We’ve all been there. Brain fried, staring at a blank screen, unable to call up the right words. Writer’s block – it happens to the best of us. One minute your words are flowing like a river, and the next they’re bone dry. You try to stop your mind wandering off by writing some more, but anything you do manage to jot down isn’t up to scratch.
For people who make a living out of writing (media releases, PR strategies, content), in the battle of writer’s block, we’ve tried it all. Here are 10 ways we get through writer’s block, which we hope will help you combat the enemy – for good!
- Start off with a plan. Remember those essay plans your teachers would get you to write in high school before you start on a major work? Turns out they’re actually more helpful than you first thought. If you haven’t already, create an outline to help you organise your thinking on the topic. Divide your piece of work into different sections, and make notes detailing what you want to talk about in each. This can be as simple as having one topic for each paragraph, and a numbered list under each topic.
- Talk to someone. Find someone who doesn’t know anything about your topic and tell them what you’re writing about. The act of explaining your topic in a conversation will help you organise your thoughts and summarise the information. You will gain perspective on your topic and if you’re lucky, you’ll get some feedback too. You may even find that the person sparks an idea that you wouldn’t have thought of on your own.
- Draw or diagram your topic. Approximately 65% of people are visual learners, which means they use images, colours and other visual media to absorb information. If you’re having trouble coming up with the right words, think about your topic visually or graphically. One way to do this is by drawing the concept or searching for images that relate to your topic. Creating a flow chart or mind map also helps you organise information.
- Get moving. Research has shown that exercise improves memory function because it gets the blood flowing, bringing more oxygen to the brain. The same can be said for your writing. Get out of that chair or off the couch and get your blood pumping. Go for a run, play a game of tennis, or even do a little Wii Fit. Just make sure you’re moving. Once you’ve cooled down and are comfortable again, try writing. You might be surprised to find that it comes to you a little easier now.
- Drink coffee. Caffeine increases energy, alertness and the ability to concentrate. Sometimes the hardest part of writing is just getting started, but with coffee fueling your imagination and cognitive processes, flashing out a few keystrokes can seem like a breeze.
- Watch a video on your topic. Like diagrams and images, watching a video can help you think about your topic in a visual manner. Videos are generally short and to the point, so watching them may prompt new questions about your topic and give you ideas for content.
- Take a break. If you’ve been staring at a blank screen for hours, sometimes all it takes to get the words flowing again is to step back and take a break. Go run that errand that needs doing, make yourself a cup of coffee, take a power nap, work on a different task — do anything that takes your mind off writing for a short while. Taking a break will remove some of the pressure and you’ll feel more inspired to write when you get back to it.
- Change your environment. If you constantly write at your desk, chances are you get burned out faster than others, especially if you’re out of range of a window. A good way to get the creative juices flowing is to change your setting. A simple change of scenery can work wonders by allowing new influences to reach you.
- Eliminate distractions. Turn off the phone and unplug from the Internet. Carve out some time in your schedule just for writing — at least 3 to 4 hours. Giving yourself time and space to be in solitude is important to staying focused.
- Write. One of the most common cures for writer’s block is to get something, anything down on paper. It sounds difficult when you’re experiencing a block, but just writing whatever comes to mind puts your ideas on paper and helps your brain make sense of things. Even if it’s just a stream of consciousness, you can go back and edit it later. The point is to break the block by forcing your brain to forge ahead.