Giant Jenga is one of the small pleasures of being an adult. There’s just something about pushing and prodding large blocks of wood in a random bar with a drink in hand that puts a smile on my face. As the tower gets taller everyone’s attention starts to zone in on each move until the inevitable crash comes, startling more than a few of the casual bar bystanders.
Anyone that’s ever played Jenga knows that sometimes the first block you touch moves effortlessly and your turn is over before you know it. But other times it seems like all of the blocks are glued together, and each one you press looks like it wants to take the whole tower with it. Finally after tapping on seemingly every available block in the tower you find one that budges the slightest amount.
So you tap it a little further.
And a little further.
And a little further.
Until finally the block slides out and you can breathe easy until it’s your turn again.
Writing is a lot like that.
The blocks are our topics and ideas, with our prodding and tapping being the keystrokes at the foot of an article, book, or brain dump.
Much like Jenga, sometimes I sit down to write and I have typed 500 words within 15 or 20 minutes. It’s those effortless writing sessions that are so enjoyable.
But other times (most of the time?) writing is more like the blocks the are seemingly glued together. I have to try one topic or article, and then another, and then another, before I finally come across a topic that is present and relevant enough for the words to start flowing.
It starts with a sentence, and that sentence feels good enough. And then comes the next tap – the next few sentences that build on the first. And then another tap – this time with the words starting to come easily. Until finally the article, chapter, or writing session is complete. It took a lot of false starts to get going, but as is always the case, with enough false starts I eventually found the words I’m supposed to be writing.
I don’t know if this is all writers’ experiences, but it is certainly mine. And because of that there’s two key factors that help ensure there’s always another block to tap.
Writing Down Ideas
I’m almost never writing when my best ideas come to me. I’m usually working out, in the shower, on a walk, or doing any similar activity that allows my mind and creativity to wander. But as we’ve all likely experienced at some point, if a great idea comes to us and we don’t do anything with it, there’s a good chance we won’t be able to remember it in the future.
To combat this, I have the WordPress.com app installed on my phone. My phone is pretty much the only thing that’s always with me, so whenever I come up with an article or book idea I create a new post in the app, jot down a few thoughts on the post in the body text, and then save it as a draft. This allows me to shelve the idea and come back to it another day when I’m actually sitting down to write. If you don’t use WordPress then you can use the Evernote app for the same purpose.
Solving My Own Problems
This is arguably the best place to find ideas. Scratching our own itch ensures that we’re solving a problem other people are likely having as well. This is where readers get that “It’s like this article was written for me” feeling. That’s because it was written for you! It was just the writer experiencing the same thing and putting it on paper.
Solving our own problems, and then writing about them, works well because it’s real and it’s intimate. I like to say that if you want to know what a writer is going through in their personal life, just look at their recent articles. They are likely a reflection of what’s going on behind the curtains.