3 Proven Ways to Overcome Writer’s Block

One of the biggest setbacks every writer encounters is running out of ideas. They call it “writer’s block” or, to a more dramatic extent, “brain drain.” This catch-22 situation places the writer in a limbo between producing good content and slowing down to acquire more inspiration.

Writers adhere to different styles. Some writers believe that the more you write, the more you generate ideas useful to your content. Others would rather wait for inspiration to stir them into action than force themselves to write. Though we acknowledge this dichotomy, as far as technical writing is concerned, there is no room for the latter mindset.

Some companies follow a routine schedule for publishing articles as part of their content marketing strategy. Writers for such companies need to produce content regularly and have no time to deal with writer’s block. Otherwise, content marketing projects would suffer.

So how do you overcome writer’s block? How can you work your way around your own limits to keep a river of ideas flowing? Below is a list of techniques used by seasoned writers in the industry:

1. Start a Good Writing Habit

Habits are not necessary for every writer. Having one does get more ideas to the fore.

If you ever find yourself spending a significant portion of your day groping for ideas, it means you need to work on your writing habits. When the lack of ideas puts your brain at a standstill, tap on your habits to.

Ronald Kellogg, cognitive psychologist and author of The Psychology of Writing, notes that “environments, schedules, and rituals restructure the writing process and amplify performance…” Good writing habits boost your brain activity and increase productivity. Studies show that they lead to better cognitive and psychological health. This is because habits, particularly those that involve gathering information, keep your brain moving rather than at a standstill.

But exercise discernment when forming habits. Some writing habits are good, while some are detrimental. The good ones encourage you to write more. Detrimental habits, on one hand, promote procrastination.

Recommended Writing Habits

The principle behind forming a good writing habit is not so much on preventing writers from getting distracted. It is about helping you adopt an effective strategy that can get you through any writing task.

For starters, here are some writing habits to consider:

  • Explore anecdotes, inspirational quotes or short stories before you start writing.
  • List down topics in advance and rank them according to priority; this will be easier for you particularly if you have a series of articles to write.
  • Create your own guidelines (i.e. no more than 5 sentences for each paragraph, a limit of 20 words per sentence).
  • Read pages of your favourite novel right before you hit the sack or whenever convenient.
  • Scour writing forums and online communities to know more about other writers’ habits.
  • Keep a journal and write blurbs, ideas, rants, observations, poems or what have you – the point is to express yourself.
  • Write about topics not related to your work to widen your horizons.
  • Read articles or content written by individuals in the same industry and understand their writing style.
  • Set a word count goal (e.g. 1,000 words a day, 5,000 words every month).
  • Go over your past write-ups, see how you stitched your words together and add bits and pieces to your current write-ups.
  • Write a letter to someone – could be a friend you have not seen for some time, a loved one or yourself; regardless, express yourself freely with every letter you write.
  • Make an “idea box” containing random words, idioms, catchphrases or quotes, printed on small pieces of paper.

More often than not, your writing habits coincide with your reading habits. Reading is the tool that drives writers to think. It expands your horizons, stirs your imagination and gives you a more natural flair for expressing yourself. The quality of the content you produce depends on how much information you have taken in. You also learn from the writing styles of different authors and writers and use it to improve your own style.

Factors Affecting Your Writing Habits

In addition to having the right habits, the following factors affect the way you write:

  • Environment – Is your current surroundings conducive to thinking and generating ideas? Are you able to write well without distractions in your working environment or vice versa? Psychologist Bob Boice stresses how important it is for writers to have “a space solely to think and write.” In this space, they quietly overcome impediments to their writing process.
  • Process – How long does it take before an idea kicks in? Does the process affect your work? If your habit only gets in the way of submitting quality content on time, it is a tell-tale sign you need to adopt a new habit.
  • Adaptability – Are you able to write in any given setting? While literary writers can be a stickler for environments, copywriters and content writers have to adapt to their workplace environment. They also work in a team setting where having their own space can be a challenge. When adopting a new habit, factor in your environment and adjust your habits accordingly.

Besides experience, your mastery of words and having the right habits to facilitate your chosen writing process, you must be able to adjust your sails. Some writers can choose their environment while others need to create their own space within the environment provided for them. Pick a writing habit that makes you productive in your workplace environment.

