Problem: You can’t come up with an idea.
Solutions: Do writing exercises to get your fingers moving and warm up your mind. Write a profile of an intriguing character you've come up with, even if you can’t figure out how to work him/her into a story. Do a free-write about your assigned topic – jot down anything and everything that pops into your head, and don’t worry about whether it makes sense. Rewrite the ending of a classic story/book/movie. Describe a photograph. Borrow someone else’s characters and throw them all into an elevator together to see what happens. Don’t worry about where your effort ends up taking you, just get those words flowing.
Problem: The idea of being critiqued later paralyzes you.
Solution: Remind yourself that your rough draft is meant to be revised and get through it. You can change anything in a revision after you’re done writing, but having nothing is worse than having something mediocre that can be improved.
Problem: You can’t stop obsessing about that perfect, elusive word that’s hovering on the tip of your tongue.
Solutions: Stick any similar word in the sentence and move on. Highlight, underline, or star the word that needs to be changed so you don’t have to remember it and can direct your attention to more important things – like continuing to write. Stopping in the middle of a piece of writing can make it nearly impossible to pick up your momentum again. Paying close attention to writing and being precise with your words is great, but don’t allow it to stem the flow of your productivity.
Photo credit: Rennett Stowe/Flickr Creative Commons