Writer’s block is exactly what it sounds like: a block in your writing. While the exact reason why we get writer’s block is unknown and varies widely from person to person, it’s something every writer experiences at some point. A few causes may include:
- Running out of ideas
- Depressants such as alcohol
Writer’s block is the very bane of a writer’s existence. We’ve all been on a roll typing out our next blog when we hit a wall and have no idea where to go next. As much as we don’t want to think about it, writer’s block will happen. Getting past it can be frustrating and stressful.
In the content marketing world, writer’s block can be especially stressful and difficult to overcome because of deadlines and the pressure to get it perfect the first time. As a result, the process is hindered and can result in less-than-quality material in an attempt to “pound something out.”
Simply put, the only way to get over writer’s block is by writing. Not by procrastinating and not by worrying about it. Doing so will only make your writer’s block worse. Thankfully, there are some strategies to help cure that bout of writer’s block and alleviate some of the stress:
- Recognize mistakes as part of the writing process
- Write what you think
- Respond to previous content
- Talk to a friend
- Write with a pen and paper
Mistakes are Part of the Writing Process
If there is a code all writers should follow faithfully, it’s this: don’t try to write perfectly the first time around. Yes, you should aim to make it as good as you can, but stressing over writing perfectly is a huge reason why writer’s block develops. The faster you get over the “write perfect the first time” mindset, the faster you can overcome writer’s block.
Even the most famous authors had first and fifth drafts that were less than perfect. I remember being told in my writing classes how some authors get up to twenty or more drafts. (Though for writing a blog, twenty drafts may be a bit much, especially if you’re on a schedule.)
Forcing something that is not there just adds to the stress and can lower the quality of your writing. Focus on getting the core of the blog down first; then go back to reorganize your ideas, tone, and sentence structure.
Write What You’re Thinking
When you sit there at your keyboard worrying about being eloquent, you’re just hindering the process. Instead, write exactly what you’re thinking about. For example: “Writer’s block happens to everyone and there is no way to avoid it. Stressing over it and doing nothing won’t make it go away any faster. Luckily, there are some techniques to help you overcome it.” I just wrote that off of the top of my head. It embodies the spirit of what I want to write about and leaves room for additions when I go back to edit.
Often, people think they have to write the way they read: from beginning to end. However, there is no point in struggling with a beginning when you already know what you want to say in the middle or even the end. “Write what you know” really does apply here. Once you have enough down, you can go back and write a proper introduction. Obviously, writing exactly what you’re thinking will not be your final product. So it’s ok to go ahead and write what you know before going back and revamping it for the final draft.
Respond to Previous Content
By responding to previous content, you can continue the conversation and expand on ideas. Even just responding to someone else’s content with your own spin can help you figure out what to write next. By browsing your Facebook, Twitter, or other social media feeds, you can get a sense of what topics are trending and being widely shared. Base your next blog on what is popular and you’ll be able to get a good range of resources from which to draw information from. Put your own twist on the topic to make it uniquely yours.
Warning: Do Not Post Regurgitated Material
People don’t want to read the same thing twice. Why should they go to your blog to read about something when they can get the same information somewhere else? There are many ways you can make material your own without plagiarizing. For instance, is there anything that someone else’s content says that can be expanded on or a point that wasn’t made? If so, great! Run with that.
Discuss It with a Friend or Co-Worker
Sometimes, all we need is a nudge in the right direction from someone we trust. I have many writer friends and discussing the topic with them helps overcome writer’s block. Unlike you, they haven’t been staring at the same passage for three hours. Their fresh eyes count for a lot.
By collaborating with a friend or colleague, they can ask questions about the topic that you can add into the blog, or note as another topic to explore later. It can be embarrassing to have someone else read an unfinished draft, especially when your ideas aren’t quite coordinated. Just remember: it’s ok. They know that it’s just a draft and it won’t be perfect.
If you still have the fear of someone coming in to read your work (whether with permission or not) and judging its incompleteness, making little notes to yourself like “remember to move paragraphs 3 and 5 around and expand” can help alleviate the anxiety and help you remember what you need to do next.
Write Manually with Pen and Paper
It’s “old-school” in today’s age of tablets and computers, but it’s a strategy that has never failed me: write with a pen on paper.
You can argue that whether you’re writing on paper or typing on a computer, you’re still going to still get stuck on the same issue. That may be true, but studies show that writing manually helps you remember more. While the study I just linked to focuses on students taking notes in class, I believe the theory applies to any kind of writing. The best way I have described it to others is that you can “see” what you are writing. This relationship is not just my imagination, as others have recognized the advantage as well.
To get a better idea of what “seeing” means in this context, think of it like this: how many times have you typed something out only to have to go back and reread because you couldn’t remember what you just typed? Or even zoomed out the page so you could see what the overall text looked like? I am tempted to compare it to Braille because when you manually write, you can feel the letters being formed under your hand. Compare that unique feeling to the sameness of the keys under your fingertips.
Overcoming writer’s block doesn’t have to be a terrifying dragon that you’re afraid to face head on. By following these tips and developing your own strategies to get those creative juices flowing, you’ll be an expert at beating writer’s block.