If I offered you a sampler of 5 frozen treats, would you sample all of them? Or skip papaya if that’s not your thing? Or pass unless it’s dipped in chocolate or wrapped in bacon?
You got it, kid.
Would your approach change if I presented a sampler of 10 or 15 flavors? How about the ultimate sampler of 100? Would you try them all?
Probably not, right? Unless we’re facing a double-dog dare challenge, we’d sample several – spitting out the gross and savoring the delicious.
Yet, when we’re stuck and scan a listicle like 27 Surefire Ways to Beat Writer’s Block, it’s easy to convince ourselves we need to try all of the tips, even the unappetizing. And that sucks!
Not to worry. All is not lost. We can make listicles delicious. Wanna see how?
Sweet. But first, let’s take a closer look at…
Why listicles suck
Simply put, we’re more invested in our writing than frozen treats.
As much as I’d love to find a popsicle that can survive a dip into peanut butter, I’m not losing sleep over it.
Writing’s my passion. My livelihood. And like you, I want the words to flow. I want to improve. And succeed.
No wonder our blogs, books and dissertations keep us up at night and lend themselves to inner-criticism, perfectionism and other mind-numbing “isms.”
The more anxious we are to ditch our blocks, the more likely a listicle fuels them.
Do we avoid them?
But we run the risk of missing the key to unlocking our blocks.
Let’s look at what sours listicles and how to make them delicious.
It overstuffs you with flavors
A blog post that offers a smorgasbord of solutions builds hope and excitement. 10 Ways to Stop Procrastinating? I’m in. The Ultimate Guide: 100 Tools to Simplify Your Writing Day? Sign me up.
Why this sucks: Tips take longer to sample than a tray filled with bite-sized treats. And our commitment to solving our writing challenges can cause brain freeze. Ouch!
I dive into an article like 13 Fixes for Your Prose hoping to find one or two takeaways. By the time I reach the end, I’m convinced I need all the tips on the list. I’m stuffed before I’ve tried anything. And do nothing. Sound familiar?
How to make it delicious: Mind your mindset. Instead of hoping to find something useful, commit to picking one tip and run with it. I promise the others won’t melt or spoil.
Ask yourself, does this apply to my current situation? Do I even have time to try this tip?
Psst: A beyond smart bird once told me to do this with books and classes, too. Take notes. Look for one takeaway to start with and go. Trying one thing is better than allowing overwhelm to paralyze us into doing nothing.
You’re not picky enough
If I offered you a flavor that grosses you out, you’d skip it, right? Since brussels sprouts gross me out, you’re welcome to my share. Except…
If an expert said eating brussels sprouts twice a day will keep writer’s block away, I’d plug my nose, squeeze my eyes shut and choke those babies down.
Why this sucks: When we’re blocked, we put too much faith in experts. If the author of 29 Time-saving Writing Tips published four books last year while we’re struggling to pen one, we clearly need all of his tips, even the unappetizing ones, right?
Make it delicious: Trust your palette and dismiss tips that don’t sound good. What worked for the author may not work for you, but may work for me. If none of the tips sound appetizing, why not give the one that looks easiest a go?
Oh and make it your own. If you love the idea of timed writing, but a 25 minute block makes your chest tighten, set your timer for a more heart-healthy length.
Timeout: I’m a hypocrite.
Yep, I publish listicles and am working on one right now. As I penned my first one How A Spoonful of Poppins Takes Writer’s Block Away I worried I’d fuel your writer’s block rather than inspire you to ditch it.
Why do we bloggers produce them?
Because our readers gobble them up more often than any other type of post.
Plus, their simple structure makes listicles easy to digest. That’s key. I’m committed to publishing content that makes ditching writer’s block as simple as possible. That and…
Admittedly, I also lean on them because of my greatest weakness as a writer is…structure! Characters? Check. Dialog? All over it. Plot and structure? Total chaos. Listicles help me clear that chaos.
So, I invested hours developing a way to make the listicles I publish easy to work with. I share that below.
Time in. . .
It tastes like should
Ahhh, should, the artificial flavoring of the self-help world.
Why this sucks: Just like flavoring a cherry-sicle with syrup instead of real fruit can spoil a tasty treat, feeling like we should follow tips, can spoil our writing day. Besides, how often have you washed down a botched “should” with an oversized glass of guilt?
Make it delicious: Replace “should do” with “want to do” or “can do.” This tiny semantics shift releases stress and eliminates guilt, allowing you to skim a listicle with a clear head. Not convinced?
Which relaxes or energizes you more, something you should do or want to do?
My writing grows when I apply something I want to do rather than making myself do something I should.
You save it for too long
You know how a fine wine get’s better with age? And soup tastes better as leftovers? A listicle will taste great after it’s marinated in our inbox for six months, right?
I don’t know. I’ve never read an aged one.
Why this sucks: The longer the listicle sits in the inbox or Read Me folder the less likely we’ll read it. Our constant access to fresh information stops us from going back.
Make it delicious: Skim it or forget it. If you don’t have time to sample 5 Mantras & A Formula For Ditching Writer’s Block until next week or next month, skip it.
Yep, even if it’s one of mine. Why? Because that fresh information we have access to each day is likely a repackaged version that’s crossed our smartphone before. I promise!
Did I miss a way that makes listicles suck? I double-dog dare you to share it with the Write 50 crew in the comments below. Bonus: Your comment earns you a chance to win a free copy of a Ditch The Block game of your choice.
To sum up I have a game for you.
Mmmm The Game
Object: To make listicles deliciously easy to digest.
How to play:
1. Mind your mind: Before digging into a listicle ask yourself these questions:
- What am I working on right now?
- How much time and energy can I realistically throw at this?
2. Mine for one: As you browse the tips, ask yourself…
- Can this help me ditch my block or help me with my current project?
- Do I have time and energy for this one?
If you don’t spot anything appetizing, it’s okay to trash it and forget it. You’ll get another chance to sample something similar, soon.
3. Make ONE your focus. And go for it, kid!
Yep, I know. I feel the need to work on several if not all tips in a listicle, too. That’s “should” spoiling our confidence.
Hint: Did you know you can take a screenshot of this game for quick reference on your smartphone? Just Google How to take a screenshot on [your smartphone model].
With that, here’s to a delicious writing session:-)
A quick game to ditch a writing block right now
A playbook and game that challenges you to self-coach yourself through your writing blocks
One of Write 50’s premium Ditch The Block challenges