It always seems to arrive at the worst time – usually when I’m on deadline and really need to just Get.It.Done.
Whether it’s caused by stress, an unfamiliar topic or lack of inspiration, writer’s block rears its head every once in a while but after nearly 20 years of working for various newspapers, I have a few tricks up my sleeve to help beat it.
Just in case you have a blog post that needs to go live today and you’re suffering from this ailment (and I’ve never met a writer who hasn’t had it at some point), I thought I’d share the top five things that work for me.
I’m assuming you already have a topic (if this is what you’re stuck on, read other blogs, news sites or social media for inspiration) so here is what I do when my words have gone on holiday.
1. Take a break – no, I don’t mean pack my bags and drive off into the sunset but sitting looking at a blank screen isn’t going to help. If I have time, I step away from the computer (but not for too long). I make a cup of hot chocolate or go for a quick walk. While I’m away, I think about what it is I am writing and why I’m stuck. I avoid popping on Facebook or Twitter. This will not help, I repeat, this will not help.
However, if there isn’t time for a break, here are some other things I try.
2. Go old school – that’s right, unleash the pen and paper. For some reason, even though it often means lots of crossing out (and then having to type what I’ve written) the act of putting pen to paper seems to free the words within me. I never write an entire article that way but it gives me the start I need.
3. Begin in the middle – when the block hits, it’s usually the intro I struggle with and I can sit for ages trying to work out how to find that catchy sentence that hooks people. When I don’t have time to waste, I just start anywhere to get the words flowing.
4. Break out the pyramid (or just write a list) – one of the first things I was taught as a journalist was about the inverted pyramid. All of the important stuff (the who, what, why, where and when) needs to be at the top. If I’m stuck I write a list of the main points of my story. This often helps unlock inspiration.
5. Email a friend – Working in a busy office there was always someone to run things by but as a freelancer sitting at home alone usually there is only the neighbourhood cat for company – and he’s no help. Luckily there are writer friends at the end of an email. Sometimes a different perspective is all I need to get moving.
Thankfully it’s not writer’s block that’s keeping me away from blogging at the moment. I’ve got plenty to say but no time to say it. If anyone has tips for making some extra hours in a day they would be welcome.
What have you found that works for writer’s block?