No one ever gets talker’s block. No one wakes up in the morning, discovers she has nothing to say, and sits quietly, for days or weeks, until the muse hits, until the momentum is right, or until all the craziness in her life has died down.
I used to get in trouble all the time at school for talking. My teacher told me that if I didn’t stop talking, I would never be able to get a job or do anything useful with my life. This all started when I was in primary school, aged 5, at Light Oaks primary school in Manchester, England.
My teacher, Miss Carroll, decided that she would make he worst (and most persistent) speaker in the class wear a Mr. Men badge if they didn’t behave themselves. It was supposed to be a punishment to embarrass you in front of your friends and classmates. I wore that Mr. Chatterbox badge for almost a year. And I wore it with pride!!
Talking isn’t that hard. Most of us do too much of it, but we very seldom struggle with finding words to say, in any situation. No matter how bored or uninspired we may be.
Why then, is writer’s block endemic?
The reason we don’t get talker’s block is that we’re in the habit of talking without much concern for whether or not our dulcet tones will come back to haunt us. Talk is cheap. Talk is ephemeral. Talk can be easily denied ~ unless you were filmed or live streamed!
Side note: Periscope may disappear after a few hours but the growth of live-streaming video apps is already being held responsible for causing talkers block. Most people naturally clam up when you point a video camera at them. (Technology is only great when it is used properly and helps you to do something that you couldn’t do before).
Talking, no matter how poorly, helps us to speak less poorly. Practice makes perfect, or as my preacher friend John C. Maxwell says,
“Practise makes permanent”.
There is a reason great speakers have a 10:1 rule which basically states, you must practice 10X longer than your talk will last for. The concept is covered in Carmine Gallo’s brilliant book Talk Like TED, where he explains that some 18 minute TED talks (from speakers such as Simon Sinek and Bryan Stevenson) have up to 200 hours of work put into them).
We get better at talking precisely because we talk. We see what works and what doesn’t and, if we’re insightful, we do more of what works. How can one get talker’s block after all this practice?
Writer’s block isn’t hard to cure.
Just write poorly. Continue to write poorly, in public, until you can write better.
I believe that everyone should write in public. Get a blog. Or use WordPress or Tumblr or a microblogging site. Use an alias if you like. Turn off comments, certainly–you don’t need more criticism, you need more writing.
Do it every day. Every single day. Not a diary, not fiction, but analysis. Clear, crisp, honest writing about what you see in the world. Or want to see. Or teach (in writing).
Tell us how to do something.
If you know you have to write something every single day, even a paragraph, you will improve your writing. If you’re concerned with quality, of course, then not writing is not a problem, because zero is perfect and without defects.
“The maxim, ‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ doesn’t apply anymore. Because if it ain’t broke, it’s OBSOLETE“. Bill Gates.
Shipping nothing is safe.
The second best thing to zero is shipping something better than bad. So if you know you have write tomorrow, your brain will start working on something better than bad. And then you’ll inevitably redefine bad and tomorrow will be better than that. And on and on.
Write like you talk. Often.
- Thanks to Seth Godin for inspiring this post. I’ve just re-read his superb book The Icarus Deception and I highly recommend it.