When the words don’t come

Sometimes it is difficult to craft a speech.  We have no idea what to talk about.  The well has run dry.  Or, we know our topic, we have a general sense of what we want to say, but we cannot get our ideas down on paper.

Authors aren’t the only ones who suffer from writer’s block at one time or another; public speakers frequently face the same difficulty.  However, there are ways to work through it.  One of the best techniques is free writing.

Free writing (also known as stream-of-consciousness writing) is a straightforward process to help you break through writer’s block and get the creative juices flowing.  Here’s how it works:

  1. Pick your preferred medium of writing (pen, pencil, computer).
  2. Set yourself a specific period of time between 5 and 15 minutes.  You should not go longer as the exercise is designed to help you get the ideas flowing and pave the way for more focused writing.
  3. Use a timer so that you do not have to keep checking the clock.
  4. Begin to write.  If you have a general idea for your speech, try to write about that, but if nothing comes immediately, then write about anything.  The trick is to keep your pen (or keyboard) moving for those 5 to 15 minutes.  Even if you have to write “I cannot think of anything to write”, write it over and over.  Eventually a new idea will pop into your head and you can go where it takes you.  Whatever you do, do not stop writing.
  5. Do not edit as you write.  Do not worry about grammar or punctuation.  Do not cross out or delete anything that you write.  Put your inner critic to one side for now.
  6. When the timer sounds, stop and read what you have written.  Don’t worry if it is a mess.  It should be.  But buried in that mess, you might just find some nuggets of gold that you use as the basis for more thoughtful writing on a particular topic.

When done properly, free writing can be a fun way to work through writer’s block.  It can help you gain confidence in your writing and it can help you generate interesting and creative ideas.

In the movie Finding Forrester, Sean Connery plays a famous but reclusive author.  In the scene below, he explains the concept of free writing (without calling it that) to a young student with great literary potential.


About John Zimmer

International speaker, presentation skills expert, lawyer, improv performer
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1 Response to When the words don’t come

  1. Pingback: Desperately Seeking Inspiration | Manner of Speaking

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