Ask Emma: How do I make myself write?

Carry notebook for when ideas start flowing; finding accountability buddy can help

Having+all+of+the+information+needed+for+the+story+can+be+helpful.+Trying+using+an+outline+to+get+started.+

LAUREN PETTIT

Having all of the information needed for the story can be helpful. Trying using an outline to get started.

EMMA LEDBETTER, Evergreen editor-in-chief

Dear Emma,

I’m a writer — but I hardly feel that way because I always get writer’s block so bad that I can barely put any words on a page. The only way I ever get anything done is with strict deadlines. Otherwise, anything I write seems terrible, and I have to start over. Even when I give myself deadlines, I don’t always finish in time. 

How do I write something I’m actually proud of without procrastinating until the last possible minute? I need help.

Writer’s Block


Dear Writer’s Block,

Boy, do I understand this dilemma. For me, inspiration strikes when I am doing anything except sitting down at my computer to write. However, knowing that about myself helps a lot.

Is there a time when you regularly feel inspired? You mentioned you work best with a strict deadline, so maybe that is your inspiration. Sure, it can feel forced, but it might be exactly what you need to light a fire under you and get moving.

Maybe you regularly feel inspired when you’re in nature, stuck in traffic or having a conversation with friends. It wouldn’t be appropriate to pull out your computer and start typing in these situations, but you can work around that. 

I recommend you carry a small notebook with you for moments when inspiration unpredictably strikes. Alternatively, you can use your phone (which you probably carry around all the time, anyway). Take notes of your ideas, whether those are bullet points, full sentences or even complete paragraphs.

I recently started using my note app’s voice-to-text feature. I can talk a lot faster than I can type, so this method does not slow me down when the ideas start flowing.

You should also make sure you have all the information you need to start writing. See if you can outline the story in your head. Check for any obvious gaps. Writing is always harder for me when I’m missing crucial details.

Once you have all the necessary information, you can start piecing it together like a puzzle, deciding what details fit where. If you’re having a hard time assembling the puzzle, that should be a sign you need to go back to outlining or collecting information.

Finally, you may benefit from an accountability buddy. Self-imposed deadlines don’t work for me, so I need another person to hold me accountable to turning things in on time. If you know you’re going to have to tell, say, your best friend, that your writing isn’t done on time, it may motivate you to meet that deadline. 

I hope that helps!

Emma