We’ve all heard it before - “content is king” in today’s marketing world. The steady influx of online content may have you writing in a frenzy just to keep up with competitors. You might feel like you’re in a race trying to provide better blog posts, infographics, eBooks and newsletters each day. But hold on…what’s happening? Your typing fingers are slowing to halt, your mind is freezing up and you’re breaking into a cold sweat - you’ve got writer’s block.
This affliction can happen for any number of reasons but common causes are conflicted feelings, perfectionism and lack of inspiration. Early symptoms can include an inability to write, loss of focus and difficulty meeting deadlines. If you’ve experienced any of these symptoms you should immediately read this blog post.
Get Clear on the Goal
If you’re not completely clear on the goal you’re meant to achieve through your writing, you may induce writer’s block. Defining clear-cut goals either with your boss or on your own before you start writing will give direction to your process. Your goal is the foundation of your piece; It should guide everything from your wording to your topic choices.
Let’s say you’re writing about a new product your company just released. If your goal is to evoke emotion around this product, you may tell the story of how the product came to be, the grueling hours spent bringing it to market and the people you hope to help with it. Alternatively, if your goal is to drive website visits, you’ll want to weave calls-to-action throughout your writing that lead readers to your website. Defining your goal early on will help you make stylistic decisions more confidently throughout your writing process.
Create an Outline
Once you’ve set your goal, you should create an outline to give structure to your ideas. Start by writing down the major topics you’ll be covering in your work and placing them in a cohesive order. Some people stop here, while others find it helpful to further develop their ideas and supporting evidence using nested bullet points.
No matter which method you choose, getting this structure down on paper is fundamental to preventing writer’s block. Your outline will act as a roadmap for your work, helping you to navigate the twists and turns of the topic at hand. This way, you won’t have to stop (and risk getting stuck) to think about what you should write next.
Don’t Aim for Perfection
No one’s first draft is perfect; trying to force it to be impeccable will slow you down and suppress your creativity. No matter how “perfect” your first stab at a topic is, there will still be a revision process. So, instead of agonizing over every word, just start typing and see where the keyboard takes you. Even if the words that spill out seem like they’ll never be fit for human consumption, you’ll likely find value in them later. It’ll give you a framework to build off of during your revisions and lend clarity to which of your thoughts best illustrate your point.
Know When to Step Away
This is a big one. There’s a time to write and there’s a time to not write. It’s essential that you start your work far enough in advance that you can take breaks to keep your creativity flowing and your productivity high. There’s nothing worse than having a case of writer’s block at midnight the night before a 10:00 am deadline.
Sometimes, you’ve just been brainstorming, typing and revising for so long that you get burnt out. It’s times like these that you need to allow yourself to step away and do something unrelated – without feeling guilty about it. It may seem counterintuitive, but you’ll often finish your work sooner if you step away. Rather than staring at a blank screen for two hours, you can step away for a bit and come back to a fresh mindset and a blog post that writes itself.
Switch Up Your Environment
So - you’ve found yourself on a deadline, you don’t have time to step away and you’ve got writer’s block. How do you get those keys typing? Well, pull the emergency lever because it’s time to switch up your environment. If you typically work at your desk, set up shop in the kitchen or even outside. Being in a new space can open your mind, spark new ideas and boost focus. You never know what words you might end up using just because a bird whirs by or a kitchen timer dings. The point is that a new environment will create fresh thoughts and fresh thoughts will prevent writer’s block.
(Pro Tip: Never write from your bed. Doing work where you sleep has been linked with sleeping issues.)
Ah, your favorite childhood activity. Who knew it would become your greatest professional asset? Play has been proven to promote creativity, improve productivity and relieve stress – all of which fight writer’s block. Boston Digital actually has an abundance of toys around the office for this reason. From fidget spinners and Legos to mini-sandboxes and ping pong tables, we use play every day to keep ourselves at peak creativity. If you feel yourself coming down with a case of writer’s block, stop, play some ping pong and come back to a cured mind. Seems like a dream, doesn’t it?
Whether you write daily or just once in a while, these tips will keep your mind open, your fingers typing and your writer’s block at bay. Seeking clarity, allowing imperfection and giving your brain some TLC will provide you with the perfect environment to tackle your next writing assignment with ease.