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20 Ways to Kill Your Writer’s Block Forever

20 Ways to Kill Your Writer’s Block Forever

Frustrated woman at computer

    Has this happened to you? You want to write some new posts for your blog, but nothing’s coming to you. You’re just sitting there, with those blank white pixels taunting you, until your eyeballs hurt.

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    If you’re going to be a successful writer of any kind — blogger, journalist, copywriter, novelist, you name it — writer’s block can’t happen.

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    The good news is you can learn how to write on cue.

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    How do I know? I had to write at least three articles a week for 12 years, to keep my staff-writing jobs. Over the years, I developed a whole bag of tricks and techniques to get the writing going.

    Here are my 20 best tips for defeating writer’s block and getting the writing done:

    1. Don’t start with a blank page. Write a quick outline. Jot down a few notes. Write down that one, great quote you were planning to use. Presto — no more blank page.
    2. Read more widely. Create an RSS dashboard of top bloggers in your niche, sign up for a SmartBrief or two, or get a Google Alert on some of your key words. Read more newspapers. Read books. Read, read, read.
    3. Write what you feel like writing. If you have a terrific itch to write one particular idea, then write that one right now. The more you go with your creative flow and write what you’re inspired to write, the easier it will be beat writer’s block.
    4. Start anywhere. Many writers sit staring at their screens because they’re obsessed with writing the first line of a piece first. Forget all about that. If you know how it will end, write that now. If it has bullet points, go ahead and write those first, if that would be easy. Once you jot down the part that’s coming naturally to you, the rest will start to flow.
    5. Use your lifeline. That’s right, phone a friend, just like on the reality shows. Then, tell your friend about the topic you’re trying to write. As in all conversations, you will tend to naturally mention the most interesting points first. When you hang up, your piece is outlined and ready to go.
    6. Don’t edit while you write. When you’re writing, just let those creative juices flow along. Don’t spoil the magic by stopping to fiddle with a word here or cut a line there.
    7. Create an ‘idiot’s outline.’ If you have a lot of research, interviews and other material to organize, go through all your resources and simply listing each source. Then, next to the source, write the most important point or two they make. Now all you have to do is place the points into a logical order, and you’ve got a rough outline.
    8. Write without notes or quotes. Here’s the opposite approach for a piece with lots of interviews, statistics and research — simply put all your paperwork aside. Now, write the story. Resist the urge to look up factoids or exact quotes. Leave blanks or notes to check details as you go, but keep moving forward. At the end, go back and fact-check.
    9. Write something else. Write a shopping list, or a letter to a friend. Once the fingers are moving, it’ll be easier to get the piece you were stuck on rolling.
    10. Review your past writing. Whenever I was really intimidated by a writing assignment, I used to get out my writing portfolio and look through it. When you read your successful previous work, it reminds you that you are a strong writer, and you can do this.
    11. Free associate. If you feel disorganized, just go with that — start writing random thoughts about your topic. Then, sort through your brainstorms for lines you want in your piece.
    12. Do a mind map. Get off the computer and make a visual drawing of your topic’s ideas and how they relate to each other. Soon, you’ll not just have ideas for your current post, but ideas on how that one might lead to related, future posts.
    13. Set a timer. Use the Pomodoro technique and set a timer for 25 minutes. Now, you have to work on your assignment until the timer goes. You can’t do anything else. That’ll get boring fast, and you’ll start to write. Try it if you don’t believe me.
    14. Create a deadline. The problem with our own writing is no ‘boss’ is standing over us insisting we get the writing done by a specific time. So create a deadline calendar of when your posts must be completed. Then, allow no recreation time until the deadline is met.
    15. Reduce noise. Are you trying to write with the TV or radio running in the background? That extra stimulus may prevent you from focusing on the writing. They say our brains really can’t multi-task.
    16. Turn off the Internet. Do you find yourself playing Bejeweled or checking Twitter when it’s writing time? Write on a pad of paper instead, or use programs such as Anti-Social or Freedom to disable social media or Internet access until you’re done writing.
    17. Try a writing prompt. If you can’t get the juices flowing, do a writing exercise — writing prompts are available on sites such as Creative Copy Challenge.
    18. Do more research. Sometimes, nothing’s coming out because a nagging voice in the back of your head says you don’t really know enough about your topic. If that’s so, do a bit more research and then return to writing.
    19. Change your location. Move to your deck, a coffeeshop, a friend’s back bedroom, a co-working office space…wherever you don’t usually write. See if inspiration hits.
    20. Take a break. Take a half-hour break. Take a walk. Take a bath. Take a nap. Do a headstand — get some blood flowing to the brain again. Then, come back ready to have at it.

