Advertising
Advertising

10 Ways to Combat Writer’s Block

10 Ways to Combat Writer’s Block

    All day long, nearly every day of the year, I write.  I write and write so much that it’s almost become second nature, but sometimes I’m at a loss for words.  I sit around trying to think of what to write, trying to find some inspiration, and sometimes even if I do find something that inspires me, I don’t know what to say.  The words just won’t come out.  As someone who writes for a living, you can bet that in the battle of beating writer’s block, I’ve tried it all.  Here are some of my methods for getting around writer’s block, but feel free to share your ideas in the comments section as well.

    1. Take a Break and Go Back to it Later

    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 for a bit and take a break.  Go run that errand that needs to get done, make yourself a cup of coffee, watch a television show, go for a run — do anything that takes your mind off writing for a short while.  Sometimes it can be hard to write if there’s something else you need or want to do.  In other instances, taking a break will take off some of the pressure and you’ll feel more inspired to write when you get back to it.

    Advertising

    I like to allow myself the indulgence of stopping writing to watch an episode of a favorite TV show I may have DVRed, or if I am really struggling, a fun, light-hearted movie on Netflix or something to relax and refresh my mind.

    2. Try Writing in a New Place

    A simple change of scenery can work wonders.  If you normally write sitting at the desk in your home office, why not try setting up your laptop on the picnic table in your backyard (if the weather is nice)?  You could also try your local library, a coffee shop, a college campus, or anywhere else that is not where you usually write.  This might not work for everyone, but it’s worth a try.

    3. Write About Something Else

    So you’ve got to write a 1000 word piece on green businesses or you’re trying to pen a new chapter for your novel, and for whatever reason it’s just not inspiring you.  One tactic to try is to write about something else.  Sometimes just writing about anything that inspires you will help you when it comes times to write about what you need to write about.  I employ this tactic from time to time, when I have to write a political piece and it’s just not coming to me, so I’ll do a blog post on my news site about random celebrity gossip or whatever comes easily to me at that moment.  It’s not what you are writing that matters, just that you are writing.

    Advertising

    4. Figure Out When You Write Best

    We all function on different biorhythms, and while some of you out there might find that you tend to write best at the crack of dawn, other people, like my husband, find that they get into a good writing groove at more “off” times, like in the middle of the night.  Pay attention to yourself and find out when you write best, and when you find it more of a struggle.  Then, avoid the times, such as just before lunch when your blood sugar is low, and you’ll have more good writing experiences overall.

    5. Get Moving

    Research has shown that exercises helps preserve memory because it gets the blood flowing, bringing more oxygen to the brain.  I apply the same theory to writing.  Get up out of that chair or off of 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, showered and are comfortable again, try writing.  You might be surprised to find that it comes to you a little easier now.  Thank the increased flow of oxygen to your brain.

    6. Trick Yourself

    There are a few different ways to trick yourself into writing.  First, you can try telling yourself that you only have to write for five minutes.  That can sometimes be just enough to get you going, and you’ll find that you want to continue.  But like anything else, it might not always work.  Another tactic is to pretending you’re emailing a friend a “guess what” type of message.  Don’t worry about the format, you can change that later.  Sometimes writing in a more conversational way is easier than a factual method.

    Advertising

    7. Limit the Amount of Time You Have to Write

    If you tend to procrastinate or slack off, this may work well for you. It might also work for those who work well under pressure. Instead of giving yourself an entire day to write an article or report, restrict yourself to just two or three hours.  Sometimes knowing that you have a whole day to complete something will only succeed in giving you an excuse to slack off; you think to yourself “It’s okay if I go shopping because I have the whole day, it won’t take that long, and I can do it later”, or “I’ll just go on Facebook for awhile and maybe something will come to me.” That usually leads to wasted time.    Tell yourself, for example, that it has to be completed by 2pm, no ifs ands or buts.

    8. Read a Book, Magazine or Newspaper

    If you’re reading a newspaper or magazine, sometimes just scanning the headlines or flipping through the images can inspire you.  Seeing a headline that says “10 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues” might inspire you to write “10 Ways to Beat Stress”, and so on.  Reading industry news can also help you think of an idea for your own writing.  But reading for fun can help too, if only to distract you and give your brain a workout to get those gears moving.

    9. Always Carry a Voice Recorder or Notebook

    Write down or record your ideas, anywhere, anytime.  This way, when it comes time to sit down and write, if you find yourself struggling to think of something to write about, you can pull out your notes or listen to your voice notes, and see what you thought of at another time.  It’s so easy to forget about the things that inspire us as we go about our daily lives, so keeping a log can be a real lifesaver.

    Advertising

    10. Use Mind Mapping

    Simple mind maps can help you to get all of your ideas down on paper. Write down everything you want to say about a particular topic, or all of your topic ideas.  To come up with a unique angle for a story, link together your most unusual ideas.  Once you have everything written down, it’s easy to sort things into categories and find something interesting to write about.

    Final Thoughts

    Often times writer’s block is simply a result of the pressure we put on ourselves to perform.  If you’re particularly stressed out or under-the-gun in terms of a looming deadline, writing might be more difficult.  And sometimes, no matter what you try, the writing just isn’t happening, and in this case it’s a good idea to step back for awhile and try again later.

    More by this author

    Julie McCormick

    Julie McCormick is a writer, and co-owner of The Cleveland Leader, a Technorati Top 1000 site.

    How to Declutter Your Life and Reduce Stress (The Ultimate Guide) 10 Ways to Improve Your Memory and Super Boost Your Brainpower How to Continue Reading the New York Times Online For Free How to Get Around Facebook’s New Photo Viewer 7 Ways to Create a More Tranquil Workspace

    Trending in Communication

    1 How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up 2 How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late 3 7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer 4 If You Think You’re in an Unhappy Marriage, Remember These 5 Things 5 7 Practical Ways to Change Your Thinking and Change Your Life

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on March 14, 2019

    7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

    7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

    Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

    For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

    Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

    1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

    A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

    It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

    It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

    How it helps you:

    If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

    Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

    2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

    Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

    Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

    Advertising

    How it helps you:

    Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

    Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

    If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

    Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

    3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

    Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

    Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

    How it helps you:

    This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

    For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

    Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

    Advertising

    A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

    4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

    To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

    A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

    How it helps you:

    One word: hierarchy.

    All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

    In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

    If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

    5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

    Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

    Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

    How it helps you:

    Advertising

    Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

    If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

    This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

    6. What do you like about working here?

    This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

    Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

    How it helps you:

    You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

    Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

    Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

    7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

    What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

    As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

    Advertising

    How it helps you:

    What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

    First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

    Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

    Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

    Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

    Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

    Making Your Interview Work for You

    Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

    Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

    More Resources About Job Interviews

    Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

    Read Next