Writer’s block is real, and everyone has an opinion about it. Maybe that’s because even respected veteran writers battle it – to say nothing of the junior copywriter facing a deadline and a pissed-off manager.
Potential solutions abound. But many of them boil down to personal accountability and initiative, and writer’s block strikes equally among the motivated and the unmotivated. This calls for practical strategies that anyone, anywhere, can use.
At Consummate Prose, we battle writer’s block all the time. With decades of experience both writing and overseeing writers, we’ve devised and implemented proven strategies for success. Here’s a look at them.
1. Get away from your desk.
“Take a walk,” they say. “Clear your head.” Bullshit – that’s just procrastination. If you’re going to leave your desk, do it with purpose. Take your laptop or a notepad and sit on the sofa, on the patio, in a park, or at a bus stop. Set a short-term goal. Produce 500 words, or an outline, or five great headlines, then move to another spot. Lather, rinse, repeat. A change of scenery will inspire new ideas and a fresh mindset.
We get it: Writing is lonely work. It can feel like the world’s expectations are pressing down on you and that every word that you produce will be sliced, diced, criticized, and otherwise manhandled.
Guess what? You’re not alone. Every writer feels this way, and one of the best antidotes is to build and inhabit a community of peers. Tag-team a writing assignment. Trade tips and insights on your brand voice and your leaders’ sacred cows. Research best practices and talk about them. Create a supportive environment in which people can give and receive feedback without fear.
3. Gamify the creative process.
This one’s tricky, but don’t dismiss it out of hand. Sometimes, when words won’t come, total immersion can break the dam. Design a writing workshop that puts word games front and center. Mad Libs, Scrabble, and Apples to Apples all require logic and imagination, and they’re fun. (If you don’t find games fun, skip this step, and consider whether you actually have a soul.) Introduce more adult options at your own discretion. Add a few custom rules to the game to tie it to your brand or content initiative.
A few additional ways to get the juices flowing:
- Use sticky notes as a team to mix and match ideas and phrases and try out different ways of organizing content.
- Play with word clouds and other internet tools to get a glimpse at your brand language and potential jargon in a different light.
4. Do your homework.
Research is necessary for all high-quality writing, period, full stop. If you don’t know what to write, do more research. Identify two or three articles that offer unique insights on your topic, and then learn more about the authors and their own research resources. Jot down brief summaries – on a notepad, not in your Word document. Save every link. You probably have a few books on your bookcase that are useful. Skim, take notes, bookmark. Soon, your ideas will come together and you’ll have something to put on the page.
5. Take time off.
“Time off” sounds like procrastination, as noted in #1, but not if you take time off with purpose. Give yourself a few highly achievable tasks for the last few hours before you peace out. Get them done, and your time off will feel like a sweet reward. Then, while you’re away from your desk, consider an activity that you know will have a positive impact on your work when you return. Watch your favorite movie or TV show about writers – we all have one. Talk to someone whose average day is vastly different from yours. Visit a cultural institution. Go downtown and read every historical marker.
Get out of your head, then get back to work.
6. Build a better blueprint.
Seat-of-your-pants writing creates a dilemma: Succeed once, and people expect you to succeed every time. Fail once, and you feel like a complete failure. Avoid both scenarios by ritualizing preparation and creating a robust blueprint for your content.
It’s not enough to work from a project brief. Conduct research (#4!), and then draft an outline. It doesn’t have to be long, complex, and detailed, but it should have a beginning, middle, and end. Incorporate your keyword strategy, images and captions, and links. Draft a headline and a call to action. Before you know it, you’re halfway there. Keep going.
7. Make it a competition.
Ever since 1999, writers around the world have come together (virtually, no less) for NaNoWriMo, during which they devote a month to producing a 50,000-word manuscript. The rules are broad, because the goal is simple: Get people writing. Anyone who hits 50,000 “wins.” The program has a support system to encourage participants, with forums, local events, and writing and revision resources.
For most people, it’s a competition – with themselves. Can they reach 50,000? Barring that, can they exceed the previous year’s word count?
Apply this logic to your day-to-day work. Can you produce more today than you did yesterday? Will the article that posted today spark greater engagement than the one from last week? Was that topical headline as funny and attention-grabbing as the one you came up with the other day? Did the latest batch of social come back from the editor with no changes?
Quit staring at blank Word documents and find new energy and inspiration for yourself and your team. Consummate Prose professionals lead writing and storytelling workshops with practical insights for producing more and better content. Contact us today to learn more.