For years, the slogan Just Do It has been synonymous with Nike. It is the primary marketing slogan of the athletic shoe and apparel giant and the simple phrase is recognized worldwide. The genesis of the slogan was Nike’s effort to encourage, prod and cajole potential customers into working out, thereby creating a need for Nike products.
Do your writing projects need encouraging, prodding or cajoling? Have you been affected by the plague of death for writers? I’m talking about writer’s block. There are two schools of thought on writer’s block. One school believes that writer’s block is a very real condition, which prevents writers from being able to produce creative, well-written prose. The other school refuses to acknowledge the existence of writer’s block. They see it as an excuse not to write. I cast my lot with those in the second camp.
The fact of the matter is, with precious few exceptions, writing is work. It is hard work. Those who wait for inspiration to strike before writing are usually doing only one thing when it comes to their writing. They are not writing.
Richard Nordquist authored a very interesting piece on overcoming writer’s block. “Read a lot. Write a lot. Have fun,” can be found at About.com. Nordquist offers five steps to overcoming writer’s block. Here are some excerpts from that article.
1. Get Started
- “The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.”
- “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” –Mark Twain
2. Capture Ideas
- I carry a notebook with me everywhere. But that’s only the first stop. Ideas are easy. It’s the execution of ideas that really separates the sheep from the goats.” –Sue Grafton
To expand on Grafton’s thought, in today’s world of technology, many of us are never without our Smart Phones. Use the note pad application on your phone to capture thoughts and ideas until you can put these ideas to paper.
“I’ve often said that there’s no such thing as writer’s block; the problem is idea block. When I find myself frozen—whether I’m working on a brief passage or brainstorming about an entire book—it’s usually because I’m trying to shoehorn an idea into a passage or story where it has no place.” –Jeffery Deaver
3. Cope With the Badness
- “You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.” –Octavia Butler
- “If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.” -Margaret Atwood
- “Don’t get it right, just get it written.” -James Thurber
4. Establish a Routine
- “I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately, I am inspired at 9 o’clock every morning.” –William Faulkner
- “Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.” –Barbara Kingsolver
- “If you want to write, write it. That’s the first rule.” -Robert Parker
- “My block was due to two overlapping factors: laziness and lack of discipline.” -Mary Garden
- “Planning is not writing. Outlining—researching—talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing. –E.L. Doctorow
Nordquist summed up his thoughts on overcoming writer’s block when he quoted Daniel Pinkwater in the title of his article: Read a lot. Write a lot. Have fun. I agree wholeheartedly.
Two things I have learned in the last year as I completed my first novel are: First, as Jack London said, “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” Second, as I’m learning now, John Irving was right when he said, “What I’ve always recognized about writing is that I don’t put much value in so-called inspiration. The value is in how many times you can redo something.”
As you contemplate the next step in accomplishing your writing goals, remember, it starts with putting something on the page. Nike got it right. Just Do It!