A Writing Tip For The New Year

Have you ever been interrupted while reading a book? Perhaps you got a phone call and you had to put down the story right in the middle of a page, maybe right in the middle of a sentence.

If that has happened to you, chances are you couldn’t wait for that phone call to end. Your mind was focused on finishing that sentence, that page, that chapter.

This feeling is similar to what psychologists call the Zeigarnik Effect which states that we more easily remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks than completed tasks.

We didn’t finish reading the page or the sentence, so we easily remember that we need to go back to the book. Whereas, if we finished the chapter and set the book down uninterrupted, hours or days may go by before we think to pick the book back up.

Turns out, the Zeigarnik Effect can not only help us with reading books, but also writing books.

One of the biggest obstacles to writing a book is actually sitting down and writing. I can find a dozen excuses as to why right now is not the best time to write. I should watch TV. I should make lunch. I should watch a TV show about people making lunch. I do not have the drive to take action and start writing.

One way to get over this hurdle is to use the Zeigarnik Effect to our advantage. When we have to stop something because we are interrupted, we feel uncomfortable because we experience a lack of closure. We want to take action to stop that nagging feeling that arises because we were not able to finish.

We can create this need for action in our writing by interrupting ourselves in the middle of a writing session. Next time you are writing and you are getting near the end of your allotted writing time, stop yourself in the middle of a sentence. You may know exactly how you are going to finish that sentence, but don’t finish. Walk away.

I bet that voice inside your head that needs closure will start talking to you. It will tell you that as soon as you can, you must go back and keep writing. This creates all the drive you need to want to keep writing. And next time you thinking about whether now is a good time to write, that voice will be much louder than the one that says it is time to watch a TV show about making lunch.


HT – Pre-Suasion by Robert Cialdini