OK, I’ve got the headline. Now comes the hard part: Actually writing the article.
There are a lot of reasons for writer’s block: Being assigned a piece you know nothing about; getting distracted by other aspects of work, or life, or both; inability to come up with a new idea or find inspiration for a topic; burnout from previous projects; inability to write a lead sentence or paragraph that sounds intelligent. I’m sure anyone could come up with more reasons.
Here are some tips on overcoming all obstacles and writing a piece that may interest others:
1. Get rid of the distractions
This may involve anything from refusing to answer emails to putting a sign on your cubicle that says “Writer at Work: Do Not Disturb.” Some people block out external noises by listening to music. I used to work with a person who would don noise-blocking headphones. Not attractive, but it worked for her.
2. Forget about writing that attention-grabbing lead
Just start writing. You’ll find that the words will flow. You can come back later and write a lead paragraph that will draw in the readers. It’s important to just start putting thoughts on the computer screen. The ability to easily move around copy works in your favor – you could end up writing a sentence four paragraphs down that turns into your lead. Or – as has happened to me – as you write, you think of a sentence that would work for a lead. The subconscious is a wonderful thing.
3. Try multitasking
If you have several articles to write and you’re stuck on one, move onto something else. Your beautiful subconscious may continue working on that first piece, so that the writer’s block is gone when you return to it.
4. Stop beating yourself up
You’re not the first person who feels like she doesn’t have an original idea in her head – and you won’t be the last. Not everything we write will be Pulitzer Prize-winning material. Sometimes you just have to forge ahead. And don’t worry – initially – about grammar and spelling. Have someone who is good at those read your article and make corrections.
5. Come back tomorrow
I have written articles that I thought were not very good, that felt like I was (metaphorically) pulling the words out of my head. When I re-read the piece the next day, however, I discovered that it wasn’t so bad. Sometimes it just needs a little tweaking. Yes, sometimes it needs to be tossed – but in those cases, I usually realize what made it bad and what would make it better.
Everyone gets writer’s block, whether he or she is writing a novel, a non-fiction article or ad copy. The key to overcoming it is to avoid despair. Keep calm and carry on.