    What do you do when you’ve got writer’s block? Leave a comment and add to my list.

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    Last Updated on January 15, 2019

    What Are Interpersonal Skills? Master Them for Better Relationships

    What Are Interpersonal Skills? Master Them for Better Relationships

    When I wrote my book Extraordinary PR, Ordinary Budget: A Strategy Guide, I was surprised at the various layers of review and editing necessary to get the book to publication. Before I ever submitted the manuscript, I enlisted a former colleague to read and copy edit my work. Then, I submitted my work to an editor at the publisher’s house, and once she approved it, she sent it to her colleagues and then her company’s editorial board.

    Upon editorial board approval of my book, my editor sent my work to reviewers in my field, then a developmental editor, then a designer and layout team and, finally, another copy editor. There were a host of personalities with whom I needed to interact along the way.

    It turns out that getting a publishing contract was just the beginning – a lot happens between developing a concept, writing the book, finding an agent and publisher, and getting the book on bookshelves or on Audible or Kindle. Through every milestone of the publishing process, my ability to interact with others was crucial. This underscored for me that no matter what or how much a person accomplishes, you never do it alone – everyone needs assistance from others.

    While I conceived of the book and wrote the manuscript, there is no way my book could have hit booksellers’ shelves without the dozens of people who were involved in the publishing process. Further, interpersonal skills can propel or stonewall success.

    Even as someone who has written hundreds of essays, press releases, pitch notes and other correspondence, writing itself is not a solitary endeavor. Sure, I may write in solitude, but the moment I am finished writing, there are always clients, colleagues, partners, peers and others who review my content.

    What is more, even as a published author and contributor for this platform, I try to never submit final copy (content) that has not been copy edited. I send everything to my copy editor, whom I pay out of my own pocket, for her review, edits and approval. Once she has reviewed my work, caught unbeknownst-to-me errors, I am much more confident putting my work out in the world.

    How Interpersonal Skills Affect Relationships

    It is clearer to me now more than ever before that interpersonal skills are needed in every profession and every trade.

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    People don’t elect leaders because the leaders are smart. Individuals are motivated to vote when they have a hero and when they feel they have something to lose. If they seriously dislike the other candidate, they are much more likely vote according to a 2000 Ohio State University study:

    “A disliked candidate is seen as a threat, and that will be motivation to go to the polls. But a threat alone isn’t enough – people need to have a hero to vote for, too, in order to inspire them to turn out on Election Day.”

    In a work setting, interpersonal skills impact every facet of your development and success. Trainers must collaborate with a design team or the company hiring them to facilitate the training. During the training itself, the facilitators must connect with the audience and establish a rapport that supports vulnerability and openness. If the trainers interact poorly with the trainees, they are unlikely to be invited back. If they are invited back, they may be unlikely to inspire cooperation or growth in their trainees.

    Solopreneurs interactions with clients and subcontractors, and those interactions will, in part, support or adversely impact their business. If you enjoy a career as an acclaimed surgeon or respected lawyer, your interactions with patients, clients, health insurance agencies and a team of other practitioners – many of whom are shielded from public view – will improve or decimate your practice.

