We’ve all been there. You stare at the computer screen, willing the words to come to you.
But nothing does.
Most of us get writer’s block at some point. It’s just going to happen, and we should all accept it as one of those inevitable parts of life. But we often don’t accept it. Instead, we dwell on the cause of our writer’s block.
When I worked in a newsroom, I always attributed any writer’s block to the open concept workplace. When I worked in an office (with my own space that had a door!), I blamed the cause of writer’s block on, well, being in an office. But, it turns out that it is just as easy to have writer’s block when you work from home. I know, who would have thought, right!?
No matter where you are working writer’s block is aggravating. But rather than just wait for it to “pass” it’s important to have a few tricks up your sleeve.
To help you get over writer’s block, here are a few tips that will have you whipping up fantastic content in no time.
Shut off the distractions
I get that it is tempting to take a break and scan through Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. But resist the temptation, unless you want to get sucked into the rabbit hole of the Internet while trying to get “inspired” to write. Trust me, I speak from experience. One time I took a break and checked out Facebook, and an hour later I was no more inspired but I had watched four cat videos, read about affordable accommodations in Spain (not planning any trip there at all, I should add), and had an idea about what my favourite snack said about my personality.
Put your phone on silent and put it out of sight. And if you get pop-up notifications on your desktop when emails come in, turn that off or close your email temporarily to help cut down on distractions. There is nothing (I mean NOTHING) worse than when you are on a roll writing and the flow of words comes to a crashing halt because you hear the ping of a new email.
If you’ve spent a good chunk of time trying to write something and it’s just not coming, get out for a bit and go for a walk. Going for a brief walk can give you a much-needed boost of energy, and it allows you a chance to think things through away from your desk. One recommendation – take something with you so that you can jot down ideas that come to you while you’re out.
Change your work environment
You know how people always say that a change of scenery can make all the difference for changing one’s perspective or mood? The same applies to writer’s block. Grab your laptop and head to a local coffee shop to work for a bit. I’ve written in coffee shops, libraries, museums, parks, and more than one or two pubs over the years.
If you’re not able to go somewhere else, try adjusting your current work environment. I hate writing in a really quiet setting, so I often play music that suits the tone of what I am writing. If you’re in an office, bring in a pair of earphones so that you don’t worry about distracting others. You can also spice up your workplace with colourful artwork or plants – find things that make your office a creative haven for your writing.
Don’t start at the start
It’s a common problem — we get hung up trying to write a stellar intro that will provide the inspiration for writing the rest of a particular piece. But it should be the other way around. Focus on writing the main body of your content first. Then go back and write the intro once you’ve established the message.
If you love all things list-related (I know I do!), write an outline and then flesh out the content for each section (this is particularly helpful when working on communications plans or annual reports).
Talk about it
Find someone you can talk to about what you’re working on and the source of your writer’s block. Someone to act as your sounding board. Talking things through can help you find the right words for your content and clarify the message you want to convey. Your sounding board may not even need to say anything to be of help. Proof – this was my sounding board the other day:
Do something productive
Once upon a time, I would get super frustrated whenever I had writer’s block. I’d think about how unproductive I had been just staring at a blank Word document. And then I’d be concerned about all the things that I still needed to do on my to-do list. And I’d think about how I had not tackled anything on that to-do list because I was too busy staring at that darn blank Word document! I was beating myself up for having writer’s block. And that had a negative impact on my productivity.
So now, when I have writer’s block, I pull out my to-do list and look at the small things that I can tackle right away. Even the most trivial task can help give a much-needed sense of accomplishment, reduce frustration, and help get back to focusing on writing.
Sounds silly, right? A remedy for writer’s block is to write?! Sure is. Open up a new Word document, or take out a fresh piece of paper (confession – I do 95% of all my writing on paper before it typing it out) and start jotting down thoughts and ideas. There doesn’t need to be any structure. Just start writing. Write about what is going on outside your window. Write about the weather. Heck, write about having trouble writing (second confession – that is exactly how this blog post came to be). Have a bit of fun with this trick and see where it takes you creatively. No doubt you’ll be over the dreaded writer’s block in no time.