Blog

From the Trenches

6 Fixes for Writer’s Block, Even if You’re Not a Writer

Right Source | March 16, 2011

Whether or not you call yourself a writer, you’ve probably experienced writer’s block. It can attack at any time: when you’re writing a 500 page novel, a blog post, an email to a client, or even a tweet.

You know how it feels: you sit down to write, and get that sinking feeling in your stomach. You stare at the screen. Get up for coffee. Sit down. Stare at the screen. Get up for a snack. Sit down. Stare at the screen.  Yet another victim to the cycle of caffeine, calories, and anguish known as writer’s block.

Never fear—you can fix this. Start with one of my tried and trusted ways to break through any case of writer’s block:

1. Write $**tty first drafts. Paralysis due to the fear of low quality writing is a far mightier enemy than low quality writing itself. That’s why I follow Anne Lamott’s advice to write “$**tty First Drafts.” How it works: write anything to get started, knowing that you don’t have to attach that file or push that send button until after you’ve revised your awful first draft. You can fix low quality writing (most of the time), but you have to write something in the first place. As Lamott says, “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts.”

2. Skip the intro. The first sentence can be the hardest to write. If you’re stuck on the first sentence, don’t sweat it, skip it. For example, I started this blog post on point one, and circled back to write the intro later. Sometimes, you don’t know where to begin until you’ve reached the end.

3. Write an outline. An outline? That thing from high school? Yes. Outlines. They work for emails, blog posts, articles, novels, web copy, proposals—ok, maybe not tweets, but you get the point. Dashing down a couple bullet points about what you want to write by the time you’re done can help you start.

4. Mess around on the internet. Sure, for me, messing around on the internet normally results in browsing pictures of cute dogs for so long that I start talking in barks. Sometimes, though, exploring the internet can lead to inspiration. Change your preferences on StumbleUpon to see cool sites similar to what you’re writing about, tie in something topical from Reddit, or study the style used by your favorite bloggers. Turn that roaming mouse into a research tool.

5. Change your setting. Get up from the desk and move your body and your computer to the hallway, to the couch, to the coffee shop, to the roof. Work from home for a day, or even take a trip to the library (imagine that!). Changing your immediate surroundings can give you a fresh perspective on what you’re writing.

6. Don’t look, just type. I use this only in the direst cases of writer’s block. The method: tear away at the keyboard with no regard for grammar, sentence structure, punctuation, or typos. Include rants about why this particular writing assignment is the bane of the universe. When the pounding on the keyboard slows, maybe you’ll have a few usable sentences, maybe not. Either way, now you’ve got that essential “something” on the page that makes it easier to start.

Those are just a few of the many strategies I’ve developed to defeat writer’s block over the years. Please, share your personal methods in the comments, and together we can win this war.

Image source

Related Posts:

  • Make Your Ghostwriting Partnership a Success
    Right Source | April 9, 2015

    Make Your Ghostwriting Partnership a Success

    In fifth grade, when my teacher asked my class to write a report on our favorite author, I knew immediately who to choose: Carolyn Keene. The mastermind behind Nancy Drew, my favorite female sleuth, Carolyn Keene churned out one page-turner after another, keeping me up past my bedtime and making cable TV dull by comparison. […] read more

  • Brand Journalism: Better Than the Real Deal?
    Right Source | July 30, 2015

    Brand Journalism: Better Than the Real Deal?

    Brand journalism. Maybe you’ve heard the term and wonder what it means. Maybe you’ve also heard that it’s really only meant for the big guys — companies like Nike or Coca-Cola — who can afford to set up true newsroom-style publishing environments in-house. Actually, if you consistently publish and push out quality content that engages […] read more

  • Trick or Treat! Don’t Let Your Content Marketing Spook Your Audience
    Yvonne Lyons | October 28, 2016

    Trick or Treat! Don’t Let Your Content Marketing Spook Your Audience

    Is your content marketing plan consistently offering up treats — or tricks? What you’re dishing out can have a big impact on your content’s success. read more