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writers block

How to get writing, no matter what

Finding it hard to write on demand, struggling with ‘writer’s block’ or doubting your ability to get something written?

Staring not writing on laptop

Do you have the time to waste on not writing?

Long ago I decided I didn’t have the luxury of ‘writer’s block’ and I can write on demand rather than waiting for inspiration or the right mood. There are certainly times when I really don’t feel like it, but I have found ways to keep writing anyway.

Some people will say writing when you don’t feel like it means your writing isn’t as good. That maybe true for creative writing (although many novelists would disagree) but if you write professionally you have to meet deadlines for clients whether or not the whim takes you.

Tips for overcoming writer’s block – or writer’s hesitation

Here are some useful techniques, some are well known and some have been really valuable for me over the last nine or so years.

If you have any great tips on how you overcome writer’s block, please share your ideas in the comments section below.

  1. just write. It doesn’t matter what you write – just sit at a keyboard or with pen in hand and write for five minutes without stopping. It gets ideas flowing and sometimes gets doubts out of your head. You may find you are ‘in the mood’ well before your five minutes is up…
  2. forget the start. If you’re sitting in front of a blank page not knowing how to introduce a document, or what title to give it, start writing the middle of it. For an article, write the middle and come back to the introduction and title; for a longer document, choose any chapter but the first and write that. Apart from getting you started, an intro or title often needs revising once the rest is written anyway so leaving it to last makes a lot of sense
  3. if you know broadly what has to be written, write out all your headings and sub-headings for the document. It’s much easier then to just fill in the text between headings in whatever order you feel like
  4. give yourself permission to just write – don’t worry about typing perfectly, getting spelling and grammar right, or having the perfect word in every instance. Get your first draft written and your project is underway – much better to have it all written and spend time proof reading than to have only a paragraph or two written in the same time.
  5. know yourself so you can set up the best conditions for writing. It may be first thing in the morning, after doing some exercise, with music playing or in silence, at a keyboard on a desk, or any combination of circumstances but use your environment to encourage your writing
  6. like that proverbial elephant, don’t expect to tackle a big project in one go. Set yourself small targets – yes it can be ‘have the first draft finished by Thursday’ but it can also be goals like ‘write for 20 minutes then check emails’ as doing something hard or unpleasant is easier to face for a short time
  7. build habits – if you sit at your computer to write at 10 o’clock every day, your mind will expect that and be ready to write

When it comes down to it, the only solution is DO IT!

I find that if I don’t feel like it but start typing I get into it and can write the document easily – and often finish it ready for another! If none of the above helps get you writing, your other option is to ask someone else to write the document or web content for you.

Avoiding writer’s block…

Blocked door in a wallHave you had that sinking feeling of not being able to write when you need to?  Time seems to tick by so slowly… but yet the deadline approaches so quickly.

A few weeks ago I gave some ideas on overcoming writer’s block but the ideal is obviously to avoid it rather than deal with it. The following steps can be taken whenever you have the chance to reduce the odds of reaching that situation again. I won’t say you will never face writer’s block again because sometimes it is just too hard to get motivated despite any preparation, but you can reduce the frequency of it!

Here are my ideas for avoiding writer’s block, but I’d love to hear your ideas as well in the comments below…

  1. keep a list of writing ideas so when you have time to write (for a blog, newsletter, articles, etc) you don’t have to waste time thinking of topics as well
  2. if you know you need to write a report, jot down notes as you think of them. For example, every time I write major news items for a particular client, I copy it into a document that will form the basis of their annual report in July. Having those topics already in place makes the annual report much easier to deal with.
  3. set specific times for writing so you know there is a deadline and you don’t have time to sit and worry. Make a separate specific time for editing and rewriting so your writing time is exactly that – writing time.
  4. try making a regular time to write. If you don’t consistently have things you need to write you could still use this time – rewrite web content, write parts of reports you know are coming up, write some standard email/letter responses for customers and so on. Being in the habit of writing at a certain time will make it easier to write when you have to.
  5. know your limitations, and do something about them before crunch time. That could be learning some writing skills (such as reading through my blog once a week), starting bigger projects ahead of time if you can’t write for hours at a time, or researching a writer/editor to help you.
  6. look after yourself leading up to your writing project – get a good night’s sleep, drink plenty of water, grab some fresh air and exercise, and so on. Being run down and uncomfortable within yourself won’t help you write efficiently or effectively

What else have you done to avoid being unable to write when it’s important?

How to overcome writers block

Have you ever had to write something but just can’t find the words to start? Many people face this problem, and some find writing a problem every time they try. So here are some sure fire ways to get yourself writing when it seems impossible…

  1. start writing– get your fingers moving on the keyboard or the pen on the paper with any gibberish that comes to mind. Type nonsense, whatever is in your head, a shopping list or even ‘I don’t know what to write’ over and over. Action often induces the brain into the right thought patterns
  2. start with something easy in a big project – if you find the introduction too hard, leave it to last and start with as easy bit. For example, get the contact us page written before the home page as it will get you started
  3. give yourself a tight time frame and stick to it – add a reward if that works for you. For instance “I have to write for 30 minutes before I go to lunch” or “Once I have written 500 words I can call Mary for a chat”.
  4. set the mood – play some Mozart if you can as that stimulates the brain
  5. move to a new place. If you’ve been at your desk all day and you just can’t get writing, grab pen and paper and sit under a tree, curled up in a favourite chair or just turn so your back is to your computer, or try a brisk walk around the block or do some stretches. A change of scenery and/or activity can be enough to start the words flowing
  6. forget about good grammar and spelling, flow and other writing techniques so you can concentrate on writing – you can refine the details later but the words and ideas must be written to be useful
  7. write out the headings and sub-headings – it is shorter and simpler than writing the full content so is a good starting point. It will also then make it easier to actually write the content because the ideas are already laid out for you

I will do another blog post on setting things up to reduce the risk of writers block, but for now stop reading and start writing!