Writer’s block is real. And for someone who pays their mortgage writing words for a living, it can be a real dread. Sometimes it’s a matter of failing to prioritize. Other times it’s a lack of inspiration or a feeling of burnout.
In my years as a communications professional, I’ve learned to push through that feeling and focus on what needs to get done using a variety of tried and true techniques to tackle the challenge.
Here is my best advice on how to overcome writer’s block:
Know how, when, and where you write best
Like most writers, I work better on a deadline. So I like to give myself Friday mornings to have all my writing done. It’s the one day a week that I’m not usually bogged down by meetings and I love feeling accomplished after a long week. If for some reason, I can’t make Friday mornings work, weekend mornings work too.
This is because I know I write best in the morning.
I like to open a window, maybe play some lo-fi beats on Spotify and have my coffee or breakfast nearby. This time a day works for me because if I don’t block off the morning to write, chances are the busy-ness of my day will distract me from getting my assignment done.
Some writers are night owls. Some like busy coffee shops. Some enjoy quiet rooms. Whatever your preference, find it and try to create that environment for yourself.
Let procrastination take priority, but give it a boundary
Sometimes my writer’s block comes from a deep place of guilt knowing that I’m putting something else off that is equally important but not nearly as time consuming. Replying to that email. Updating that spreadsheet. Submitting that form. Checking that text. Before I know it, I’ve been playing whack-a-mole all morning and I blew right through my favorite time to write.
I start to feel the dread come over me because I know I can’t possibly get all the things done on my to-do list. So I put off writing, yet again, because I know I have lots of tasks to complete but writing could easily consume all the time it takes to get those tasks done.
When this happens, I block out time on my calendar and I give myself one hour tops to get as many of the little things on my to-do list done so I can feel that little boost of dopamine. Then, I turn off all the notifications, dings, pop-ups, and just write. I give myself the permission to set that boundary and don’t allow those pesky emails, tests, calls, etc. to stand in my way of getting my writing done.
Start with an outline
Any writer knows how helpful it can be to overcome writer’s block by starting with an outline. Not only will it organize your thoughts well, it will give you a place to start from so you can start filling in the content of your piece, and it’s much easier to tackle a few paragraphs at a time then it is pages.
Fun fact: that’s how this post started.
I listed all the different ways I tackle writer’s block first, and then I filled in the gaps. I started with my outline, then my intro, and finally filled in the rest. True story – I was battling a bit of writer’s block myself and thought, what better way to overcome it than with a blog post about writer’s block.
Read to spark inspiration
If I’m really feeling uninspired or lost on a topic, I read what others have written. I can get really lost in a good novel or well-researched article, so this is another tip I recommend putting a time limit on.
But if, for example, I need to write an opinion piece for one of my organization’s thought leaders or a long-form article for one of our magazines, I will set a time-limit for me to research what others have written and draw inspiration from their content.
In many cases, I will quote or reference their writing, much like a journalist would in an article, to give them credit and allow readers to dive deep into the topic for themselves.
Just write, edit later
When I’m feeling especially challenged, it’s usually because I’m burnt-out. Something is probably nagging at me and it’s distracting me from my writing. That’s when I just free write.
I’ll pick a topic, any topic, and just write about that. Sometimes I will write about however I’m feeling so I can get it out of my body and onto paper, often knowing that whatever I just wrote might not ever see the light of day. Sometimes, I just start writing as much as I can as fast as I can during that favorite time of day and come back to it to edit later.
Of all my tips to overcome writer’s block, this tends to be my favorite because writing is my favorite creative expression.
No matter what words flow through my fingertips, I feel better knowing I was creating something I love. Like a chef in the kitchen experimenting with new spices and herbs, words can feed the creative soul.
So, next time writer’s block creeps its way into your head, know there are tried and true tips for working through it. What are some of your favorite ways to get your creative writing juices flowing?