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Bye Bye Writer's Block
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Listening to the tick-tock of a clock, hoping the mind will suddenly give you all the right words? Good luck with that... A better way to avoid writer's block is to start with a plan. That will give you something to write about, and it's the lack of an "about" that typically causes the block. There simply is no reward in just sitting there, waiting for words to come fluttering through the window like leaves in the wind. The right words will come fluttering, though, if you first begin filling in some rough details on what we call PAM-Purpose, Audience, Message. For now, let's call this process the PAM process.
PAM Begins With Purpose
What would you say is your purpose? If you're writing an assigned essay, for example, do the guidelines say expository or narrative or persuasive? If so, that's your first clue. If it's expository, for example, you know you have to describe something, explain something, or show how something works. That's your purpose. For example, look at this example: "A bicycle is a simple vehicle for getting around the neighborhood." Okay, your purpose is to describe why a bicycle is a good thing for getting around (faster than walking, cooling breeze in your face, basket or saddlebags for stuff, etc.). But maybe your purpose is something else; maybe you need to write a memoir or narrative. If so, you can relax a bit, and tell your reader a story, maybe about a trip you took to the mall or the library. Remember, informal writing, like some memoirs and narratives, does not mean you can sidestep the rules of clear, coherent writing.
If the guideline says "persuasive," you know what you have to do. This one can be tricky, because you have to persuade your reader to change his or her mind or agree with you about something. You can assume from the start that your reader does not agree with you, and you must now persuade. If you know what your persuasion will be, write it down as your purpose, such as, "My purpose is to persuade my reader that the school cafeteria food should include brownies and cheeseburgers."
PAM Continues With Audience
Next, you must consider your reader. As a student, your reader will probably be your teacher, so you have a head start there. You know or have a good idea of what your teacher wants and doesn't want, so think about your reader and make some notes, something like, "I don't know what this teacher is expecting but I do know she probably doesn't like brownies." Don't look now, but you have been making notes, right? You've written your purpose, and you've made some notes on your reader, or your audience. You may not be creating complete sentences, but you're putting down words, and that means you're on your way to saying so long to writer's block.
Finally, PAM Concludes With Message
Next, you should be able to create the last of the big three, your message. Call it a thesis if you want; it's your bottom line in a sentence or two. If you want to see brownies and cheeseburgers on the menu, your message could be, "The school cafeteria should start adding brownies and cheeseburgers." That looks a lot like a thesis sentence, doesn't it? Again, don't worry about writing complete sentences. Just start scribbling words. Now that you've got some rough ideas, some words, and a few partial sentences and phrases about your purpose, audience, and message, you can start writing the introductory paragraph, the concluding paragraph, or anywhere you want. You do not have to start at the beginning. Start writing where your thoughts and ideas take you-and don't worry about writing finished sentences at this point. Just try to write something; you can always come back later and edit.
Finally, words are starting to come forth as you create sentences, yes? No? Okay, if not, go back over the process (What's your purpose? Who's your audience? What's your message?). Scribble some more ideas. Turn thoughts into partial or complete sentences, whatever you feel comfortable doing. Before long, you will be doing what you wanted to do in the beginning... you'll be writing, with nary a block in sight.
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