As someone who writes for a living, writer’s block can sometimes become the bane of my existence. Truth is, many of us need to write in some form in our business lives, and writer’s block – the cursed inability to put pen to paper, or rather in this day and age, fingers to keyboard – and knock out that amazing email, memo, report or press release, can hit at any time, derailing your day.
Nobody wants that, so I’ve collated a few tips for breaking through the block below.
1 - Get rid of distractions:
This is a big one. Switch off your email notifications, think about putting your phone on silent for 30 or 60 minutes, and unplug from the Internet. Procrastination is your enemy here, and lets face it, there are a lot of cat videos out there, distracting you from the task at hand.
If you’re writing in the office, let your colleagues know you need to get this piece of work done and you’d appreciate no interruptions for a set amount of time.
2 - Plan out your writing:
Whether it’s an end of year report, 500-word blog post or all-staff email, it can help to outline your post – your intro, the key points you want to get across, the closing, whether you need a call to action – and then you can tackle each section separately.
3 - Research, research, research:
If the hold-up is because you’re not all that clear on the subject matter, get researching. Take a look at how other people have written about it, brush up on the issues in the space, and make sure you know what you’re writing about.
4 - Get away from your desk:
Sometimes, you just need to step away from your desk, do something else and come back to your writing refreshed and ready to go. Do something else creative, or physically active – draw a picture, knock off a quick crossword, go for a walk, do some stretches or yoga poses – if your co-workers don’t mind the odd Sun Salutation that is.
5 - Peer review:
Speaking of your colleagues, asking one of them to take a read of what you have so far, and giving you their thoughts can help jumpstart your writing process. An outside point-of-view might be just what you need.
6 - Change your tools:
Always write in Microsoft Word? Try Google Docs. Try dictating, or handwriting. Even trying a new font or new font colour can trick your brain into getting moving.
7 - Rethink the format:
Perhaps your report could be distilled into a clever infographic, your memo turned into a video message to staff, your blog post on a big event into a photo gallery – all of these still take a lot of work, but it would definitely get rid of the writer’s block wouldn’t it?
8 - Go backwards:
Maybe you know exactly how you want to end the piece of writing but can’t quite get started, so go backwards, and just write the ending first. Getting words down on paper, even in the wrong order, is still getting words down.
9 - Read. A Lot:
Reading your favourite writers’ work, a colleague’s take on a similar piece, magazine articles on the topic – all can help inspire you in a writing task. It might also be a good idea to re-read a piece of your own writing you particularly liked, and remember when writer’s block was just a distant memory, like it will be once again.