Unblocking Your Writing Blocks, Part 3: I Can’t Write

Maybe you are afraid to start writing because you think that you can’t write.

I don’t believe that’s true. Everyone can write. You have written letters or email before, right? You are constantly writing coworkers, friends, and family text messages or are chatting on your social networks of choice.

What I do believe, though, is that we are our most cruel critics. In reality, other’s often don’t care half as much about your writing as you do. Most of us aren’t born with the writing styles of James Joyce, Ray Bradbury, or Toni Morrison. But rest assured that even they started at some point, creating things that many would consider bad writing.

So, don’t hesitate to put bad writing on paper or on the screen. Here’s one good way to start: Write down everything you know about a random topic you care about in loose fragments. Just a bunch of unrelated words, sentences, or paragraphs will do. Write shitty first drafts. Resist the urge to polish at this early stage. Then look at all the mess you produced and give yourself a pat on the back. You now have material to work with! Try to make sense of it. What are the main points you want to make? What should people remember to get value out of your ramblings? What could you talk about first? What isn’t necessary for the main storyline of your post? Then begin to rewrite the post. Start to polish a few sentences here and there that don’t look right. Leave out the less important bits. Read it out loud. Correct what still sounds weird or might be unclear. Look at your draft with a beginners’ mind. Then hit publish even though you think you did a terrible job. Repeat.

School teaches us to avoid mistakes at all costs. This was useful back when making a mistake at the assembly line would mean you’d lose your thumb and the whole production would come to a halt. Those days are long gone. We now live in a world where making mistakes is slowly being recognized as what it is: the most natural way to learn by experience. Just look at how kids play and learn!

So let me correct my own mistake from the beginning of this post. Yes, your writing might indeed be really, really bad. Not only your drafts might be shitty. But that doesn’t mean that your views on things are less valuable. You will become better. You will grow.

What a great reason to start.


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4 Webmentions

Photo of Cristian Díaz
Cristian Díaz
Leer en voz alta y escribir lo primero que se te ocurra y luego ir puliéndolo me sirve bastante cuando escribo
Photo of Pawel Grzybek
Pawel Grzybek
Unblocking Your Writing Blocks, Part 3: I Can’t Write, by @m_ott matthiasott.com/notes/unblocki… 👆; This is what I did when I published my first article. Almost eight years later, I think it was one of the best things that I did.