May 18, 2005
Dodging Writer's Brick: How to Keep From Knocking Yourself Out By Janene Mascarella
Ah, good old writer's block. Those moments of utter frustration, when you are stumped for ideas. Can't write a ******* thing. If you tell a fellow writer that you are suffering from a case of writer's block, chances are you will get your hand held. Sympathy follows. Then, tips galore on how to overcome your dreaded block. I rarely suffer from writer's block. I suffer from something far more insidious. Something I call it "writer's brick".
The sky is falling!
Writer's brick is when you get slapped upside the head with so many potential markets and article ideas that you become completely dumbfounded and down for the count. You are quietly researching a topic or drafting an article, when WHAMMO; out of nowhere you are suddenly slammed with incredible ideas, one after the other, until everything goes fuzzy.
Grandma, is that you?
I convinced myself that I could write for the teen market. Seemed focused enough. I determined that writing a quiz (which is a great way to break in) would be my best route. I started a quiz, and then had a great idea for another. While working on the second one, I wrote a title for a third. OUCH. What the heck was that? The third sparked an idea for a query for a teen self-help piece and then I got back to the first quiz. Then I got a great idea for a parenting article, scribbled down some notes and got back to quiz number two because I thought of something funny. Before I knew it, I was stupefied. Totally unproductive.
It's like ten people trying to get through the door at the same time. No one gets in. Killer queries languish in notebooks. It happens to me all the time. I'm always on the cusps of greatness. Please don't tar and feather. I said cusps.
No sympathy for the brick-stricken.
Sorry, no one is going to help you should your head meet the brick. Oh, what's thatÖanother editor responded to your query? You can't decide what market you want to hit next? Too many brilliant ideas? POOR BABY!
No, sadly you will not get much sympathy if you are slapped silly with more ideas than you can handle. It's your job as a freelance writer to keep from knocking yourself out. Ideas are a good thing, but by all means, dodge that brick, baby, dodge it! Unless an editor from a national magazine breaks into your home, steals your cluttered notebook, and hires an expert to decipher your chicken scratch, you will not get published!
The fun of working from home and embarking on a writing career is to get paid to learn things you know Jack about. You can be a jack of all genres, just maybe not all at once. It's easy to get lost in your own bewilderment. When it comes to research, wandering is fun, but getting that byline and check is thrilling.
If it's any consolation, I feel your pain, over-zealous writer. There, there. Now get up, it's time to get focused!
Thank you, Sir, may I have another?
Being stuck with too many ideas is hardly something to complain about. I'd take the brick over the block any day. Knowing is half the battle. Having an idea of when the brick is most likely to strike is the best way to brace yourself from a knock out. Here are some ways I dodge the brick without letting those good ideas get away from me.
1. Two minute warning. When you are working on something and get an idea for something else, give yourself two minutes to jot down the idea, not a second longer. Shove it in a folder and get back to work.
2. Pick a market, any market. Dabbling gets you nowhere. Can you write for many markets? You bet your sweet potatoes you can, but if you tend to stray and lose focus, pick ONE market and don't stop until your query or article is complete.
3. Click it or Lick it. Success is just a moment away. Your ideas are useless unless you get them out there. Either click the send button if it's an e-submission, or lick the stamp and send your stuff on its merry way.
4. Boss yourself around. I like to slap myself on the wrist every once in a while for snoozing on the job. I also recently gave myself detention! When writing those quizzes, I finally glued my buttocks to the chair, and only allowed myself to do ONE AT A TIME. PERIOD. Guess what? I finished one, clicked, and sold it in two days!
Janene Mascarella is a published freelance writer. She has multiple sales to Sweet 16 and Guideposts for Kids on the Web. She has writing credits in television, writing educational and light entertainment documentaries. She also hosted a weekly international television show covering the fashion world. She has done work for MTV and appeared in various commercials and music videos. Presently, she is trying to find the solution to her long, mysterious stretches of bad hair days. This will lead to the ultimate "How-To".
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