When you’re stuck, how do you beat writer’s block?
When you’re writing your own business content, there’s no question, it’s easy to get stuck. You can bang your head against the wall, slam the laptop closed and get angry. Or you can work your way through your rut.
I began as a journalist, and there’s no question that some days the words simply flowed better than others. But when you’re on deadline pressure, you need to find ways to quickly stay on track and deliver a quality product.
Following, are 50 ways to beat writer’s block. Not all of these tips will work, all of the time. But if you find yourself stuck, scroll through and find what works for you. I guarantee there’s something here that will have your creative juices flowing again.
50 Methods to Beat Writer’s Block
While You’re Writing
- Start in the middle – It’s not uncommon to find yourself stuck on the headline or the lead. The good news is that there is nothing that says you have to start from the beginning. Try writing out some of the middle paragraphs, and clarity may come. I am not writing these bullet points in sequential order.
- Shut off your internal critic – Your internal editor and your creativity can work against each other. The simple solution to this problem is to write first and edit later. Put down the words first. Lay the foundation. You can always go back later and cut, paste, delete or rewrite.
- Do more research – You may be stuck because you don’t have the whole picture for what you are trying to say. There may be the perfect example to support your argument, and you just don’t have it yet. Take a look at a few more websites, blogs, books or stories. Gather all the information you need.
- Freewrite – Stop putting your restraints on everything. Take a short 10 minute break from your project, and simply write your thoughts down, either on screen or paper. Whatever is on your mind right now, write it down. This serves as a great way to declutter your brain and put yourself in a better state of flow.
- Work on your soul project – Maybe you’re stuck because it’s just not what you should be working on right now. If your schedule allows, put down the project that has you stuck, and switch to a passion project that you’d love to be working on in the moment.
- Give yourself weird challenges – I know writers who make it a challenge to work random words into a blog post. This may not work for everyone in every situation, but it can make the game more interesting.
- Free associate with your subject – What are the major things related to your subject that you want to say? It doesn’t have to be an outline or a draft. Just put a few basic thoughts or ideas on paper and see where it goes.
- Try writing it on pen and paper – Maybe going analog for the rest of the project can jumpstart your creativity.
- What does your reader want to know? – Remember, when it comes to your business and blog writing, you are not writing for yourself. Ask yourself if what you’re writing is what your audience wants to know. If it’s not providing them some sort of value, that could be why you are stuck. It might be time to cut ties.
- Plan your strategy – This is closely related to the above point. You may be stalled out because there is a lack of purpose behind your efforts. Make sure you understand your mission statement, and how everything you do underscores this mission. Every piece of content you produce needs to add value to your audience. If not, this lack of purpose can easily leave you stuck.
- Create an outline before you start – Sometimes, we may be stuck because we’re lost. It’s important to remember the main theme of what we are trying to write. It can help to put an outline down on paper, with the points we want to make in support of that theme.
- Don’t be captive to the outline – Now, the opposite can also be true. We may be stuck because we’re feeling beholden to that outline. If there’s a better path, don’t be afraid to diverge. Nothing is set in stone. In the end, it’s about creating the best product possible, not the one that was closest to our notes.
- Think about your life/business. What makes a good story? – Is there something in your background that you are overlooking? If you are stuck for an idea, make sure you are uncovering all the stones.
- Ask the right questions – Along the same lines, when you are curious about something, follow it through to its natural conclusion. Make sure you are asking the right questions for your writing. The more interesting questions you ask (and have answered) the more interesting your content, and your life.
- Give yourself more to do – There are all sorts of studies out there establishing that students who take on more extracurricular activities do better in class. Are you giving yourself enough to do? You’ll have to be honest with yourself on this one. You may be in a rut because there’s nothing substantial to do next.
- Incorporate a daily writing practice – Having a regular writing routine keeps you in practice and strong. If you write 400 words a day for example, you’ll have a better understanding for how to beat writer’s block. Or you’ll be stuck at your desk for longer each day. You choose.
- Ask yourself if there is more than one way to tell the story – You may have a way to tell the story. But you may not yet have found the way to tell the story. Keep searching. There might be something you’re missing.
- Talk with a mentor or colleague – There’s someone out there who can help you become unstuck. You know who that person is. Pick up the phone.
- Find ideas to steal – Austin Kleon writes about this in Steal Like an Artist. It’s ok to go out there, find someone else’s useful idea and put your own polish on it. Make it better. Make it yours. In fact, that’s how the world advances.
- Close your browser tabs – Are you distracted at every given moment you’re on the computer. You don’t need a special piece of software. All you need to do is close out of your email, social media, and news tabs. The reality of the situation is you may never get anything done if you don’t put your agenda first. It may seem selfish, but to make something (or write something) requires discipline.
- AWH (Always Wear Headphones) – I am writing this piece from my home office in the basement. Earlier in the morning my son was stomping around the front room, above me. Headphones. They’re every writer’s best friend.
- ACD (Always Close Door) – This goes along with the theme of the above two tips. Your family, friends, or employees may not always understand your priorities, or needs to finish this project. Make sure that you keep your door closed and stay focused when you are working.
- Give yourself an artificial deadline – When it comes to serving your customers or clients, I’m sure you’re prompt. You probably offer some great customer service, along with what you sell. How about treating your own marketing with the same conviction. If you don’t have a clear deadline, give yourself one. Stick to it, and make sure you have something you can be proud of when the final hour approaches. This can be a great way to beat writer’s block.