On a less technical dimension, proper sleep and diet are also part of the equation. They affect your thinking ability and capacity to focus. Attending to health matters while simultaneous practicing good writing habits can benefit your writing career in the long run.

2. Repurpose Your Content

There are times when the writing slump gets the better of you and it takes forever to write an article from scratch. In those days, no matter your efforts, expression escapes you. When this happens, you have the leeway to repurpose content.

If time is of the essence and you need to get new content done, it does not hurt to tweak the content you previously covered. As Derek Halpern from Social Triggers puts it, just “work on getting the content you already have in the hands of more people.”

Copywriters and content writers are often bombarded with several writing tasks that it is common to run out of gas before completing their tasks. Writing product descriptions, blog articles, white papers, social media posts and web content can be time consuming. But in a frenzy to beat the deadline, you end up with a substandard output.

While unique content is important, it is just as important to produce content on time without sacrificing quality. That is why every writer should employ techniques to speed up their writing and complete their assigned tasks.

Repurposing is a technique most writers use to increase their productivity and get the job done with little hurdles. It involves writing content you already know, which keeps the learning curve to a minimum and reduces the time it takes to produce content.

How to Repurpose Content

What many writers do not understand is that your ideas need not be original all the time. In fact, according to Albert Einstein, there is only one original idea. The rest are simply derivatives or enhanced versions of the same idea.

Just a word of caution: repurposing an existing content is not the same as duplicating an old content. Though this writing strategy involves rewriting words, sentences and paragraphs, it is actually more than that. Imagine an old white shirt that is already out of fashion. How about you transform it into a pillowcase and sew on some patches to make it look groovy?

Repurposing content is essentially the same. You transform old content and make it look new.

Here are reminders to take note of when repurposing content from your data base:

  • Change your introductory and closing spiels.
  • Restructure your arguments.
  • Add new statistics and data to make your content more timely and relevant.
  • Focus on another main idea or angle instead of regurgitating an old one.
  • Make use of anecdotes or quotes not present in previously published content.
  • Insert fresh images or infographics for visual impact.
  • Use a different format.
  • Embed videos, social media posts and other elements you did not consider in the past.

Many online articles and websites get tagged as “duplicates” or “plagiarized” because they fail to qualify as repurposed content. Even if content has been changed for the most part, rewritten content does not take into account other aspects listed above that make it look fresh and unique.

3. Never Stop Writing

So you aspire to be one of the best writers in your chosen niche? This is not a far-off reality provided you continue to develop yourself as a writer.

When asked to give advice about overcoming writer’s block, seasoned writers always tell you the same thing in different ways. If you want to polish your writing and get rid of this seemingly incurable affliction, then write some more.

This does not mean that even if you are unwell, you have to write. This means that even if you run out of ideas or take a break, you do not give up on being a writer. That you still continue to write and share your ideas to your target audience. Writing occasionally, as you feel like it or when inspiration strikes you, is likewise out of the question.

For you to be a better writer at work, you must also have your own writing life outside of it. These two worlds will nourish and sustain each other. The writing you do at work and your personal writing experiences will enrich you. In due course, you will grow into a versatile writer who can whether any storm.

What the Writing Greats Have to Say

The late Maya Angelou, famed author of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, firmly believes that the best cure to writer’s block is to “just write.” She said what you write about does not matter. Once you write, ideas will eventually seep in.

Technical writers may take a leaf from Mark Twain’s book. His advice to writers is to simplify their content so that it is easy to manage. The Tom Sawyer author was an advocate of outlined and structured content. If you want effective content that is not stressful to write, create an outline and keep it simple.

Finally, Neil Gaiman and a host of other authors recommend that writers take initiative. Do not wait for ideas or inspiration to come to you. Find them yourself. Either you step back, relax and then resume the quest for new ideas or you explore uncharted territories until your mind is racing.

A State of Mind

There is more to writer’s block than what we are made to believe. It has many underlying causes including stress, lack of sleep, personal concerns and fear of failure. For the most part, writer’s block is a state of mind, which means you can get out of it if you choose to or if you address its underlying cause.

There is no secret to being a good writer. Truth be told, however, there is a big a difference between writers who make an effort to be better and writers who wait for inspiration to strike. A good writer remains unfazed and continues to write even in the face of writer’s block.

Now that you understand that writer’s block is something you can overcome, be sure to adopt a writing strategy that helps you grow as a writer. You can look to the points raised above and select the strategy that makes you the most productive.

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