9 top tips for beating writer's block


I co-hosted a workshop earlier this month, on content creation and writing for business (there’s another one on 1 February 2017, if you’re interested). Much of our time was spent looking at things like understanding your readership, adding value and creating brand voice.

But what really got people sitting up and taking notes was when I started talking about how to overcome writer’s block.

If you’ve spent even a small amount of time writing for a purpose (as opposed to creating for the joy of it, in those moments when inspiration hits) then you’ll probably understand the frustration of feeling like the words just won’t come out quite right.

Even professional copywriters with years of experience have moments of thinking, “What on earth am I going to say?” or “This is rubbish, I can’t string a simple sentence together!”

Sadly, there’s no magic bullet when it comes to generating ideas, creativity or indeed writing ability, but there are a few things that might help you get past those mental blocks.

1) Remember it’s easier to edit than to write

Sometimes, a blank page is exciting. Other times, there’s nothing scarier. If you’re having one of the latter moments, forget ‘trying to write’ and just bash out something - anything - to get yourself started. Once you’ve done a rough draft, you can then begin the editing process and start crafting something a little more refined.

2) Write a skeleton

The foundation of whatever you’re writing for your business - or any other reason - is the idea. Next comes the skeleton, where you arrange the points you want to make in a coherent order that will lead your reader from one paragraph to the next. Once that’s done, the writing process becomes much easier. Bonus tip: there’s no reason why you have start writing at the beginning.

3) Use a dictaphone

Many of my clients tell me they’re quite happy talking about their business face to face but struggle when it comes to writing about it. So why not talk out your writing to start with? Use a dictaphone or your phone to record what you want to say, then transcribe the audio and use it as a first draft of your written content.

4) Read a lot

Reading not only inspires creativity, it also helps you channel the tone and style of whoever you’ve last been reading. So if you’re a fan of the way a particular brand communicates, and you know that your brand voice is similar, spend some time perusing their website / blog / product packaging and let it soak in before you get creative.

5) Give it breathing space

Once you’ve written your first draft, walk away for at least an hour and let your words rest. Do something completely different, maybe even read something so that the wordy part of your brain can’t mull over what it’s just created. When you go back to your draft, you’ll find it much easier to see the clunky bits (and actually, you’ll probably find it’s much better than you thought it was as you were writing).

6) Set a timer

There’s something about the challenge of writing to a time limit that helps you bypass your inner editor and just get those words down on the page. Set a timer for 20 minutes, then write as hard and as fast as you can without stopping to work out whether it’s any good or not. Remember, you can edit later. Bonus tip: if you’re stuck for a word, don’t break the flow to ponder - just write ‘xxx’ and you can come back later to fill in the blanks.

7) Change location

Never underestimate how much impact your physical environment can have on the way you write. If you’ve been sitting at your desk for hours, slogging away at a blog post or the content for your newsletter, try transferring to a laptop and working outdoors, or in a cafe, or take it home and write in your PJs in bed. You’ll have a new mindset and in turn a new insight into your writing challenge.

8) Go for a walk

Many writers say that they have their best ideas or come up with answers to knotty writing problems while pounding the pavement. Others find that inspiration hits while they’re washing their hair. The common factor is that while their bodies are otherwise engaged, their minds can wander and problem solve with no distractions. Find your mulling zone and frequent it as often as you need to.

9) Know your limits

If you’re still struggling, and it’s stressing you out, give yourself permission to focus on the things you are great at. Everyone has different strengths. If writing isn’t one of yours, that’s ok. Delegate to a colleague, hire a marketing manager, outsource to a copywriter* - the most important thing is that your content and marketing writing is done and done well. It doesn’t have to be done by you.

(*I think this is a particularly good idea, but I may be a bit biased.)

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