Writer’s Block: Writing vs Talking

Picture 2  37signals has a post today that deals with a topic that I think is really important for those of us who speak regularly as part of our jobs. Especially if we have to write manuscripts of a sermon or a presentation. While they discuss writer's block as typer's block relating to a conversation that generates ideas, I think this really applies to sermon writing as well. I use an adaptation of this technique whenever I hit the wall writing (something I've been struggling with this week in particular).

I usually start writing with an outline and let it sit in my head for a couple of days before I try to get to a manuscript. The process of moving from outline to manuscript sometimes flows really easily, just typing the whole thing right out. I always try to start there and see what I can get on paper. When that doesn't work, or when I leave ginormous holes in a message I move to the talking approach.

I pace a lot when I'm writing/thinking creatively. I also talk out loud, which makes this exercise something that has to be done privately. Although it wouldn't work without actually speaking. Sometimes I'll pace around with a piece of paper and just jot down notes and phrases while I ramble through my outline. Sometimes I'll wander around my desk or a table with the laptop recording the audio of my talking. This week I've been using the Voice Memos app on my iPhone as a recorder and been really happy. It lets me wander anywhere, but not have to write things down. I especially like being able to use a headset, start recording, and drop the phone in my pocket.

Ultimately the recordings have to get transcribed into the manuscript. Usually I'll have run through sections of the sermon several times and can pick the treatments I like best to transcribe. Oftentimes the transcription happens several days after the initial recording session so I've had more time to let ideas process.

I've found that the quality of my writing has gone up dramatically since I started recording my talking to myself. It may make me look a bit crazy, and it certainly limits where I can do this stage of the writing, but I think the tradeoffs are worth it.

What tricks do you have to overcome writer's block?