Though we usually use the term “writer’s block” to refer to novelists or essayists, it’s still a very relevant problem for marketers, bloggers and content creators.
Writer’s block occurs for several reasons:
- You’re tired (“just one more episode,” you said last night at midnight)
- You’re suffering from blue light haze—a term I made up referring to the trance of staring at a computer screen for too long
- You’re distracted with all the other tasks you must get done
- You’re afraid your writing may not be good enough
- You’re just plain ol’ uninspired
I think one of the most common misunderstandings of writing is that you have to be inspired and feel creative 100% of the time.
Don’t put that kind of pressure on yourself!
Jack London said, “You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.”
We’ve got deadlines to make, and keeping up with publishing a regular blog cadence asserts your company’s authority and provides valuable information to prospects and current customers.
You don’t want to disrupt this engagement, especially if you send out a regular newsletter with content.
So whether you feel like writing or not, you gotta git-r-done. Here are five writing tips that will help you beat writer’s block and conquer your content:
You won’t have time to read Moby Dick from front-to-back, but pick anything—a book, poem, magazine article, top 10 listicle embellished with memes, LinkedIn posts, your Twitter feed—anything with words.
This isn’t research for your article. This is reading to learn about writing. As a writer, reading will always be your homework assignment.
Submerge yourself in new styles, new jargon, new structures and new ideas. Do this after work, on the weekends, or even while you’re writing to spark ideas if you’re feeling blocked.
Then, apply what you learn to your own writing. (Monkey see, monkey do.)
You may also find a cultural reference or analogy to help better demonstrate your points. This will increase the value of your blog to differentiate it from all the others on the web.
As stated by CMI, you “can’t create great content without consuming great content.”
2. Take a break
You’re not a machine.
This study explains that “the brain gradually stops registering a sight, sound or feeling if that stimulus remains constant over time.”
To improve your ability to focus, the study suggests “brief mental breaks.”
These breaks are intentional. It doesn’t mean to constantly distract yourself by checking your phone every few minutes or talking to your coworker between every sentence you write.
Rather, set a time to take breaks. There are a few strategies for how often you should step away from your work. A popular method is working for 52 minutes and taking a break for 17, which has been referred to as the “formula for perfect productivity.”
Going for a short walk (even just to the water cooler) or doing a few stretches gets you away from your screen and away from your blog. Plus, getting out of your chair is good for your health.
Call me crazy, but Monday is always my favorite day of the week to write. I’m refreshed, have digested a few chapters in a book and caught up on some articles, and I usually spend a lot of time outdoors over the weekend. So I come to the office on Monday morning feeling ready to write.
You can turn breaks into a team outing, too! Go on a field trip together that would get everyone away from their desks and into a new experience (perhaps improv or a puzzle room). Together, your team can foster more ideas and creativity.
3. Chat with coworkers and clients
The people around you are an excellent source when you’re feeling stuck. If you just need a break to talk about the latest episode of your favorite show, or want to figure out how to format your piece, don’t be afraid to get a little help.
Scheduling regular content brainstorm meetings will help when the writing process feels tougher than usual. Invite someone from each department who have different perspectives of the business.
Especially if someone is client-facing, ask them to bring client feedback or questions that you can answer in your blog.
In this same meeting, or a separate one just for your content team, create a space where you can discuss struggles in your blog posts.
Get creative in these meetings to help each other solve struggles. Don’t just discuss topics, but get into the nitty-gritty of the blog posts and figure out how to make them more interesting.
Draw pictures on a whiteboard, bring clay to bring abstract ideas to life, watch relevant YouTube video, conduct writing exercises or try to write in the style of a certain writer.
Just like any sport, these meetings allow your team to practice thinking in different ways. It will help you create visuals and unique analogies to put that desired “tilt” in your content.
And, like athletes, you will have goals that you want to achieve. Work together to create goals that are crucial to your business, but also to your personal development, such as working to improve blog quality or writing speed. When working towards a goal, you may be more motivated to get over that writer’s block.
If a meeting isn’t possible, head to a Q&A website where you can search for groups that resemble your company’s personas to learn what questions they have that are relevant to your business. Check out sites like Quora, Yahoo! Answers, Reddit and Stack Exchange.
4. Renovate your workspace
I once worked with an editor who said atmosphere was “everything” when it came to writing.
For Stephen King, he found productivity by building a routine of writing at the same time and sitting at the same desk every day.
Create the space around you so it becomes an optimal writing environment.
I’m not saying to do a complete Joanna Gaines (sorry, your cubicle walls will probably have to stay up), but it’s easy to add some extra sumin’ sumin’ to your desk.
How do you want to feel when you write?
If you want to feel comfy like you’re lounging at home, bring in a lamp and tack up a few photos of your loved ones. Add some memorabilia from your favorite trips and memories. Desk plants and succulents are a popular addition.
If you want to feel inspired, hang up some quotes. I hung up a poster of “Quotes to think about while writing” that was given to me by my favorite high school writing teaching. (My favorite quote that relates to this post: “There’s no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write.” -Terry Pratchett.)
If you get to work at home, maybe actually working at home isn’t the best place to be productive. In this case, try finding a spot that works for you whether it’s a public library, the tried-and-true coffee shop, or rent out a spot at a modern coworking space.
Several ways to boost creativity depending on your environment. Messy vs. clean. Sitting vs. standing. It will take some experimentation to see what works best for you.
If you experience writer’s block often, it might be a sign that it’s time to change where you’re working. Add in some color, a new poster, photos, stand instead of sit, try out anything that might make you feel more engaged.
5. Prioritize and plan your day
One of the causes of writer’s block is feeling paralyzed by your ever-growing to-do list. You see email notifications in the corner of your screen, your phone rings and your coworkers continue to ask questions (or just to talk about their new dog).
If you’ve got dozens of tasks screaming for your attention, start your day by prioritizing what’s most immediate and leave the others at the bottom of your list.
Getting everything on a list will clear up your mind so you can concentrate on writing. And whether work-related or not, some writers also find it helpful to journal for a few minutes to release any distracting thoughts before getting started.
Blocking off time on your calendar to write gives you a time limit so you know that you will be able to work on other projects throughout the day. In a blog about the most valuable time-saving habits, The Simple Dollar actually found that swapping your to-do list for a schedule helped a full-time content creator save a significant amount of time.
As mentioned earlier, Stephen King set a regular routine for writing, which helped him focus better. Find a time that works best for you—maybe it’s early in the morning before most people get in the office, or after lunch when you’ve had a good break.
Minimize distractions by wearing ear buds. Even without music, it’s a signal to others not to bother you. If needed, send out a courtesy email to your internal team to let them know you’ll be writing, and when you’ll be available next.
If you’ve done all that you can do to get over writer’s block and still feel stuck, there’s nothing else you can do BUT write. Unless you have experienced a hand injury or unable to use a voice recording to get down words, you have no excuse (I’m giving you some tough love at this point!).
When you sit down at your writing desk, you write. It doesn’t have to be good. Your editor will help you get it ready to publish.
So, write on! Get out all and any ideas—use bullet points, full sentences, paragraphs, or just one big chunk. Keep typing. Then, you can sort through everything and find the real gems.