Take a Quick Break
- Give yourself 10 minutes on FB, Twitter or G+ – Don’t fall all the way down the rabbit hole. But if you’re truly stuck or agitated, set a timer, and scroll for a few minutes.
- Do your chores – Ideas and clarity can come by taking a simple five-minute break to unload the dishwasher.
- Go ahead, stare out the window – Take a few minutes and gather your thoughts while you admire the rain, the trees, or whatever else is going on right outside your window. Enjoying everything in your environment can help you beat writer’s block.
- Answer some Quora questions – This is a great way to simply give yourself a writing prompt. If you are unfamiliar, Quora is a question and answer website, where experts can share their insights. You can answer audience questions, and use those answers as a blog posts.
- Reread your old work – You may need a subtle reminder of some of the value you’ve provided your audience in the past. There may be other posts or content that you’ve struggled with in the past. Go, reread those posts, and use them as examples of how you’ve overcome this same problem in the past.
- Take five deep breaths and keep writing – Sometimes a quick mental break may be all it takes to push on. Sometimes it’s the simplest things that can help us beat writer’s block.
- As many pushups as you can – You’re probably annoyed that your content isn’t working out the way you wanted it to. This is actually a healthy way to get the blood flowing. When you sit back at your chair you might have some ideas. You might not.
Consider Your Daily Routine
- Vary your writing location – Always writing from the same place can become boring and stale. If you want to create extraordinary work, try finding a new writing location.
- Vary your writing schedule – Some people find themselves in the groove easier in the morning or in the evening. Make sure you know enough about yourself, to determine if you fall into one of these camps – and act accordingly.
- Establish a morning routine – Incorporating some structure into your morning routine can ground you for the rest of the day. This is a great time to exercise, meditate, and organize your day. Pulling yourself together at this point can help you from getting stuck later.
Feed Your Body, Feed Your Mind
- Glorious, wonderful, coffee – Early in the morning, there are no substitutes for a little java when it comes to keeping the creative juices flowing. If you’re stuck later in the day, it may help as well.
- Go have a drink – It may simply be time to walk away for the day. If it’s been a particularly frustrating experience, it may be time to reward yourself. Go ahead. Have a drink (or 2).
- Meditate – Incorporating 10 minutes of meditation into your morning or evening can be a great way to improve your ability to focus. If you’re looking to beat writer’s block, it can help to sit down for a few minutes to remove your mental clutter. Insight, Headspace or Calm are all great places to start. Coming from a place of calm can help you beat writer’s block.
- Read a book about headlines – Understanding how to write headlines that sell will help you develop your creative muscles. It will help you see the piece from your readers’ point of view, and give you the ability to climb out of any writing hole. Seriously take a look at David Garfinkel’s Advertising Headlines that Make You Rich or Jon Morrow’s Headline Hacks. Both can do wonders for your writing.
- Read books outside your industry – If you work as any kind of specialist, it becomes easy to see in tunnel vision, like an oncologist who only sees cancer. Reading books about subjects outside your industry gives you a way to infuse new ideas into your work and beat writer’s block.
- Read industry blog posts – Make sure you are staying on the forefront of industry news, trends and research. The more current you are, the better the content you will produce. The more knowledge you have, the more options you have to beat writer’s block.
- Think about a different problem – What is another problem that means something to you? Are you concerned about the environment, hunger or homelessness? Go read about it or do something about it and come back. Sometimes thinking about something beyond yourself or the scope of your business can do you good.
When It’s Time To Walk Away
- Get some sleep – You’re probably tired. A fresh perspective will likely help.
- Walk around a bookstore – Seriously. You can’t go five feet without stumbling into another writer’s ideas.
- Talk with a friend – A non-related conversation with a friend can provide a reset. Come back and address the problem later, without feeling drained.
- Take in a movie – Good old-fashioned escapism might be the solution. But only if you come back eventually and solve the problem.
- Go play – You don’t necessarily need kids for this one, but it can help. I have a virtual reality headset that I love to use. I also train my dog, learn Spanish, and read any book I can get my hand on. LEGOS, puzzles, toys, whatever it is, immerse yourself in something fun. That fun can help you beat writer’s block.
- Build something – Nothing is more satisfying than creating something with your bare hands. Remember that show NCIS? Mark Harmon’s character was always working on building a boat in his basement. Other than being a nice story device, it gave him a chance to walk away from his problems. It doesn’t have to be a boat, but creating something can give you the perfect out from your business.
- Read to your kids – The other day I found myself at the bookstore with my 4-year-old son while my wife ran errands. I read to him in the kids section for about an hour. We read books about caring for your ideas, building new things, and more. Their insight, and their interpretation of the world can teach you how to address a problem. New perspective can help you beat writer’s block.
As a Last Resort…
- Bang your head on the wall – Seriously, if you’re that frustrated, do it. After a couple Advil it might help you beat writer’s block. It might not. While you’re at it, yell as loud as you can.
- Destroy your computer – You know you’re frustrated. You’ve seen the movie Office Space, right? The dude takes a copier outside and smashes it with a bat. It might not be practical, but when you can’t solve your problem, it sure would feel good. Or, you could just…
- Hire someone – You run a business for a living. Marketing, accounting and other activities can take you away from what originally got you started with your business in the first place. Don’t be afraid to hire a marketing copywriter.
What are the best way’s you’ve found to beat writer’s block? Do you have any tips or tricks that aren’t on the list? Let me know in the comments!
Matt Brennan is a Chicago-area marketing writer and copy editor. He is also the author of Write Right – Sell Now: How to Create Content That Grows Your Business.