Avoid Writers' Block With A Big To-Do List

It's easy to panic at the sight of a long to-do list, but when it comes to writing, having a range of projects to choose from can actually improve your productivity.

US author Joe Queenan (whose work I really can't recommend highly enough) has a prodigious output, writing opinion pieces on all sorts of topics and producing nine books over two decades. How does he do it? As he explained to The Writer back in 2001, a key element is accepting a lot of work so he can then choose a project to match his mood:

I always have about 20 assignments lined up, so that when I come in in the morning, depending on the mood I'm in, I decide what I'm going to do. So if I know I don't have the energy to attack a big project—like a GQ story or a piece for The New York Times or a piece for Movieline that might require watching 12, 15 movies—I'll do a movie review for the Guardian in England, or I'll do a book review or a column. So I can always find something to make the day worthwhile.

It's an approach I've also found useful when trying to get fired up in the morning. It won't always work, of course — sometimes a pressing deadline demands all your attention — but it can be a sensible tactic when the task at hand just isn't sparking your creative juices. Other useful tactics for dodging writer's block include stopping mid-sentence the day before and not getting distracted by minor research.


    Making a large list sounds like an excellent idea. I make the mistake of trying to keep all the ideas in my head, which often results in confusion, an overwhelming sense of pressure, and then I don't get anything done. Mapping things out on paper sounds like a much better option.

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