Picture this: I’m in my second year of university. I’m sitting at my desk in my dorm room. I have to write a 12-page essay on Galileo. I was suffering from major writer’s block, and all my friends were out at the campus pub for Toonie Tuesday night. I loved Toonie Tuesday night.
And I only had ICQ to distract me.
It’s never easy to get over writer’s block, especially when we have so many distractions surrounding us. Tempting us to sneak away – just for a bit.
Whether it’s a social media distraction or a my-house-bomb-makes-me-wanna-breakdown distraction, we can easily find excuses to pull us away from a must-focus task such as writing.
To help you nix writer’s block and to start pumping out some content, here are some ways to wave bye-bye to writer’s block and hello to a feeling of accomplishment:
8 Ways to Nix Writer’s Block:
1. Act Like a Child.
Whenever my son grabs his name-encrusted pencil and a blank piece of paper, he never, ever hesitates to start scribbling. He starts to create something before he even knows what he’s doing. Take his cue, act like a three-year-old and just put a pencil to paper. Even if you don’t know what you want to write about. Just hammer out words. Incomplete sentences. Thoughts. Ideas. Once you start this process that has no process, your creative juices will start to flow.
2. Skip the Lead.
In the journalism industry, a lead is the opening sentence to a story. It’s essentially your one chance to catch a reader’s attention with the hopes they’ll continue to read your article. The same thing goes when writing in any kind of form. We get stuck at the opening and freeze. So skip that opening sentence and just get down to the nitty gritty of your content. Return to the opening once you’ve completed the main point.
3. Write your headline last.
If you’re putting together a blog post or a press release, don’t worry about writing the headline or title until you’ve completed the piece. Again, a lot of people get stuck on the title of their piece and can’t move past it. You’ll usually end up with something catchy once you’ve reviewed your written work.
4. Talk it out.
Talking with someone about your business or what you want to write about gives you the verbal ability to express yourself. When hashing it out with an active listener, they will repeat what you’ve said back to them, and perhaps re-state it in a more clear, concise manner. If you’re working at the office or home alone, dogs do make good listeners! Use Google Voice to record your ideas and then it will transcribe it for you.
5. Pretend you’re on a train.
This is another tip I picked up at journalism school. Picture yourself at a window seat in the train circa 1935. On the train station platform stands your lover, best friend, train conductor, and they’re standing outside your window. The train begins to pull away, but you MUST get out the most important information of a story as quickly as possible to that person standing on the platform before the train pulls away. By practising this exercise, it forces you to unleash the imperative information without overthinking it. Another way to do this is to pretend you’re sitting at the dinner table with your family. Over spaghetti (or pizza, whatever you wish, it’s your vision!), you tell them about what you want to say. It’s a casual setting and there’s no pressure to be perfect in your delivery. (By the way, why, in the name of Thomas, is the Train Conductor on the platform when the train is pulling away?! Get off that train.)
6. Create an outline, then fill in the gaps.
Sometimes it’s easier to put a blog post (or an About page) together when you outline the post’s skeleton. It’s then a matter of filling in the bullet points and turning them into small paragraphs and sub-headings. Ta. Da.
7. One word: Pomodoro.
Holy, East Side Mario’s, I hate the Pomodoro method. I hate it so much I love it. And for some reason it reminds me of the restaurant that has unlimited garlic bread. Here’s how it works: It’s a 20-minute timer and you HAVE to work during that entire 20-minute period. You’re then rewarded with a three- to five-minute break. You repeat that cycle three times. Those 20 minutes can be excruciating (what am I missing on Facebook?! What if someone emailed me?! I need to sharpen my name-encrusted pencil!). I hate Pomodoro because it makes me stay focused. I love it because I get fast results.
8. Walk away.
If you’re sitting at the computer and ultimately can’t come up with the right words, give yourself a break. Go take a walk. Stretch. Eat some leftover pizza. The mental break will give you a refreshed approach, but there’s just one rule: you have to return to the job in 10 minutes. Taking a break longer than that prescribed time simply breaks that concentration and motivation to get the job done. No matter how delicious that pizza may taste.
Action Plan: Book your next writing appointment with yourself. Then adopt some of these approaches to help you get through the tough times. Even if it means missing Toonie Tuesday night.
Your Turn: How do you overcome writer’s block?! Reply below in the comments!