7 Steps to Overcoming Writer’s Block
Writer’s block doesn’t discriminate.
Whether you’re a journalist, author, technical writer, blogger, or poet, chances are you’ve experienced it before. Even if you’re not staring at a blank page waiting for words to appear, you might have writer’s block if you catch yourself procrastinating.
But I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Writer’s block is a myth.
Indeed, writing is difficult. But all difficulties can be overcome. Here are a few ways you can move past it.
Seven Steps for Beating Writer’s Block
There are countless ways to help yourself get over the infamous writer’s block. Here, I’ve narrowed them down to just a few. Find what applies to you and run with it.
1. Eliminate Distractions
If you can’t focus, you can’t write. Start by evaluating your surroundings. What’s preventing you from getting the job done? Is your desk cluttered? Does your phone keep ringing off the hook? Is failing technology hindering you from making progress?
Organize your workspace. Bins, folders, and labels are a great way to consolidate what you have so you know where to find it later. You might even consider decorating your area with pictures or knickknacks to motivate and inspire you.
Then, mute your phone or put it in airplane mode or do-not-disturb mode. The endless stream of notifications can be tempting, but the distractions are the last thing you need as you begin writing.
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2. Create an Outline
Nothing is more daunting than a blank page. Jot down notes that you don’t want to forget, then organize those notes into a structure that flows. There are many different ways to do this. And if none of them work out, it might be a sign that you need to do more research before proceeding.
Brain dumping is essentially chronicling your stream of consciousness on paper. Write down every thought that comes to mind, and then narrow down what you have. For best results, set a timer so you don’t find yourself off track.
Concept mapping is a more visual approach to the outline. It’s just like what you did in elementary school: put the main idea in the center, with supporting details branching off of it.
Flow charts are perfect for helping you understand a complicated process. Use arrows to establish the chronological order of steps or events, and then list bullet points beneath each topic if you need to go into more detail.
3. Read Others’ Work
Monitor the trends around your topic. What are people talking about? What are people not talking about that maybe they should be? What problem has yet to be addressed or resolved? Reading other people’s work can help you find a unique angle for your own.
However, be advised that reading other people’s work is not, under any circumstances, an excuse to plagiarise. You might see someone else’s idea and piggyback off of it in your writing, in which case it’s important to always cite your sources.
4. Use Prompts
If researching and reading other people’s work still hasn’t cured your writer’s block, it’s not a bad idea to look up some writing prompts. Even if you don’t find them to be original, they might be a good starting place for helping you brainstorm prompts of your own.
5. Change Your Scenery
Try not to work in the same places where you rest or play. If your home or office is too distracting (or boring), relocate to a nearby coffee shop or library. Writing outdoors — or even near an open window — can also bring you some fresh air to help oxygenate your brain.
Be wary of distractions, though. Some people need background noise to focus; others need peace and quiet. Keep this in mind as you search for your perfect writing spot. You also don’t want to go somewhere you know your friends will be — as much as you love them, they’re a surefire way to kill your productivity.
Once you’ve settled into your spot and you have everything you need, pay attention to your surroundings for just a few moments. Write down what you observe. People-watching is a great way to find some hidden inspiration for your next piece.
6. Don’t Forget to Take Breaks
It’s true that some people perform better under pressure. But too much pressure can cause you to become overwhelmed. Make sure you’re not ignoring your physical needs, like bathroom breaks, food, water, and stretching.
A good rule of thumb to follow is this: take a short 5-15 minute break every hour or so. Then, reward yourself with a longer break of at least 30 minutes every two to four hours, depending on the task at hand.
7. Save the Editing for Later
One of the biggest obstacles to writing is the fear of imperfection. To overcome this, you must accept that writing is a process. No first draft is born perfect. Get everything out, and then worry about polishing it after.
While you might think that self-editing (or editing every sentence as soon as it’s written) will benefit you in the long run, it will only make your production time longer. You might even forget the word that was on the tip of your tongue if you get too caught up reading behind yourself.
If you’re still worried about the cleanliness of your writing, it can’t hurt to ask a friend or family member to read over your work before you submit it. They’ll be able to catch things you might’ve missed after staring at it for so long.
Keep Track of Your Growth
Writer’s block shouldn’t have to be part of the writing process. Like most skills, writing will get easier the more you do it.
If all else fails, keep a running notebook of ideas you want to save for later. And don’t forget to keep all of your work to look back on; you never know which ideas you’ll want to revisit or explore further.
And if technology still isn’t doing the trick, be sure to visit our blog for other tech-related topics to make your life easier.