Cat got your keyboard?.

Cat got your keyboard?

Four ways to overcome writer’s block

In the day of the internet, an increasing amount of communication – both personal and business – is written. As a business owner, you’re expected to update your Facebook page, maintain a blog, publish a newsletter, email customers, and keep your website fresh and relevant. Quality writing is essential to the success of your business.

Quality business writing is more than words on the screen – it’s words that engage your audience. Communication only occurs when a sender’s message finds a willing and attentive reader. You attract readers by offering information they find interesting, valuable, and relevant.

If you pay attention to your customers and the market, you usually know what you need to say. Sometimes, though, a deadline feels more threatening than a firing squad because your mind stubbornly refuses to generate a topic. You can get vaccinations for the flu or whooping cough, but there’s no inoculation against writer’s block.

When it strikes, you may have the luxury of waiting for inspiration’s gentle embrace, but it’s more likely that you’re up against a deadline, frantically puffing your last cigarette as the clock ticks out your final minutes.

In a panic, you consider closing your business, selling your house and your family, and sitting at a freeway exit with a cardboard sign. Unfortunately, you can’t think what to write on it.

Bookmark this page for that terrible day, because I have tips for overcoming writer’s block. I’ll discuss three common causes of the malady and suggest four tools that can help knock it into remission.

1. Am I snow blind or is this writer’s block?

The first cause I call Blank Page/Blank Mind. You have no idea what to write about. Sometimes this hits at the beginning of a project. You want to write an eBook, but can’t think of a topic. Maybe you’ve decided to run a series of posts on your blog to keep readers returning, but you can’t think of a single topic that would interest your visitors.

The key to overcoming Blank Page/Blank Mind is research. What are the three questions your customers most often ask? What trends affect their lives or businesses? What’s in the news about your industry or services? Start reading about all of those subjects. In writing, ignorance is not bliss. As soon as you start researching a subject, the ideas start to flow. Choose one and write the rest of them down to ward off future bouts of Blank Page/Blank Mind.

2. Can’t dig under it, can’t climb over it.

I call the second cause of writer’s block The Insurmountable Wall. When I’m at the computer writing an article, I regularly run into problems I can’t solve. There might be a hole in the logic of my argument or a sentence that I just can’t tame. While some people advocate a change of activity in these situations – Care to clean the employee kitchen or change the oil in your entire fleet? – the method I have the most success with is changing writing tools.

If I’m at the computer, I pick up my favorite pencil and pad and start writing about the problem. If you think best while talking, then talk the problem through. Use a voice recorder or use your landline to leave a message on your cell phone. The important thing is to use a different tool. It gives you a fresh look at your problem without having to hunt up another human and explain the entire book, paper, or speech to them. This method always works for me.

3. Your left brain can be such a bully!

The third and most insidious cause of writer’s block is your own Internal Editor. In other words, your left brain sabotages your right brain. It’s possible that having the left hemisphere of your brain surgically removed could solve the problem, however this hypothesis has never, to my knowledge, been tested. If you’re inclined to further scientific progress, volunteer to be the first to try it.

But if you’re a coward or hate pain, there’s an easier way. It’s called timed writing. Set a timer for, say, 10 minutes, then force yourself to write without stopping or correcting anything. You’ll probably find it’s really hard to keep your little finger from hitting the backspace key, it’s such an ingrained habit, but do your best. When you silence your Internal Editor, you often find that ideas stop cowering in the dark corners of your brain and come out to enjoy the brilliant playground of the blank page.

4. If at first you don’t succeed…

A better approach to overcoming writer’s block is to accept that your first draft will be dreck. You will always need to edit. Since editing your first draft paralyzes your creativity, you must wait until it’s finished before you let your internal editor loose. On your second and subsequent drafts, you can – and should – polish your prose and fill every hole in your argument so your writing attracts and retains loyal readers.

How do you prevent writer’s block?

Have you been attacked by writer’s block? How did you overcome it? Share your methods in a comment and we’ll build a writer’s tool chest for the entire community.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *