Writing is one of the most important skills needed by professionals, business owners and anyone wanting to pursue a communications or public relations (PR) career. It takes time, patience, focus and a high level of skill to organize, develop and prepare a thoughtful message, no matter the specific writing task involved.
But what happens when you’re not sure what to write? Even more, what happens when you’re stuck by “writer’s block?” All writers face this challenge at one time or another, but it doesn’t have to be a stumbling block to success.
When it comes to blog writing, for example, preparing an article that provides value and insight takes time. The topic choices are varied and provide a lot of direction, but sometimes those topics don’t seem obvious and it’s hard to know exactly what to write about them. You want to be unique, creative and stand out when possible.
For that to happen, you should consider some of the numerous techniques used by writers facing the dreaded doldrums of writer’s block.
Here’s a few ideas we consider when stuck: read and research, try writing something else not related to what you’re working on, exercise your body, talk with other creative people and brainstorm.
Most of all with writing, it needs to be a habit, something you engage in each day. If it’s not, then being blocked will happen more often, usually because you’re not used to getting started and doing it on a daily or hourly basis.
Writing also needs structure. Do you have a schedule for writing? Is your space set up to be conducive to writing? Are you in good physical and mental shape?
Write in a different form
One of the best ways to break a block is to keep on writing, even if you don’t feel like it or are tried. Writing is a form of exercise, so keep at it. If you are stuck on a blog, turn your attention to something else. Write a lengthy email to a family member with an update about your life, compose a poem or song lyrics, write or rewrite you resume or biography.
Looking back over the situation, ask yourself what is holding you back. If possible, break the blockage by going around it with other forms of writing. This keeps you in the habit of writing even if you are stalled on the specific project you are trying to complete.
Some researchers talk about trying a different form of writing tool when you are blocked. If you are used to sitting in front of a laptop, turn to a notepad and hand write. Perhaps try the various notes apps on your phone or even speaking into a recording app. Sometimes, it’s as simple as changing the writing utensil you’re using – a pen, a pencil, a typewriter, a recorder or even a paintbrush or crayons.
Certainly you can’t write a final draft with some of these techniques, like the crayons, but they are simple tools to change your creative block in a fun and relaxing way that does not add to the stress you may already be feeling.
Talk with another creative person
Struggling with writer’s block is similar to fighting insomnia. Sitting in front of a blank computer screen or piece of paper, writing for inspiration, won’t do anything to help. So try and pause, set aside the work and call a friend of colleague.
While you talk, take notes. In fact, writing down notes of conversations, something journalists do as an actual practice, is itself writing. It can be an important way to get ideas and free up your creative fog, not unlike the other technique mentioned – brainstorming.
Brainstorming – a warm-up
Sometimes when it’s a struggle to put words on paper, simply brainstorming can free up your mind and help open the floodgates to the words you need. The beauty of brainstorming, when done right, allows you to freely think without consequences.
The best brainstorms are those when every thought and idea are considered legitimate. That’s a true form of brainstorming – getting ideas done, without considering if they are good, bad or neutral.
Read and research
When it’s too hard to write, go and read. Words from other authors can inspire, make us think, give us new ideas and insights and help us overcome the block that is clogging up our progress.
Reading can be a form of research. It doesn’t have to be heavy duty reading either. Try a magazine or a newspaper, read some humor or look over what others in your industry are writing or talking about.
Research is like brainstorming – it opens you up to new ideas, it reminds you of current thoughts on topics that might be of interest to your own project and it allows you to step away from writing without abandoning your creative energy.
Exercise and training
If blocked in your writing, turn to physical exercise. Go for a walk, do some chores around the office or house. There are endless ways to turn physical work to your advantage. Often when someone is working out, for example, they are thinking about what they need to accomplish, or how to resolve some issue. It’s the same with writer’s block. Being on a treadmill gets your heart rate up but it also give you time to think, and thinking can be a valuable way around staring at a blank computer screen.
A lot of writers try to avoid distractions when they are writing, and rightly so. But sometimes distractions take you away from the problem at hand and let the mind wander to possible find a solution or re-energize our body for the hard work that writing can be.
Keep in mind that writing is in fact hard work, both mentally and physically and being in good shape, getting sleep and eating right are factors to achieving success.
Part of training is knowing what works beside for you and doing it. In other words, developing a writing routine that helps shape your thoughts into words. Perhaps it’s where you write, or what time of day works best for your creativity. Perhaps it’s being around other people, or alone and in a very quiet space. Everyone is different. Some writers love the commotion and energy of an open work environment, others want to be locked in a quiet room alone with their ideas and words.
No matter the choices you make, train for your writing time like any other pursuit. And, of course, practice.
Inspiration, creative energy, and getting “the juices flowing” are all important to any writer no matter the complexity of the writing project. Understanding how these things happen for you is critical to overcoming writer’s block.
In the end all of these techniques – and there are plenty more – are designed to get you back into the creative flow, to rekindle your energy, and to inspire you to get words on paper so you can complete your project.
And speaking of that – for me, thinking of writing as work is a mindset that I fight against. If it’s just work, then it’s hard and not something I want to do. If it’s something I enjoy, a pastime and hobby as well as profession, I am engaged, excited and can be as creative as I like.
Don’t let writer’s block be your stumbling block.