“The wonderful thing about writing is that there is always a blank page waiting. The terrifying thing about writing is that there is always a blank page waiting.”
– J.K. Rowling
You sit down at your desk, getting comfortable to settle in for a productive day of writing. You feel the thrill of opening your word processing software, a program you know so well and spend so much time using. The screen pops up, you take a deep breath, rub your hands together, ready for action. As you place your fingers on the keyboard, suddenly that program you know and love so well seems daunting. The cursor blinks before you, taunting you, daring you to put your first word on the page. But that word won’t come. You tap the keys just to hear the sound that usually means words are flowing onto the page, but that’s a mockery too. You lean back in your chair, take another breath, and look over your outline for what feels like the thousandth time.
“I know this stuff,” you say to yourself as you take another sip of coffee. But, before you realize it, you’re doubting everything you know about writing. Suddenly you’re not up to the task. Your mind is whirring, mimicking the fan on your computer. Nothing is helping. Then you start to rationalize. This must be someone else’s fault. The kickoff meeting went terribly; there’s no way I have enough information to write a brilliant proposal! This is the proposal manager’s fault. That’s why I can’t write this section. There simply isn’t enough information! All this time you’re thinking about excuses and blaming when you should be writing. You know this, but that just makes things worse. The cursor is still flashing like a warning instead of an invitation.
You have writer’s block.
Or do you?
What if I were to tell you that writer’s block is a lie?
That’s right. Writer’s block is a LIE.
This is a lie we tell ourselves to feel better about our current circumstances. Giving the condition a diagnosis seems to calm us down or give us a reason for our fears, our inferiorities. Sure, this sounds real and the words feel blocked in our head, and they’re clearly not coming out onto the page. So what else could it be? There are a number of things that could be blocking our creativity. I’m going to address a few of them.
“You can’t think yourself out of a writing block; you have to write yourself out of a thinking block.”
― John Rogers
Fear? How could my writer’s block be fear? I don’t feel afraid of anything, and I’ve written dozens of proposals now. I’m a writer, and I’m not afraid to write. That may be true but think about this particular project. Is this a big deal? Are the stakes higher? You could be putting more pressure on yourself than you realize. We want each of our documents to be brilliant and customer-focused. But, maybe this proposal is a “must-win.” You don’t have time to think about failure, but that may be the only thing you can think about. “Do not mess this one up.” That’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself. Time to get out of your own head and start writing. Start thinking positively. You know more than you think you do, so stop psyching yourself out! Even if you’re new to the proposal writing game, you were given this project for a reason. You’ve got this!
“I think writer’s block is simply the dread that you are going to write something horrible. But as a writer, I believe that if you sit down at the keys long enough, sooner or later something will come out.”
–Roy Blount, Jr.
This one is common. We’ve written so many things in the past. All of it is starting to feel like boilerplate. Seemingly we say the same things every time we sit down to write, and it’s just not fun anymore. Maybe we’d rather be outside, or daydreaming seems like a better use of our time. But, have you ever noticed the feeling when you just start writing? The writing doesn’t have to be about our current project. Just start typing, not just tapping on the keys, but typing actual words you know. Eventually your fingers will flow to what’s been on your mind. And fancy that, you’ve just started writing your proposal section. And, it wasn’t as boring as you thought it would be. Was it the most fun you’ve ever had? Maybe not, but once progress has been made the satisfaction is palpable. So, the lesson here? Just start writing. It may not be easy at first, but as we all know, it gets better. Hopefully by the end, we have a job well done.
“I learned to produce whether I wanted to or not. It would be easy to say oh, I have writer’s block, oh, I have to wait for my muse. I don’t. Chain that muse to your desk and get the job done.”
— Barbara Kingsolver
Maybe we’re trying to be perfect or to write the sentences no one has written before. We want this to be a proposal the customer will read for decades. The proposal they will compare every other proposal to forever. Dare to dream, Writer. Dreaming is good and necessary, but if we try to make our proposals perfect on the first draft, it likely won’t happen. Once we start thinking about putting a clear and concise proposal on the table, we can usually get to work.
Perfection can wait for the final draft. The first draft must come first.
“If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.”
In truth, there may be many more reasons why the words are not flowing onto the page. These are only a few. Just remember, writer’s block is a lie. There is no such thing. You are a writer; that’s what you do. So, do it! Remember the words of Barbara Kingsolver and get the job done. When in doubt, follow the wisdom of Charles Bukowski. Start putting words on the page. In no time at all the right words will fill it.
“Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all.”
― Charles Bukowski