5 Tips to Overcoming Writer’s Block
Written communication is key in today’s world. Knowing one’s audience and being able to articulate your message are powerful skills. Sometimes we are limited to 140 characters and other times we have as much space as we need. No matter the length, it is not uncommon to experience a little writer’s block from time to time. Here are some simple tips to get you up and running (actually writing) in no time.
1. Give yourself time and space to brainstorm. As someone who has taught writing for what seems like eons, I would be remiss not to mention the most important step in the writing process. This is honestly the most important - but most overlooked - step of writing. You know that little list you make before going to the grocery store? That is brainstorming. Remember when you made a note in your phone for the tasks you needed to complete today/this week? That was brainstorming. Though it can be as straightforward as jotting down a few initial ideas or hashing out a simple outline, brainstorming is an essential step in getting your brain geared toward the task at hand. You don’t need to spend hours on this step, but dedicating 10-15 minutes to it can be the difference between breaking through that writer’s block or not. Keep in mind that during this stage of your writing, all ideas are good ideas and should be recorded. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, or even the relevance or value of the information. Since this is the first step, you can go back and eliminate any ideas that seem off-topic or less valuable later on. Finally, don’t overlook the space you choose to conduct your brainstorming. Is it a place where you have some quiet and can actually hear yourself think? If not, you may want to re-evaluate where you do your writing.
2. Review or re-evaluate the purpose, target audience, and intended format of your writing. I have found through the years that reviewing the purpose and taking time to consider one’s audience for the work can help to narrow the focus and clear the way for ideas to flow. If you are lucky enough to have received instructions from someone else on the reason for writing, then go back to that information and reflect on the objective. Why are you writing? Has your boss requested that you write a memo on a new policy change that will affect people in your department? In this case, the writing is to be informative in nature, so that will lend itself to a certain type of language and content. Next consider your audience. How many people does the content of your writing affect or how many and what kind of stakeholders must you consider? This will determine your tone. Likewise, if you are unsure what the actual format of or expected length of the writing should be, taking some time to research these elements can help to ensure you produce writing that is professional and meets the requirements to make it successful. If you’ve never written a memo, Dr. Google can be quite helpful in providing instructions, showing you some examples, and even providing free templates.
3. Go for a walk (or do something more impressive like a headstand). If you have been sitting in front of a blinking cursor for any length of time longer than a few minutes, then you probably haven’t done your brainstorming. Please refer back to #1. If you’ve done the brainstorming and understand what the final product should look like and you still can’t get started, don’t panic. If possible, give yourself a break that includes some type of physical movement. Going for a walk, stretching, or doing anything else that gets your blood pumping will help your entire body feel better. It will increase your blood circulation, which in turn helps oxygen circulate, and the end result will be a refreshed brain and an increased level of creativity. A recent Stanford study on the effect of walking on brain function and creativity showed that a person walking (indoors or outdoors) was able to produce twice as many creative responses as a person who is sitting down. Also, this walking does not need to happen for an extended period of time. Getting that blood pumping for even just 10 minutes can be enough to get the creative juices flowing. Other great writers and composers who walked regularly include Aristotle, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Charles Dickens, Henry David Thoreau, Soren Kierkegaard, and contemporary writer Nassim Taleb. Not to set the bar too high, but who doesn’t want to write like these guys?
4. Stop writing. Wait. Hold the phone. This is supposed to be advice on how to start writing… Indeed. Touché. However, sometimes when you try too hard and long at doing something that just isn’t happening, it’s helpful to take a break. This time, it doesn’t necessarily need to be a walking break. It may just be focusing on a different task for the time being. Give your mind a break and focus your energies on a new problem to solve. Have you ever had an epiphany while in the shower or woken up in the middle of the night with an outstanding idea? Well, that is because your brain was likely working on solving that problem long before you realized the solution. When you have a question or seek information, but don’t have the answer immediately, many times it helps to move away from the task and allow your brain to work on solving the problem subconsciously. The brain is a complex organ that requires time and if you allow it to have some, it is possible that you will find the answer you seek. Often times it comes in the form of an ‘aha’ moment. Though the brain may be focused on an outward task, it can still be working to figure out the puzzle you introduced to it the day before.
5. Put pen to paper (or fingers to keys) and just do it. Sometimes we just need to bite the bullet and get to it. If you’ve made your way through this list, and come to this point, it may be time to sit yourself down and just start writing. Use your brainstorm as a guide to jumpstart the ideas. If you don’t have an outline yet, start with that. Personally, I always write my initial thoughts with a pen and paper. Then when it comes time to type, if I’m struggling to start, I find that simply opening a document and starting the formatting can even help. By going through the motions of opening up a document and setting it up to receive glorious content, that step alone can sometimes spark creativity. After the formatting is set, then input a simple outline or begin with whatever type of heading you need. Then jump. Figuratively, not literally. Start striking those keys and letting the words flow. Again, at this point you still do not need to be concerned with mechanics, especially if it’s been a struggle to start. You can come back and clean up whatever you need to later. For now, don’t think, just write.
After following this advice, if you are still struggling to break through that writer’s block, don’t hesitate to reach out to http://www.addie.ninja. Our ninjas offer technical writing services and have years of experience writing all kinds of copy and material. We’d be happy to craft a document that meets your needs (and we won’t need to do a headstand to do it).