How to overcome writer’s block
We’ve all been there. Sitting at your desk, fingers poised over the laptop keys, and the words just won’t come out. You find yourself wanting to do pretty much anything but the writing task in front of you! You’ve colour coded your sock drawer and deep cleaned the oven, but have failed to get even one word down.
Writer’s block can be one of the most frustrating feelings, and a difficult one to sit with. In comms, we work with words on a daily basis, but they’re sometimes incredibly hard to find. So how do you overcome writer’s block?
Fortunately, there are some things we can do. Here’s Silver Buck’s top tips for how to deal writer’s block.
Be realistic about how long it will take
In the digital health and healthcare industries, we’re constantly writing to deadlines and it’s important to be able to stick to them. Unrealistic deadlines can be the biggest motivation killer, either because you become overwhelmed or you lose momentum.
Knowing how long it’s going to take you to do something means you can block time out appropriately, and factor in the inevitable procrastination time around it. I like to use time tracking tools like Clockify to see how long I spend on a particular task, so I can make an informed decision about how long writing tasks take, and how I’m going to plan my days around the task(s) at hand. You can then suggest realistic deadlines that aren’t going to pile on the pressure, but also avoid you kicking the project into the long grass. If you lose that initial momentum, the chance of writer’s block increases so this is an important first step to take.
Find times you like to write
As humans, one of the most special things about us is that our brains all work very differently! For me, writing a long article first thing in the morning would be harder than concrete. I’m much more likely to get into a good writing flow in the afternoon or early evening, so wherever I can I’ll block out my writing time then. There’s no point just sitting there if you’re not in the right headspace, you’ll just wind up getting frustrated and the task will feel impossible.
The key to overcoming writer’s block is to check in with yourself and figure out what times of the day, or even days of the week, might work best for you. This will help with writing, and your productivity more generally, so it’s a win-win.
Get someone else to set you a deadline
It’s very easy to renegotiate a deadline that’s been set for you, by you. In cases where you know the power of procrastination is going to take over, it could be worth asking a colleague to set a firm deadline for you. This creates an external accountability, and can help you to set deadlines in the future that are realistic and achievable, so it’s a good one to try.
Turn your plan into a series of questions
While many people might see making a plan as a form of procrastination, I see it as a vital part of any writing process, and protects against writers block further down the line. That being said, there are smart (and not so smart) ways to do it.
Rushing the plan can cause you to come unstuck. The more substantial it is, the more useful it will be. I like to break the plan down into steps, and then turn each of those steps into a question that I need to answer. It then becomes less arduous writing a long article, and it’s simply a process of answering a series of fairly simple questions. It’s difficult to get writers block when you’re having a conversation (even if it is with yourself!).
Write like you talk
We hear about writers block a lot, but has anyone ever been a victim of talker’s block? I’d say it’s far less common. I think sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves for every word we put to paper to be perfect. Realistically, you’re going to tweak and play around with it a number of times before you’ve got your final copy. It’s important to not be too precious about it in the first instance and concentrate on getting some words down. This is where writing like you’d talk can come in very handy!
Saying things out loud makes your brain work in a different way, and can help you to comprehend the ideas that are floating around in your head. So next time you’re really struggling, try saying things out loud and writing it down as you go. You might surprise yourself at how much it helps you to make sense of big ideas.
Have a done list
At the core of any writer’s block is motivation – or lack thereof. Not because you’re not passionate, or capable, but often because it is difficult to prioritise and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you’re confronted with a big task to add to an already long to do list.
Our biggest tip: have a done list! Being able to see all the work you’ve been able to complete is like your own personal supply of motivation. When you can visualise what you’ve already achieved you can put your upcoming tasks into perspective, and make them feel less overwhelming. Trello is a great resource for ‘to do’ lists, ‘doing’ lists, and my favourite ‘done’ lists. You can set up a board for free too!
The key takeaways to overcome writer’s block:
- Suggest realistic deadlines that won’t let you lose momentum
- Check in with yourself to find out your best times to write
- Increase your accountability by getting someone else to set your deadline
- Turn your article into a question that needs to be answered
- Say it out loud, and then write it down
- Track the to do’s, the doings, and the done’s!
If you still aren’t sure writing is for you, then let us do it for you!
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