I know writer’s block. It’s my arch enemy. As a copywriter, I often dedicate entire working days to writing a client’s web copy. If writer’s block strikes during that scheduled time, I’m in serious trouble.
Here are the top 5 reasons writers get stuck for words, and what you can do about it.
1. You’re not sure who (if anyone) will read it.
If you’ve had any experience of public speaking, I’m sure you’ll agree that chatting with one familiar face is a great deal easier than addressing a room full of strangers. When you are writing something destined to be seen by hundreds (or even thousands) of people, picture an individual, not a crowd. Create a persona of your ideal reader and keep her/him in mind as you write.
2. You don’t know what you want to say.
This is a common problem among bloggers, who feel the pressure to publish a post every week, even if they don’t have anything to say. Before you attempt typing, sit down and ask yourself three questions:
i) What do I want the reader to know by the end of this post?
ii) How do I want the reader to feel while they read this post?
iii) What do I want the reader to do by the end of this post?
Answer those three and you can write with intention.
3. You don’t want to be doing this anyway.
In this instance writer’s block is your best friend and worst enemy all rolled into one. You don’t want to be doing this, so the words aren’t coming. But until you’ve got this (unpleasant) task done, you can’t move onto something more appealing. Take a five-minute break from your frustrated wordless state to focus on one of life’s most important questions: What’s in it for me? In what way will your life be improved by writing this piece and writing it well? Will it look good for the boss? Promote your business? Get you seen by key people? Spread awareness of a cause you are passionate about? Stay motivated by keeping your eye on the end goal.
4. You’re distracted.
This often goes with #3. Maybe you’re tired, hungry or just restless? Perhaps you keep checking your email or need to answer the phone. Whatever your distractions are, they’re making it hard/impossible to write. Imagine pushing a heavy cart along the street. Once you get going, the momentum will carry you forward. But keep stopping for a snack, chat or a little look around and you’ll need to put in a surge of effort to get moving again. Eliminate sources of distraction so you can focus on writing and start gathering momentum.
5. You’re trying to be someone you’re not.
Maybe you’re trying to sound like a large business when you’re actually one-woman-operation. Perhaps you’ve been conditioned by a career of corporate communications, and now you write like a robot. Drop your preconceptions about how you think you should sound and write from your heart. If you do need to stick to corporate guidelines, write freestyle first and edit later. Trying to follow the rules while you write the first draft will kill your creativity.
Above all, have fun with this. Words are a way of expressing yourself, of sharing yourself with the world. Relax, stay focussed on your end goal, and the words will come.
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Software Engineer, 2018 University Graduate (Tysons Corner, VA)