Break Free of Procrastination — Banish Writer’s Block by Outlining
With the cursor pulsing, insulting you and daring you to type all at once, frustrations can mount until you reach boiling point. Every other day seems easy but today is different; it seems such a labor, and you can’t seem to string together enough sentences to get in ‘the flow’.
We have all been there at one time or another!
The good news is there is a way to push through until you see results. The way to rescue your writing productivity from procrastination masquerading as writer’s block is through better planning.
The solution is right in front of us. Indeed, it has probably been there since those high school English classes that many of us preferred to nap in rather than pay attention. But now, all of those lessons from long ago, may prove useful when it comes to beating writer’s block.
Lost Without My Navigator
Throughout my university days I worked at a used car yard on weekends and through the three month summer break. I could be handed any job, and often I would be thrown the keys to a car and told to take it to someone across town. These were the days before satellite navigation was common, and I would have to use the old, heavy, and cumbersome map books to find my way around. Looking back, it was a recipe for disaster!
I once had to take a car to the Eastern part of the city. Somehow — I am still befuddled as to how exactly it happened — I ended up in the Western part of the city. With the job not done right, all I could say when I got back to the office was, “Well at least I now know how to get to the Western part of the city!”
I would be driving along in the car, all seeming to be going fine, and then I would lose my bearings. I would fuss around trying to find where I was on the map when the traffic lights turned red, only becoming more panicked as I realized I was totally lost. For awhile, driving anywhere became a real chore until I gained some confidence — after I got lost so many times I actually became familiar with every part of town.
I earned the nickname Burke & Wills, after the famous outback explorers who died in the desert after becoming lost. Ouch, that hurt!
I really do understand the saying ‘sometimes you have to get lost to find yourself’. This was me every week as I drove errands around the city.
Growing up I discovered my mother had Agoraphobia, a debilitating anxiety disorder that can often stop people from leaving the home. More commonly though, sufferers will not venture too far from home and have a fear of not being able to find their way home. Reflecting on my years of getting lost, I recognize I might have learned Agoraphobia from my mother. This surfaced as panic whenever I found myself in unfamiliar territory.
Satellite Navigation Made all the Difference
Thankfully, things changed for me once GPS navigation become readily available for almost everyone. It was a revelation. Never again would I have to be lost and not able to find myself. You can even set a destination, and if it appears you are going off-course, you will be guided back to the correct route by a robotic voice with an annoying accent.
Now I find myself getting delightfully lost but found! It’s a great way to ‘discover’ new restaurants or out-of-the-way fishing spots.
We Don’t Need to Be Lost as Writers — We Just Need a Map!
As a writer, you are possibly familiar with finding yourself lost with your work. If you have experienced frustration with the blinking cursor; if you’ve ever dealt with writer’s block, it can be a similar feeling to getting lost out on the road. You’re not sure of the next step. You don’t know where you are. And, you might know where you want to go but you don’t know how to get there.
There is a solution!
Map Out Your Journey with an Outline
Whether it is an article, an eBook, or a novel, you still want what every writer is seeking — progress. You want to sit down at the keyboard, and when you finally get out of the chair for the last time that day, you want to see words on the page. Writer’s block can set you back days, so, you definitely want to avoid it at all cost.
The best way to avoid procrastination masquerading as writer’s block is to map out where you are headed before you sit down to write.
To Mind-Map or List — That is the Question
There are two ways to go about this: create a mind-map; or, outline with headings, sub-headings, and discussion points. Either way, you’re giving yourself a strategy for the direction of your writing. Just like the satellite navigation in your car, you plug-in the destination you want to get to with your writing, and then you set a course. Keep your outline close to you as you write so you don’t deviate from the plan.
With all of your points laid out before you put your backside in the chair you will have achieved two things. First, you will know where you want to end-up. And, more important still for writing, you will have fired-up your creative engine for the writing session ahead. The act of outlining will help to put you into that creative state-of-mind so necessary for getting words on the page.
Mind-maps can be created with words written on the page circled and linked by lines. Colored circles and lines can help you create some order out of the chaos that has been likened to freehand drawing. You could also use a software program like Freemind or Xmind. These are the digital equivalents of pencil and paper.
Whether you choose pencil or computer, mind maps are excellent for engaging your right-brain. It thinks in pictures, and by using mind maps your brain can often pick up relationships between points that otherwise might be lost to you. They are often easier and quicker to use. You could literally complete one on the back of a serviette as you drink your coffee at the cafe.
Alternatively, you can list your outline with headings, sub-headings and bullet-points for your discussion. It is quick and easy too. However, it engages your left-brain, which is very linear and computational. Outlining this way will give your writing much-needed structure but it will also often be devoid of the relationships that are discovered creatively with mind-mapping.
Some writers use both methods, only in different places and at different times during the writing process. For example, an over-arching mind-map could start the process, which may then be finished at chapter level by a list. You could also mind-map to start with, and then come back to your mind-map and turn it into a list. This way, you cover all angles.
Banish Writer’s Block for Good!
No matter which method of outlining you use, your work will improve and your productivity will increase enormously. People report not experiencing writer’s block again after developing an outlining habit.
Give outlining a try and banish writer’s block for good.