A blank page and a blinking cursor: the twin scourges of a writer on deadline. When you know you have a page (or many pages) to fill and your mind suddenly locks up, it’s enough to send you into a professional panic. Unfortunately, feeling frantic isn’t going to help anything. If you find yourself fighting an epic case of writer’s block – as I have, many times – the first step to curing it is to allow yourself to find a way to get out of that rut.
Taking the pressure off yourself doesn’t necessarily mean that you can ignore the assignment or the deadline. It’s more a process of giving yourself the time and freedom to regain some inspiration, as a part of the creative process.
I find these tips helpful no matter which writing “hat” I’m wearing – blog writer, website copywriter, content marketing writer or hobbyist writer. Next time you’re stuck, give them a try!
- A change of scenery. Luckily for writers, their chosen profession is increasingly mobile. With laptops and tablets and Wi-Fi hotspots everywhere, the “office” can be just about anywhere you want it to be. When I know I have a huge writing load to deliver on, I’ve found that one of the best ways to inspire productivity is to take myself out of my regular environment
(with all its distractions) and settle into a different location. It almost always has the desired effect and I’m able to get an enormous amount of work done.
- Read other writers – and a variety of them. When you’re stuck, take a break and do some reading – not necessarily on the topic you’re writing about, either. Grab the book you’re currently reading, but also take a look at some previews available from online booksellers for exposure to more writers and styles. Not only will it take your mind to a different place, you’ll get a look at how a variety of writers approach their craft.
- Use the Web wisely. If you need a little distraction from what you’re doing, just to avoid the cycle of frustration, surf carefully. Don’t get sucked into sites that provide mindless entertainment. Instead, read blogs with thought-provoking content. If you’re a visual person like me, looking through photos can also provide some inspiration – I tend to look at places I’ve traveled to, or hope to travel to, and think creatively about how I would describe them. That activity helps get the mental cogs moving again.
- Step away from the screen. There are few things that get me focused better than a walk or a quick bike ride. A short break isn’t going to be the undoing of your day, and getting outside in the fresh air is guaranteed to invigorate you. In fact, a number of studies have found connections between exercise and creativity.
- Give yourself a little prodding. In the event that nothing’s working, I have to go to the extreme: “Write or Die.” It’s a program into which you enter the number of words you need to write and the amount of time you want to write them in. Once you click “Write”, the program will give you consequences – generally in the form of loud annoying noises or horrible earworm songs – if you stop typing for too long. The service used to be free online, but is now available as a $10 app for iPad and desktop – and it’s well worth the cost, if you suffer from writer’s block frequently.
Next time you open a new document, don’t let the blinking cursor intimidate you – with these tips, you’ll be able to beat even the fiercest case of writer’s block.