Is writer’s block real?
If so, what causes it?
And why have I still not started writing my book?
At the start of each semester, I reflect on the following questions with a new cohort of doctoral students at Swansea University:
What stops me writing?
What keeps me writing?
Along with the usual ideas about distractions that stop us writing (mobile phones, social media, lack of time, kids, cleaning the fridge, and not writing until all the other jobs are done), something that often comes up is that there are just too many ideas. Writers don’t know which idea to write about. Or which idea to write about first.
One reason I enjoy editing is that the starting point is not a blank screen. I feel more like a sculptor than a tortured writer when I’m editing.
But when you start your writing your book, there are no words. There’s nothing but an idea.
And having too many ideas can be even worse than none at all.
Which book should I write? What if I write the wrong book?
How about allowing yourself some thinking time before your try to write? And not telling yourself that this ‘doesn’t count’ because you’re not ‘writing’.
Take the pressure off not having started yet.
My writing accountability buddy, author and meditation teacher Sarah Beth Hunt, likes to separate the thinking and writing part of the process.
I do this too, and my thinking involves brainstorming and outlining onto the page (at the thinking stage it’s paper rather than on screen).
What to do when you have too many book ideas:
1. Choose ONE idea to write about (for now).
If you have multiple ideas for a book, you can ask yourself: Which idea excites me the most? Which idea helps solve a problem for my reader? Which would my ideal future client most want to learn about? Any other ideas go in my ‘for later’ folder on the PC (I’m not abandoning them entirely, I’m just getting them out of my head for now).
2. Brainstorm subtopics.
So you’ve decided which topic you want to write about (for now). Next, ask yourself what the key subthemes are to explore within this overarching topic. What do I need to share with my reader in order for them to get the desired outcome?
3.Organise your thoughts into a logical plan.
This plan will become your table of contents (TOC) in your book. Make sure each chapter or section has a clear theme or idea you want the reader to be left with.
4. Now comes the writing part.
You’ll notice that steps 1-3 are heavy on thinking. You’ve set solid foundations and the writing part will be much easier. Write freely within your outline or TOC. At the first stage of writing, you’re aiming for a ‘brain dump’. Don’t stop to choose the correct word or think about your overuse of dashes. We are at the content stage of the writing process here.
(You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned editing. That’s deliberate. Editing for flow comes next followed by editing for style and then (much) later, proofreading for errors.)
And, if you’re still stuck at number 1 even after using a writing prompt, go for a walk or a run (or whatever you can do to get away from the page or the screen). Sometimes the clarity comes when we’re away from the page.
Knowing you want to write a book is one thing. But not knowing which book to write or how to focus your ideas can stop you from even getting started.
If you think too many ideas might be the cause of your writer’s block, grab a copy of my free author workbook to help you decide which book to write (or which book to write first).
Answering the questions in the workbook will help you focus your ideas and you’ll be sure you’re planning to publish the right book!
You’ll get a week of email guidance from me to help.
Give yourself the space of ten minutes a day for a week and get clear on your winning non-fiction book idea.