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