Almost all writer’s have been faced with the dreaded empty page syndrome that is writer’s block at some point in their careers, and out of necessity most have ways to combat it. Here are some tips I use when when the blinking cursor threatens to overwhelm me.
Don’t start at the beginning
Who says you have to start at the start? If you’re not sure how to get the ball rolling on a particular piece of writing but you have an idea on some of the material you’d like to include, or even how you plan on concluding the piece (hint: it should sum up the point/s you’re trying to make), then don’t feel bound by starting at the beginning.
Write the end first, or start in the middle. By the time you’ve found your rhythm and you’ve started on the bulk of the piece, you’ll find it much easier to craft an introduction.
Use a template
Sometimes opening a blank Word document is enough to induce writer’s block for me, which is why I don’t shy away from using different templates I’ve come up with over the years to help get things started.
Depending on the piece you plan to write, have a look through past content you’ve written or even do a quick Google search for standard templates for blog posts, media releases, newsletters or the like to get you started.
The topics you write about will of course differ, but you’ll be surprised how often a template with the structure you need to follow will help. With media releases for example, I have a few saved that help me to plan out a story which follows the opening of a new business, an award given to a business or person, and some for charity events.
The subject matter differs but the structure remains the same.
Talk to a subject matter expert
I’m often not a subject matter expert on the topics I’m asked to write about (with copywriting being one exception). So if I’ve only had time to partially research the topic or I’m scanning a few hurried notes it can be difficult to start and craft a piece of writing.
I find the best way to overcome this problem is to interview a subject matter expert. Not only are they a wealth of knowledge but chatting to someone who knows the ins and outs of the topic you’re writing about can inspire you to go in different directions with the piece and of course give you some great quotes.
Don’t re-invent the wheel
If you’re struggling to come up with a topic, you don’t always have to start from scratch. With a blog post for example, take a look back at some of the more popular posts on your site. Which resonated the most with readers? Why not tackle the topic from a different angle?
For example, if you had already written about five ways to tackle writer’s block, why not draft a post about writing prompts and ways to get started?
Don’t try to edit and write at the same time
You may have heard this one before, but writing and editing actually uses the two different sides of your brain, making it extremely difficult to do both simultaneously. So don’t!
Write your piece, just get started. Write anything (yes, literally anything), and see what flows. Even if your idea is a bit half-baked, write it out and then hit save. Come back later to edit with fresh eyes.
Walk away from the pen or keyboard (bonus tip)
I know I said I had five tips I often use, but as I made a cuppa halfway through this post I remembered another tried and true tip!
Sometimes you need to get away from the desk and not think about writing. I can’t tell how many times I’ve looked at a piece of writing and not known how to start it, finish it, or make it better… that is until I’ve gone and made myself a cup of tea and completely cleared the thought from my mind.
Once you’ve gone and done something completely different, it’s amazing how many times the answer is there waiting for you when you get back.
These are just a few tips to help you get started, but at the end of the day, just start writing! What are some of the tips you’ve used to overcome writer’s block?
Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash