Before I tell you about how to unlock your writer's block, I want to disclose: I've been staring at this empty screen for 10 minutes now. And I've been thinking about this blog post for more than a few days...
...so when a friend-colleague of mine recently asked "Hey, Zara–do you ever get writer's block?" not a mili-second passed before I responded with a laugh "yes, all the time."
Even though I write for a living, it's still a nonstop challenge to get my writing projects done because I run into some kind of mental block every single time (more intensely for blog posts than for briefs, though). But I don't let those blocks lock me up for too long, and I have a few tactics–that I acquired from some sage writing teachers and through my own life experience–to unlock them.
First, the single most effective technique I've used to get the ideas building is to create space–both in your working environment and in your mind. This is the first thing you should do if you are having trouble getting started. You know, when you want to write a blog post and you have no idea what to write about. Or you have a tricky argument to write and have no idea where to begin.
I've written before about how important it is to have an organized work space in order to be more productive as a lawyer. But a clean, clutter free work space is equally important for allowing your best ideas to germinate. How can your most brilliant ideas ever come to the surface of your conscious mind if you are surrounded by piles of distractions?
Creating space in your mind–through a meditation or mindfulness practice–is also the best way to allow your creative intelligence to shine. I can't tell you how many times I have been sitting on my meditation cushion (I do an hour long vipassana meditation each morning) when, suddenly and from out of nowhere, a clear idea of a legal argument point or blog post topic pops into my mind.
Next, follow a writing process. I am a huge fan of Bryan Garner's method which flows like this: brainstorming ideas/points (a process he calls the "whirlybird"); outlining the entire document; writing; revising. Garner also recommends you think and analyze as much as you need to before you start the writing part. When I follow Garner's method (and I now follow it for nearly every single writing project I do–even blog posts), then by the time I arrive at the writing part I have thought about–and organized–my ideas so thoroughly that the words flow easily into my writing.
Finally, when all else fails, focus on this: words on paper. I learned this mantra from my high school English Lit teacher (thank you Doc Carlin!) and I use it to this day. Nowadays it's more accurate to say "words on the screen" but the idea is the same. Writer's block most often happens at the beginning of the process, so the hardest part is to just get the door opened. If you can psyche yourself out by focusing on putting words onto the screen (or paper), then you'll likely find that the rest of your idea/point comes out more easily.
Funny enough, in order to write this post about unlocking writer's block, thinking about "words on paper" is exactly what I had to do. And it worked.
Now, I know that writer's block is unique to every individual, so I want to know: do you get writer's block? And what do you do to unlock it?
Also, if you are a litigator struggling with writing a brief or appeal argument, get in touch because I can help you get it done.