when you were blocked in college and had to write a paper, didn’t it always manage to fix itself the night before the paper was due?”
Been there. But sometimes, it feels like you just can’t tap into your creativity, and when you sit down with your laptop ready to type, you don’t know what you want to…
Luckily, there are two easy ways to defeat a writer’s worst enemy: i) know your topic; and (perhaps even more importantly) ii) like your topic. Killer storytelling comes when you care about what you’re writing. Likewise, brilliant works materialize when a writer is true to their individual “voice,” rather than imitating another’s. Granted, playing off your favourite writers’ style can help develop writing skills when you’re just starting out, but coining your individual voice is essential in the long term. Many people practice this by blogging and carving out regular times to write daily, but it’s nothing to stress. A writer’s “voice” – their tone, style, and perspective – develops in time as they are exposed to, and inspired by, other writers.
In short, the only way to develop your voice is to start writing.
To help you get started, here’s some of the best miscellaneous writing advice and suggestions that can be used as a ‘guideline.’ Like other writing rules, know them, but break them.
Writing Tips and Tricks
And read lots! There are many different types of writing, and it’s not always easy to preserve your personal voice while writing for different purposes. To get in the right headspace, it can help to read something that matches the tone and style you’re going for before you start writing. For instance, if you’re writing a poetic piece with a lyrical economy of language, check out Rebecca Solnit’s “Diary: In the Day of the Postman.” Or, if you’re trying your hand at comedic writing (or just need a laugh), I would highly recommend this Guy Fieri restaurant review composed entirely of questions.
Avoid using “many people think that…”
Many people think that writing is easy and that the 80s were a stylishly superior decade. Just because you said it, doesn’t make it true! Making sweeping generalizations can delegitimize the point. It lends itself to confirmation bias, the tendency to support and express messages that reinforce a person’s pre-set opinions and beliefs. This phrase is heavily relied upon by (and should be reserved for) politicians making speeches, where facts and logic seem to be the first casualties.
That goes without saying, but you know what they say about practice.
Scott Fitzgerald once said, “using an exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.” While exclamation points certainly have their place in writing, to convey an emotion or add emphasis, it’s best to limit their use as much as possible and add excitement to the prose itself. This piece has broken that rule a few times. But then again, it’s creative writing, so why not?!
Find the balance between eloquent and succinct.
Short sentences are impactful sentences. Make it easy for your reader and do what the best writers do: deliver your message in the most direct, succinct way possible by removing decorative language. Words like “thus,” “therefore,” “consequently,” “nonetheless,” and “essentially” can be cast as generalizing filler that might sound good, but ultimately serves no purpose. The same goes for sweeping openers. A general rule of thumb is if it still makes sense without the first sentence, you might not need it.
English writer John Ruskin says scaffolding should not appear in the finished architecture. Let that be a guiding ethic while revising your work. In a word: edit, and edit again.
Need I say it? Despite triumphs in political correctness and multiple waves of feminism, gendered writing still creeps in. For the most part, it has been left in the past where it belongs. May I provide a worthwhile reminder that “he,” “man,” “mankind,” and “layman” doesn’t refer to “people.” Instead, writers opt for “he/she,” “s/he,” “people,” “layperson,” or “lay public” unless referring to a specific person or gendered group.
Start the analog way.
Scribbling ideas on paper sparks the imagination unlike anything else.
The no CEO rule.
When you’re trying to make a point, nothing is Clear, Evident, or Obvious without proper argumentation and substantiation. If you ask writers for advice, you’ll probably hear the tautological maxim “show, don’t tell.” When you’re writing a short story, this means describing the setting rather than stating it; when you are making a point, this means you need the why rather than simply providing your take on a matter. This should be practiced within reason. There is, of course, no need to substantiate well-known facts, such as that the sky is blue or that Kipling Media has the best bloggers.
All, none, everyone, no one, etc.
Almost nothing can be expressed as an absolute. All it takes is one counter-example to refute the entire claim.
And at the end of it all…
Find a helpful (and honest) friend or family member who will lend you a critical second pair of eyes. Then, brace for constructive criticism.
Implementing Your Writing
Nothing sells itself, as they say. While the marketing sphere proliferates and people are inundated with more ads and information, the viewer’s attention span decreases thusly. But, having original and clever words can help you shine through the marketing maze and tell people about your awesome product or brilliant new book.
Lucky for writers, there is a lot of opportunity in the public relations industry to get creative with copywriting, tell a colourful marketing story, and come up with catchy newsletter headers. The key is to practice and to get your writing out there. Hosting your own blog and freelancing is a great way to start. Blogging helps maintain a self-established timeline and promotes discipline in writing.
We’re here to help in the meantime. If you’re looking for more tips, need some original new copy, or just want to chat about your favourite authors, contact Kipling Media’s writing team (it’s kinda what we’re here for!).