How to avoid writer’s block – advice from Paul McCartney

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This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world for material to help other writers. Today I discuss a suggestion for how to avoid writer’s block…

One of the most successful composers and performers of all time, Paul McCartney is famous for his hundreds of innovative and best-selling melodies and his musical eclecticism. And, as you may already know, he doesn’t even read music.

But McCartney also offers an object lesson to a wide variety of writers for his steadfast refusal to be cowed by writer’s block. Instead of worrying about when inspiration was going to show up, he always just sat down and did the job of writing.

In a book exploring the relationship between the Beatles and Bond films, Love and Let Die author John Biggs describes McCartney’s songwriting process as follows:

“McCartney places great emphasis on starting and finishing work immediately, before you have had the chance to over-analyse or come up with an excuse not to do it. This is an attitude that he credits his father with instilling in him. Whenever Paul or his brother Mike would try to get out of a chore by saying they would do it tomorrow, their father would tell them ‘D.I.N. – do it now’. As he explains, ‘you get rid of the hesitation and the doubt, and you just steamroll through’.

“This approach paid dividends when he came to work with John Lennon. Every time they sat down to write a song they would finish it, and they never once came away from a writing session having failed to come up with something. “I’m all for that way of working,’ he has said. ‘Once John and I or I alone started a song, there was nowhere else to go; we had to finish it, and it was a great discipline. There’s something about doing it when you have the vision.’ ”

The next time you’re considering leaving writing to tomorrow, remember the motto: Do It Now.

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