writer's block
Image by K. Sawyer Photography via Flickr

I hope you’ve all been enjoying the guest posts in this series written by Clair Schwan.  I know I have.  He offers a wealth of great ideas, and I am always excited to try each one out when I finish reading the latest edition.  If you haven’t yet read his first installments, be sure to do so.  You’ve missed out

In this sixth edition of the writer’s block series, let’s discuss how to make use of a technique I call get outside of the box you’ve built for yourself. This method encourages you to think and write about various topics, even when you have yourself typecast as a particular kind of writer.

We are our own worst enemy, there is no doubt in my mind. Whether you smoke, drink to excess, drive recklessly, skydive, ride motorcycles without a helmet or pigeon hole yourself as a particular kind of writer, the only one to blame is the person who watches you comb your hair in front of the mirror every day. Yes, it’s you, and you’re the only one who can save yourself from yourself.

Quite often, we limit ourselves by putting ourselves in a box and then we believe that we have to stay there. And, if we don’t build the box and place ourselves in it, we often allow others to tell us who we are and then eagerly hop inside the box that they’ve made for us. In either case, we’re believing in a particular image of ourselves.

The problem is simply that being in nearly any kind of “box” limits what we write about and how we write. That’s a form of writer’s block.

At the risk of embarrassing a friend of mine, let me use him as an example of someone who has firmly planted himself in a box of his own construction – at least he used to be that way. Let’ call him Stead because he’s steadfast in his belief that he’s only a personal finance writer. Here’s a bit of his story to illustrate how he’s boxed himself in and what he might do to get himself out of the box he’s placed himself in. We can probably all learn a little about breaking out of our own boxes based on his story.

Stead writes a personal finance website. There are many dozens of such sites, but Stead writes one that I especially like because he’s politely “in your face” about personal finance, with a particular passion for becoming free of debt. Now, I’d be the last person to tell you that following your passion is a poor way to get started with writing because it’s technique #4 in this series. Nevertheless, if you narrow your focus too much, you’ll risk running the well dry and experiencing persistent writer’s block. That’s what I’ve seen Stead do on more than a few occasions – he’s run up against a brick wall because often he can’t see beyond his passion to develop interest in writing about other things like his:

·         Interests

·         Experiences

·         Hobbies

·         Favorite sports

·         Conversations with friends

·         Employment

·         Family life

·         Interactions with the community

I find this odd because these are the very types of things that give me more material than I can possibly write about. I find my many passions and my unlimited observations, experiences and interests to fuel a never-ending supply of ideas for writing. There’s no reason why Stead can’t find the same wellspring of ideas. I’m not stopping him – he is.

When I think of Stead and what little I know about his private life, I’m certain he can provide a wealth of articles in many areas in which he has lots of experience. All he needs to do is convince himself that he’s qualified to write about a wide range of topics, and that will enable him to knock down the sides of his box and step right out of it. Here’s what I think Stead can write about, with conviction, authority and great insight:

·         Being a dad

·         Parenting

·         Marriage

·         Public speaking

·         Inspiration and motivation

·         Charitable giving

·         Community involvement

·         Multi-tasking

·         Networking

·         Employment alternatives

These are the very things that Stead is involved with on nearly a daily basis. We talk about them regularly. Why can’t he write about them? Well, he’s built himself a box that’s all about being a debt free specialist, he’s placed it on a personal finance shelf, and jumped right inside and closed the lid. Nonsense, if he can step inside that box, he can step outside of it as well. If can build one box, he can build others too.

There’s no reason why he can’t be stepping into and out of any number of boxes like a football player steps into and out of those old tires during training camp. Stead, start stepping, and step lively! There are other audiences out there eager to hear your good messages in other arenas besides personal finance and dueling with debt.

So, that brings me to you, my reader. Have you built a box for yourself? Have you painted yourself in a corner with respect to your writing? If so, then perhaps this is one of the reasons you have a difficult time writing. Don’t be a steady Stead. Don’t be a Jack-in-the-box. Be a writer first and foremost. If you think of yourself as a writer, then you automatically open up the horizons a bit and that allows you to start writing about various topics that could be quite refreshing for both you and your readers.

You know how to write. You know how to organize thoughts and express them clearly. You are competent when it comes to grammar, spelling, sentence structure, coherence of thought, and making the words on the page “sing.” Stay focused on that – your ability to write. If you focus on that, then the subject of your writing doesn’t really matter. The concept of being a writer first and foremost automatically broadens the scope of what you can put on paper – it’s almost limitless.

If you’re going to overcome writer’s block, but insist on putting yourself in a box and closing the lid, just make certain the box you build for yourself says “talented, versatile and fearless writer inside” and then I think you’ll do much better, even if you never get yourself out of that box.

Clair Schwan hosts Self Reliance Works.com where he and his team of writers meet the challenge of regularly writing about nearly everything under the sun that is oriented towards self-reliance, including written and oral communications.