Talker’s Block

September 2011


While Admiral Stavridis routinely says the below in an elegant fashion…Seth Godin comes at it from another direction.

No one ever gets talker’s block. No one wakes up in the morning, discovers he has nothing to say and sits quietly, for days or weeks, until the muse hits, until the moment is right, until all the craziness in his life has died down.

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 a lot of concern for whether or not our inane blather will come back to haunt us. Talk is cheap. Talk is ephemeral. Talk can be easily denied.

We talk poorly and then, eventually (or sometimes), we talk smart. We get better at talking precisely because we talk. We see what works and what doesn’t, and if we’re insightful, 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 Squidoo 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. Shipping nothing is safe.

The second best thing to zero is 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.

So, start by doing something. You don’t have to follow Seth’s ideas. Go small. Comment on a blog or a news story. Join an online forum AND comment. Write notes for the Plan of the Day. Dare the slings and arrows of the others who are also working at bettering their own writing (or just blathering along full of sound and fury).

But practice, practice, practice. Over and over and over again. I hear lots of great conversations with great viewpoints that never make it to the written, and retained, word. Share them. Practice.

Posted by M. Ittleschmerz in Training & Education

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  • Solon

    A resounding AMEN! from the congregation. More of this would be a forcing function for rigorous thought…which, ultimately, would result is fewer dumb decisions. Well said!

  • Mike M.

    I’m reminded of Robert Heinlein’s advice to aspiring writers:

    1. You must write.
    2. You must finish what you write.
    3. You must put what you wrote on the market.
    4. You must keep it on the market until it sells.
    5. You must not rewrite anything without a committment to buy.

  • Hi Mike M., I wish there were a “like” button!

  • I must argue against Godin’s claim that “[n]o one wakes up in the morning, discovers he has nothing to say and sits quietly.” Plenty of people do this. Personally, I do it most every day. I would like to get better at it, but my wife, my coworkers, and my employer insist on breaking into my train of non-speech.
    Can’t we all just sit and think for a while?