Trying to learn how to overcome writer’s block? Try these tips to kickstart your creativity
Oh, writer’s block, my old friend – or shall I say, enemy?
I’ve struggled for years with writer’s block. I’d whine to my writing colleagues about how hard I was trying, but yet, the muse still wasn’t there. I couldn’t write a thing. I spent so much time complaining about my lack of inspiration and wondering how to overcome writer’s block, that I could have easily written a few novels if I weren’t so focused on being “blocked.”
Let’s be honest for a second. Writer’s block is – in most ways – a big, fat excuse.
It’s easier to complain about not being able to write than it is to sit down and write through your lack of motivation. I’ve found for me that many times writer’s block stems from fear – that people wouldn’t like my writing or that I wouldn’t have anything important to say. It was so much easier to use the excuse that I couldn’t write, versus challenging myself just to do it.
There’s a great quote from Roger Simon that sums up my feelings on writer’s block:
“Why should I get writer’s block? My father never got truck drivers block.”
Before, when people would tell me writer’s block wasn’t real, I’d feel pretty frustrated. “Well, maybe for you,” I’d think, “but not for me. I’m really stuck!” I tried what felt like everything to get myself out of the writing rut I was in. One of my favorite practices was reading books about the craft of writing. I’d take notes and feel motivated and ready to start writing.
One day, when re-reading a favorite book, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, I was struck by her suggestion that writers should commit to writing shitty first drafts.
“For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.” – Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird
At first, I found this to be humorous writing advice. Sure, no one’s first drafts are that great, but is this lady actually suggesting I practice writing pure junk when I should be churning out awesome ideas?
Yes, she is suggesting that. And guess what? It works. Shitty first drafts are my go-to way to get any writing done. This post started as a shitty first draft, where all I had was a couple quotes I wanted to share and a tiny list of how to overcome writer’s block. It wasn’t pretty. Every time a thought would come into my head, I’d plop it in here, and eventually, a whole draft appeared. I edited it a bit and – BAM – a final draft appeared.
[Tweet “Beat your writer’s block with a shitty first draft. It’s cool, promise.”]
Pardon me. I hope you're enjoying this blog post. Want a better company blog? Order a Content Roadmap and we'll tell you who to write for, what to write, how to write it, and even how to promote it. Your customers will thank you with their wallets. Learn more...
Shitty first drafts may work for you. They may not. If you aren’t sure how to dig yourself out of the writer’s block hole you fell into, try these suggestions:
How to overcome writer’s block instead of churning out excuse after excuse:
- Write a shitty first draft of anything, even if it isn’t the topic you should be writing about. Just get something out. You’ll feel better after you’re done. If you hate the draft, trash it, but I don’t ever do that. All drafts go in a shitty first drafts folder. I’ll come here every once in a while and bring ideas to life or borrow ideas from previously written junk. If you don’t hate the draft, but know it’s a mess, leave it for a few days. Come back to it with fresh eyes and start editing when you’re ready.
- Do you have too many ideas? Make a list. A long list full of ideas can help you in the present and the future. Dedicating the time to write the list will clear your mind a bit, helping you right now to focus rather than mentally dissolve. In the future, when you aren’t sure what to write about, the list acts like a grab-bag of fun ideas to try out.
- Stuck with no idea of what to write? Choose an idea from your list Well, if you followed my second tip, you’d have a long list of possible ideas to cull through and choose one. Pick something and commit to writing a shitty first draft. Though, I’d like to caution you on being stuck with nothing to share. If you’re writing for your company blog, you should be working off an editorial calendar. If the current topic you should be working on has you stumped (and you have permission to do this) switch topics to something you find more interesting.
- Create an outline. If you have a topic set in stone, though you aren’t sure what to say or where to start, the best place to begin is by sketching out an outline. Even if you have to begin like they teach young students: Thesis statement, three supporting facts/paragraphs, and a closing. At least you’ll have an idea of what information needs to be filled in. Pro tip: You don’t have to start at the beginning and work your way to the end. Filling in information in the middle works just as well.
- Write something different. Stuck on writing poetry? Send an email instead. Can’t write a blog post? Try creating the social media before you start writing. Instead of focusing in on what you can’t do, find a way to do something else productive instead.
- Create a point system for yourself. I haven’t tried this tip yet, though I think it’s genius. One of my writer friends has a point system where she can earn “fun” activities, such as chatting on social media, if she earns points by doing writing-related work activities. Points can be earned for sending emails to customers, editing posts, writing quality headlines, etc.
- Stop writing. Sometimes you simply just need a break. Step away from your computer and do something completely different. Just don’t forget to come back to your original draft at some point.
I polled a few of my coworkers to find out what they do when they are feeling overwhelmed by writer’s block. Here’s what they had to say.
I use the “Notes” application on my phone pretty much every day to jot down new ideas. It may be a quote, an idea, or if I really get rolling, sometimes it’s half an article to use at a later point when I have writer’s block and need a push.
For example, a couple weeks ago I was catching up on the show Sherlock, and Sherlock asks Watson, “Do you really think anyone is reading your blog?” Watson responds, “Where do you think all of our clients come from?” At some point, I’ll use that and probably turn it into a Sherlock-themed pro-blogging post.
I have hundreds, maybe thousands of short notes like this on my phone, and a few fully-written articles that haven’t been published I can sort through when I’m looking for something new to say.
All blockages must be removed, and the energy be cleared. Since the writing force is one of a creative nature, I like to stand back from assignments and rekindle the spark of the written word. I’ll write poetry, stream of consciousness, or even just words that I find inspiring. Then, once the blockage departs, I’ll get back to the work aspect.
Writer’s block? I just walk away. I put the pen down and close the computer. I’ll go for a walk or play with my dog – anything that gets my mind into something different.
Wait, you’re asking me about writer’s block? Oh, I don’t get that. In fact, I think that might be a thing that humans made up. I have so much on my mind to share with the world that I’m always ready to write. That being said, sometimes, I find myself a little distracted. Whenever I feel less than inspired, I usually just whine until my parents let me go outside, and I’ll poop. Pooping helps everything. It gives me the mental clarity to start fresh on my work once I get back inside.
If you’re still feeling stuck or your unsure of how to overcome writer’s block, we can help. We have a whole staff of capable, prolific writers available to ghostwrite for your company and kickstart your motivation. Contact us today!