What To Do When You Can’t Write?

What To Do When You Can’t Write?

Writer’s block can stop us from creating our next speech
Writer’s block can stop us from creating our next speech
Image Credit: Doug Davey

If you want to give a speech then you are going to have to write a speech before you give it. If you are going to write a speech, then at some point in time you are going to have to sit down and start to write it. However, this is the point in time that some of us run into a brick wall. We just don’t seem to be able to get started writing. The fancy term for what’s going on here is called “writer’s block”. There seems to be something intimidating about staring at a blank sheet of paper. What’s a public speaker to do?

It’s All About The List

The biggest problem that is poised by a writer’s block is that you realize the importance of public speaking but you just can’t start writing. The best way to get around this problem is to force yourself to write. Don’t spend any time trying to craft the perfect opening, work some witty phrases into your speech, or create a killer closing. Instead, spend your time initially just trying to create a list of what you want to tell your audience. Your goal here is to list out all of your ideas. Make sure that you do not censor yourself at this stage.

What you need to realize is that what you start out writing does not have to be good. In fact, you may end up throwing all of it away and replacing it with something else. However, simply by starting the process of writing you’ll make the writer’s block go away and that is your goal here. Once you’ve been able to create your list of what you want to say, then will be the time for you to go back and spend more time rearranging it and adding the detail that will be needed.

Pretend You Are Talking With A Friend

When we are in the process of trying to write a speech, we can all make the mistake of trying to impress our audience. There are a lot of different ways that we may go about trying to do this but some of the more common ones happen when we try to slide big words or jargon into our speeches. The problem with doing this is that it is going to have a negative effect on our speech. The speech will start to feel as though it’s flat, unnatural, and even memorized (who uses words like that?) In the end our speech is going to turn out to not engage our audience and will be that much more difficult for us to present.

What should we be doing? So what we should be doing is pretending that we are delivering our speech to an audience that is made up of only our friends. Since we find it easy to talk to our friends, our ability to get creative as we pull our speech together will become easier. The speech that you will create will allow you to express your actual voice. When you end up giving your speech, your audience will interpret it as being an authentic speech that you have delivered using your conversational tone.

Time To Brainstorm

So how long are you going to spend writing your next speech? What you don’t want to be doing is spending hours trying to get it “just right”. The experts who have studied such things tell us that our time is better spent working in bursts that are both short and timed. During these bursts, you are going to want to write out your ideas. Once you have the ability to see your ideas on paper all of sudden it is going to be much easier to see the themes that your speech can have and you can start to organize your speech.

The best way to start this process is to take 10 minutes and see what you can create. At the end of this burst, stand up and walk away. What were you able to create? If you were not able to create anything of value then this is the time for you to walk away. Spend some time doing something else and eventually come back later on. Use this time to clear your head.

What All Of This Means For You

In order to deliver a powerful speech and share the benefits of public speaking, first we have to write a powerful speech. For most of us, creating such a speech is simply a matter of sitting down and writing it out. However, there will be times that when we sit down, nothing comes to us. We are dealing with a “writer’s block”. We’re going to have to come up with a way to get around this problem.

One simple way to deal with a writer’s block is to sit down and start to create a list. The list that we create does not have to be good – it just has to be a start. When writing a speech sometimes we’ll make the mistake of trying to load it with big words. To avoid doing this, pretend that you are going to be delivering your speech to an audience made up of your friends. Don’t spend too much time trying to create the perfect speech. Instead, spend short timed bursts to create your speech. If nothing is happening, then walk away and come back later on when you are feeling more creative.

To give a good speech, first we have to write a good speech. Having writer’s block can make this appear to be a very difficult thing to do. As public speakers we need to understand that there are ways of dealing with a writer’s block and we need to take steps to overcome it. The next time that you find yourself blocked, take the time to get creative and create the best speech that you’ve ever written!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: Do you think talking with friends about your speech could help you deal with writer’s block?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site www.Toastmasters.org. Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

This has pretty much happened to all of us at one time or another. We’ve agreed to give a speech and eventually we sit down to write the speech and then bang – nothing comes into our mind. We draw a blank. We might know what we’ve been asked to talk about, we might know our audience, we might know the importance of public speaking, we might know everything, but still we just don’t seem to be able to find a way to start our speech. What’s a speaker to do when this happens?

2 thoughts on “What To Do When You Can’t Write?”

  1. What a great article, Jim!

    I’ve been a professional writer for 30+ years and everything you wrote resonates with me. Whenever I’m struggling to get started with a project, I begin by jotting down my ideas. I don’t care if it’s well-written at that point; I just want to get things rolling. Then, I go back and edit, rewrite, and otherwise create the document that I’m working to develop.

    Another strategy I often use is index cards. They are my very favorite office supply. I’ve learned over the years that a great book can begin with just 10 index cards–a different idea on each card that I can then shuffle around to change the order, add new thoughts, and eliminate what’s not going to work. Yes, I do LOVE my index cards. It might be old-school, but it certainly works well for me.

    I’m delighted to now be a subscriber to your newsletter and can’t wait to read more of your insights and wisdom.

    Thank you!

    • Wendy: great points! It can be so difficult to just start writing without editing everything that you put down. The index card idea is fantastic — everyone has those!

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