4 Ways to Beat Writer’s Block

  Image via  Unsplash

Image via Unsplash

This post was written by Kristen McCormick, marketing manager at Janeiro Digital. Follow her, @kcorm10.

Writers are often encouraged to prevent writer’s block by creating routines and building habits. Although logical, it’s time-consuming —  and writer’s block could strike before then.

Fortunately, in addition to the many proactive strategies, there are also reactive ways to beat writer’s block. Here are four scenarios and some effective remedial action you can take to dig yourself out when you’re feeling stuck.

Ditch the Doubt

Doubt can strike at any time, no matter how compelling the content or how superb your skills. Ah, those escalating questions: Why is this so hard? Maybe it’s the topic? Maybe I’m not capable? Do I have the skills? Do I have any skills? Do I even know how to write?

Doubt does nothing but distract you. Don’t let it. Here’s how:

  • Although it may be an off day, you can still produce something, and coming up with something crappy is better than coming up with nothing. At worst, you could produce an expressive piece representing your inner turmoil.
  • Befriend your inner critic. Both of you want your writing to succeed; the inner critic just doesn’t know how to communicate effectively. Thank him or her for the concern, and reassure that voice you’ve got this under control.  
  • Reread one of your past successful blog posts and remind yourself you’re a writing rockstar. If you want to get real technical, use site statistics to get fresh ideas.
  • If you’re still feeling stuck, try Unstuck.com. It’s like a creative therapist, except instead of just asking questions, it provides suggestions, too. Even if it doesn’t help, it will at least serve as a welcome break.

Part with Pressure

Your mind can’t come up with ideas if it’s stressed out. Yes, you have a deadline. Yes, an editor will probably critique your work. Yes, many people are likely to read it. And yes, 73 percent of consumers get frustrated by irrelevant Web content. But no, this isn’t life or death. When under stress, the brain utilizes the wrong parts and tactics. So unclench that jaw, drop those shoulders and loosen up.

  • Briefly shift over to something mindless to get your brain to unwind, such as laundry, dishes or reading.
  • Challenge yourself to just stop. Take five minutes to watch the clouds go by, or listen to a song all the way through. The world won’t end during those five minutes — and your brain may celebrate the break by producing a good idea.
  • Get silly. Check out this post on “27 Wacky Ways to Beat Writer’s Block.” Change to massive font size. Walk in circles. Write on a bus. Switch to writing with a crayon. Talk to an imaginary friend.

Tap into Tools

You are not in this alone. Here are some tools to help you prevail:

  • People: You may need to internalize the information more. Talk about it with a coworker, friend or even your cat. Ask an expert to break down the more complex material into simpler terms.
  • Content generators: Try Portent’s Content Idea Generator, HubSpot’s Blog Topic Generator or Content Row’s Linkbait Title Generator.
  • Pictures: You’ve got the resources to get the job done, but sometimes you need that spark to get the job started. Browse images to gain inspiration, or go through your own albums to collect some anecdotal ideas. After all, articles with images receive 94 percent more views. Maybe even try taking a break from text altogether and work on an image- or video-based post. KoMarketing Associates is a big fan of this.

Behold the Break

Sometimes willpower isn’t enough. In fact, sometimes, it’s actually detrimental. According to the American Psychological Association, parts of your brain get fatigued after extended exertion of willpower, which may actually cause your brain to function differently. So if you need to take a break, take it.  

  • Switch to a different assignment — on a different topic if possible. A little multi-tasking may give your brain the jumpstart it needs.
  • Write for yourself. Thinking and writing for an audience can get taxing. Do some journaling or free writing exercises. Try Daydreaming On Paper or Plinky.
  • Take a real break. Do activities that use different neural pathways to give the worn ones time to recharge.

While you build your longer-term, preventative routines and habits, the above tactics may help you in more acute episodes of writer’s block. Just be sure to consider the source: If it’s doubt or pressure, you may just need to do some inner work and coach yourself out of it; if it’s confusion or stagnancy, you may need to reach out for some external help. And if your brain is boycotting you? Give yourself a break. Your writing will thank you for it.

How do you beat writer's block? Let us know in the comments.