It happens to everyone. Possible symptoms include anxiousness, frustration, anxiety, slight shaking or tremors, lessened ability to think or converse, and night sweats. We’re not talking about any specific medical disorder. We’re talking about writer’s block. Victims are often assumed to be struggling novelists, but grant writers are also subject to the same symptoms from time to time. Anyone who has ever written anything of length or depth has likely had a battle with this frustrating ailment.
Regardless of your level of experience, writer’s block is likely a part of your world. In this blog article, we offer a few ideas on how to overcome writer’s block. If you are working on writing a grant, and you need some advice or guidance – or a joggle to get past some particular obstacle – remember we are always here to help you. We offer free grant advice and an extensive list of customizable services.
Problem #1: You don’t know what to write about.
Don’t worry about the details too soon. Jot down, in bullet list format, a few main messages that you want to convey. Our "Making the Case" document was constructed to help with this part of the process.
You can also try a standard brainstorming technique (Personal Excellence has a nice list). This sounds simple enough, but it’s often overlooked because it seems too simple. If you’re struggling with some part of your proposal, then try writing down lots of different ways to address that area. You may want to start with general areas, and then narrow them down and brainstorm again with more specific areas. Brainstorming with at least one other person can be extra helpful for additional ideas and perspective.
One of my favorite brainstorming techniques is to open a dictionary and pick out a word at random. Think of how this word could be used in your proposal. Usually, you can't, but the effot can jar your mind into thinking of angles you would not have otherwise considered.
Problem #2: You can’t make it past the introduction.
If you’re struggling with how to write an introduction for a document or a paragraph, try one of these methods:
1) Skip it! Forget about the introduction. Write the meat of it, and then go back and fill in the blanks.
2) Brainstorm different angles and ideas you could take in the introduction. This might even give you more writing ideas for the next assignment, article, etc.
3) Explain your project verbally to a grade schooler. This will force you to assemble your thoughts into a simple summary. Then prepare to be surprised by what questions they ask.
Problem #3: Writing makes you too anxious to let the words “flow.”
Try to create a relaxing and enjoyable routine to get into the writing groove. If you are a coffee lover, treat yourself to your favorite cup of Joe. If you enjoy a particular type of music, play that music softly in the background. In short, try to replace the negative feelings you’re experiencing about writing with feelings of productivity.
Problem #4: You’re stressed.
If you find yourself too stressed to write, try to get up and stretch. If you are able to exercise, take a walk, go for a jog, lift some weights, etc. You can also take some deep breaths, think calming thoughts, picture calming places, and simply do what works best for you to de-stress your body.
Other Non-Problem-Specific Hints and Tips to Cure Writer’s Block
1) Distance yourself, either physically or in the realm of time. Try writing in a different location, such as in the park instead of from behind your desk. The change doesn’t have to be drastic. Even the cafeteria might help. As far as “time” is concerned, if you have a while before your deadline, don’t be ashamed to put the assignment aside. Waiting for the last minute is definitely not something we recommend, but give yourself a day or two to forget about it, if you have the time, and then try picking up the material and trying again.
2) Just start writing. Stop over-thinking, and just do it! Start writing anywhere you have any information at all. You might start on the budget or on a particular aspect of the project plan. You do not necessarily need to start at the beginning of the document or grant application. Even if the words aren’t making sense logically or chronologically, just let the words flow. This stream-of-consciousness remedy often does the trick for those with writer’s block. All of a sudden, there is that “A-ha!” moment, and you can go back and edit things to make sense while using the spewed material to build on, although sometimes, you throw it all out and go with your “a-ha” idea.
There are many things that you can do to remedy writer’s block. If you would like more resources, we suggest the following websites, some of which inspired our own suggestions, for additional ideas on overcoming writer’s block:
Again, remember we are here to help you in any phase of the grant development process. Ask our grant experts a question, or contact us today for more information on how we can help you reach your funding goals.
Image credit: photosteve 101