Writers of all types will deal with writer’s block, this we know to be inevitable.
Where things change is exactly how you’ll deal with them.
Will you let writer’s block eat up your productivity, and come back for seconds to devour more free time?
Fear not, if you’ve ever have the displeasure of running into writer’s block (and haven’t we all), I’m serving up some fresh ideas.
1.) Talk it out
No, I don’t mean make a white-flag truce with your future post (don’t surrender!)
What I’m talking about is literally sitting back and discussing, out loud, where you want the post the go, and what type of things it should address.
This works even better if you record your talks, as you will never have to interrupt your “flow” to write down something particularly genius.
Most of us have no problem speaking (when we’re comfortable), so talking out-loud (as if you were discussing the topic with someone) can be a great way to get your ideas flowing, as the process of conversation lends itself to ‘instant’ idea generation. You have to think of things quickly in order to speak.
This forces you to think on your feet, and with this pressure may come a great foundation for you new post, and if not, it costs you very little time.
2.) Start a “article ideas” journal
Fate is a cruel mistress.
Dramatic intro aside, it can be quite cruel for writers to find themselves in a fantastic brainstorming session… only to be nowhere near their computer.
In fact, most of your best tidbits of genius will probably come this way.
Are you going to rely on your already busy and overloaded brain to remember each and every one? Even after you’ve flushed out some amazing details?
Rather than lose out on your best stuff, create a “post ideas journal” that will allow you revisit these nuggets of gold when the time is right.
With technology nowadays, this doesn’t even have to be a real journal.
Point is, don’t let insight pass you by. Write good ideas down and save them for later.
As an added benefit, you’ll start to create a “backlog” of post ideas that you can use for upcoming articles, creating a “to-do” list that will never leave you thinking of what to write about next.
3.) Change Your Setting
It’s been proven that changing up your daily routine can lead to more creative thoughts.
Have you been getting stuck in a rut lately?
Do you always have the same writing locale?
This is one of the easiest things to change, you might not even have to leave your house, a different room might be just what you need.
If you can manage it, a whole new location might also be a breathe of fresh air (quite literally, if you are able to take things outside).
Coffee shops and libraries are just a few of many places to enjoy a large, open space – all the while getting the new setting you need to mix things up while writing.
4.) Use the Pomodoro Technique
This is a neat technique that a lot of folks are starting to use, and I think it works perfectly for writers.
If you have a large project ahead of you, instead of hitting the mental wall that your brain is bound to run into (if you approach it “all at once”) use the Pomodoro Technique to split segments up into 25 minute work sessions.
The process works in half-hour intervals, because after the work session you get to enjoy a 5-minute break that can consist of getting a drink, stretching, and just plain getting up and moving around.
Check out tools like the FocusBooster app which allow you to use a timer right from your browser, great for getting started with the Pomodoro Technique right away.
This might sound goofy for those who have never tried it, but trust me, for some folks, this technique can be a godsend for getting things done.
5.) Get Physical
As much as we’d like to grapple our writer’s block in a merciless headlock, that’s not what I’m talking about here.
It’s long been known that exercise has more benefits than just your physical health, it’s also good for the brain.
You shouldn’t have to engage in any power lifting to get your brain ready for work, some simple stretching or a quick walk will do.
This is especially important for writers who spend a large portion of their day in front of a computer. It’s the advice they are least likely to take, unfortunately.
That’s a shame, because it doesn’t take a health expert to tell you about the stimulating benefits of exercise. Many folks who work largely “static” jobs can relate just how much better they felt when incorporating a little fitness into their daily routine.
Taking care of yourself can lead to less stress and burnouts, and taking a little time each day to move your body will help when your brain seems to just run out of steam.
6.) Evaluate Your Research
One of the most important steps for many great posts is comprehensive research.
There is somewhat of a danger to research – which has to do with perfectionism. This is because many writers will use research as a way to procrastinate, telling themselves that they are getting things done (when really they’re just browsing with no purpose).
More often than not, however, I’ve found that it’s a lack of research that leads to the glazed stare at a blank page.
Take the time to look into what you’re going to write about.
Find time to actually research, not browse the internet while you half-heartedly read 10 other open tabs.
Dive into some of the best (or closest in relevance) articles on the topic you are approaching, and see what makes sense, see what can be improved, and see what they might be missing.
You can’t cook up something good without the right recipe, and a well-researched post will generally be a much easier post to write.
7.) Create A Writing Schedule
If writing is your profession (or if you want it to be), you need to take it seriously.
Writing “when you feel like it” is one way ticket to disaster.
Cultivating an established writing routine is the essential ingredient to getting past one of the main components of writer’s block: getting started.
Waiting for inspiration to strike takes the control away from you: put it in it’s place by treating your writing like you would anything else of note: practice it regularly and it will become a habit.
Just like getting to the gym can be the hardest part of the exercise, sitting down and FINALLY diving in to that new piece you need to write can be the hardest part about writing.
However, when you have a schedule to stick to, you won’t give it a second thought. With a specific time to write, you will learn to write at that time (rain or shine) and won’t be left with poor excuses like, “I’ll wait until I’m in the mood.”
8.) Prevent Interruptions
This would seem like common sense, but when you’re on the computer and have finally sat yourself down to write, small interruptions can create writer’s block where none existed, because you will be constantly thrown off track.
Some of my absolute favorite tools for creating a stress free (and insulated) writing environment are:
- SimplyNoise (white noise generator, you’d be surprised how much it blocks out those background noises, even in a “quiet” room)
- ZenWriter (this is my personal favorite tool for distraction free writing, but there are also free variants in WriteRoom (Mac) and DarkRoom (PC) that you can use)
- Noise cancelling headphones (not for everyone, but they really allow me to focus in and work steadily)
The other way to prevent distractions is to outright eliminate things that draw us away from writing.
If all that takes for you is a website blocking tool like StayFocusd, so be it.
But if it takes you disconnecting your internet for a while, or turning off your phone, or refusing to check your email, then that is what you have to do.
Don’t let the false rewards of checking small things like new messages distract you from the long term (but much more rewarding) accomplishments like getting your work done.
9.) Broaden Your Consumption
It may seem strange to recommend more reading to prevent writer’s block, but I’ve found that information consumption often directly affects output.
This is an important consideration for writers, because if what you’ve been consuming has become stale, your writing will reflect this.
Branch out of your reading comfort zone into styles, genres, and topics that you wouldn’t normally read.
Challenge yourself, and you’ll likely be rewarded with a new perspective.
10.) The “Brain Dump”
Sometimes, you just need to get something creative “out of your system”, and that is where the brain dump comes in.
Don’t wait, don’t plan, don’t even outline… just write.
You don’t have to publish everything you write, keep that in mind.
Sometimes you just need to get words flowing and out of your system.
Sometimes you just need to see a blank page full of your own work.
Whatever the reason, don’t hesitate to “dump” your thoughts onto the page, disregarding your normal writing routine, because sometimes it will be absolutely essential in order to get back on the right track.
Gregory is the author of Sparring Mind, a blog that combines smart content marketing & clever insights into social psychology to get results and cut through the malarkey.