Writer’s block causes anxiety and other mental maladies. But for professional writers with looming client deadlines, writer’s block threatens careers and income streams as well. How do you fight back? Here are a bunch of ways to unblock. I hope your cure is in here somewhere!1. General Cures for Writer’s Block
- Melissa Burkley breaks down writer’s block into four types on Psychology Today: Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of success and lack of motivation. If you think probing your psyche will get you past writer’s block, this article is packed with helpful insights.
- Here’s more psychological perspective from Maria Konnikova in The New Yorker, How to Beat Writer’s Block. The common denominator is unhappiness, and the author describes some practical techniques to improve one’s mood and creative output.
- Ideas for attacking writer’s block from accomplished writers:
o “ … writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all.” — Charles Bukowski
o “There is no such thing as good writing, only good rewriting.” — Robert Graves
o “Writer’s block is my unconscious mind telling me that something I’ve just written is either unbelievable or unimportant to me, and I solve it by going back and reinventing some part of what I’ve already written so that when I write it again, it is believable and interesting to me. Then I can go on. Writer’s block is never solved by forcing oneself to ‘write through it,’ because you haven’t solved the problem that caused your unconscious mind to rebel against the story, so it still won’t work — for you or for the reader.” — Orson Scott Card
o “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” — Mark Twain
- Here are four simple techniques especially suitable for business writers, from Brandon Turner on Entrepreneur. I’ve used each of them with great success.
- Can music cure writer’s block? I don’t know about this one. I can barely write my name when music is playing, but other writers swear by it. Here’s a list of 12 songs to beat writer’s block put together by an established psychologist.
2. Breaking Down the Block
A big, fat writer’s block can fall on you anywhere along the way. Different action is called for depending on where you are.
- Not being able to come up with topics is a major issue, especially for blog writers. Browse topic ideas here, here or maybe here. Lots of good fish in those articles, but here Neil Patel teaches you how to fish so you’ll never starve for topics again.
- Not being able to put a complicated idea or sequence of ideas into words challenges writers working on technical, detailed and/or intellectually deep material. Ways to get past this block include:
o Write whatever comes into your head and tighten it later.
o Step away from the work. Your mind will keep working on the problem behind the scenes. When you return to the keyboard, you may find the words flowing as if by magic.
o Put together a detailed outline (one of the techniques discussed by Brandon Turner in the article I cited earlier).
- Not being able to come up with an ending is particularly annoying, since you are so close to the finish line. Of course, the best way to beat this block is to have your ending in mind before you start writing. Logically, if you don’t know what you’re trying to say, if you don’t know what point you’re trying to make, why are you writing in the first place? That said, many times we reach a point when we think, “This is done, but it doesn’t feel like it’s done.” When that happens, try the following:
o An executive summary of the key points
o A famous quote that conveys the essence of your work
o Asking a question to provoke further thought
o Suggesting the next step the reader should take, or the next idea the reader should explore
Like most writers, I suppose, I’m something of an introvert. When I get stuck for ideas, the best cure for me is to get out of my head for a while. Talking to people about their ideas, their challenges, their problems and their aspirations never fails to supply me with a lengthy list of ideas for business articles — ideas for both topics and new angles for approaching topics.
Sometimes the worst thing you can do to overcome writer’s block is to think about it.
What do you think about that?