    As a hiring manager, one of the things I consider when interviewing candidates is their interpersonal skills. I assess the interpersonal skills they display in their content and face-to-face presentation. I ask probing questions to learn how they interact with others, manage conflict and contribute to a team atmosphere.

    When candidates say things like, “I prefer to work alone” or “I can hit the ground running without assistance,” I bristle. When candidates appear to know everything and everyone, I wonder if they will be receptive to learning or open to feedback. Could these statements be indications that these individuals lack interpersonal skills?

    It stands to reason, then, that interpersonal skills are among the most valuable and the bedrock of all talents and skills.

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    What are Interpersonal Skills?

    Interpersonal skills range from emotional intelligence, empathy, oral and written communication to leadership to collaboration and teamwork.

    In sum, interpersonal skills are skills that enable you to interact well with others. They include teachability and receptiveness to feedback, active or mindful listening, self-confidence and conflict resolution.

    From a communications standpoint, interpersonal skills are about understanding how colleagues prefer to communicate and then using the appropriate mediums to meet respective needs. It is about understanding how to communicate in a way to get the most out of different people.

    For instance, in my career as a public relations practitioner, part of what I am constantly evaluating is which colleagues, clients and members of the media prefer email, text or phone calls. I am assessing how much frill to use with each person depending on what has worked in the past and depending on what I know about the person with whom I am interacting.

    Making these decisions and being disciplined enough to follow each person’s known preferences helps me better connect with the various individuals in my orbit. Is this tiring at times? Yes. Is it necessary? Absolutely.

    How to Improve Interpersonal Skills

    There are tons of resources to teach interpersonal skills. I love books such as Leadership Presence by Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar, and The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman.

    There are also a host of books and articles on emotional intelligence, which is the ability to manage one’s emotions and perceive and adapt to others’ emotions. Emotional intelligence is likewise a critical component of positive interpersonal relations. You can learn more about it in this article: What Is Emotional Intelligence and Why It Is Important

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    Active and mindful listening also support improved interpersonal skills. I recommend you take a look at this piece: Active Listening – A Skill That Everyone Should Master

    I have further found that humility helps a ton with interpersonal skills. It takes humility to admit you have more to learn and that you can learn from the people around you. In fact, everyone with whom you interact has a lesson to teach you. And employers are increasingly looking for team members who are lifelong learners, meaning they believe there is always room for growth and professional and personal development.

    Forbes contributor Kevin H. Johnson noted in a July 2018 article,

    “That’s why, when anyone asks what the next ‘hot’ skill will be, I say it’s the same skill that will serve people today, tomorrow, and far into the future—the ability to learn.”

    Don’t overlook introspection.

    While interpersonal skills may seem simple enough, introspection is critical to learning where and in what ways you need to grow.

    Through introspection and observation, I have learned that my interpersonal skills suffer when I am sleep deprived, because then I am short-tempered and irritable. I’ve observed this connection over a significant period in my life. Unsurprisingly, it is also true of others. Fellow LifeHack contributor, health coach and personal trainer Jamie Logie noted:

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    When you are chronically sleep deprived, it really does a number on you. A lack of sleep can keep your body in a constant state of stress and over time this can get pretty ugly. Elevated stress hormones can be involved in creating a bunch of pretty nasty conditions including anxiety, headaches and dizziness, weight gain, depression, stroke, hypertension, digestive disorders, immune system dysfunction, irritability.

    Additionally, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development reported,

    “Sleep deprivation can noticeably affect people’s performance, including their ability to think clearly, react quickly, and form memories. Sleep deprivation also affects mood, leading to irritability; problems with relationships, especially for children and teenagers; and depression. Sleep deprivation can also increase anxiety.”

    The point is, even as you are identifying ways to improve interpersonal skills, think about what is getting in the way. While sleep deprivation is a trigger for me, your stumbling block may be different.

    The Bottom Line

    You cannot fix what you do not know is broken. Even as you work to understand and apply interpersonal skills, spend some time in mindful meditation to get clear on what is holding you back from developing solid relationships.

    Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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