Having trouble writing your blog posts or getting started on that ebook? Tired of staring at a blank screen while feeling frustrated, embarrassed or guilty that the words won’t come?
It doesn’t matter whether you’re writing a blog post or a novel, writer’s block can stop you dead in your tracks.
Here are a few suggestions to blast through writer’s block and make your writing easier and maybe even downright enjoyable.
#1 Unplug from Distractions
Turn off the phone and stay away from email, chats, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
Better yet, go offline altogether and use old-fashioned paper and a pen or pencil. Some people (and I’m one of them) find that writing with a fountain pen and good quality paper puts you in a writing frame of mind. (Rhodia and Clairefontaine are two premium brands of notebooks/pads with wonderfully smooth, fountain-pen-friendly paper. Black n’ Red notebooks also have good paper and are easy to find at office superstores.) For fountain pens, you can choose among thousands of models of modern and vintage pens. To get a hint of what’s available, you can take a peek at my own pen classifieds website I run for fountain pen collectors. Pens can also be found on eBay and plenty of pen info is available on Fountain Pen Network, Fountain Pen Geeks, and other pen collector websites.
If you prefer writing on a computer, but have trouble avoiding distractions, consider using minimalist writing software designed to block out distractions, including toolbars, alerts and even your computer’s OS interface. My favorite is a program called Scrivener (for Mac and Windows). It has a Full Screen mode that hides the Scrivener toolbar and the Windows taskbar. Other minimalist writing software includes Ommwriter (for Mac and Windows), ZenWriter (for Windows), FocusWriter (for Mac, Windows, and Linux), and WriteMonkey (for Windows)
Writing demands focus and isn’t a job you should attempt while so-called multitasking. Our brains simply weren’t built for multitasking. So help your brain and focus only on the task at hand—putting ideas into words. Everything else can wait until your writing session is over.
If you’d like to read more about why online distractions and attempts at multi-tasking are highly disruptive to reading and writing, check out one of my favorite books on the subject (and one that I feel every online marketer should read): The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, by Nicholas Carr.
#2 Cultivate New Writing Habits
This one is important for anyone with the goal of producing content on demand. It’s also the best way of permanently eliminating writer’s block.
Set aside a time of day when you’re least likely to face distractions. You only need half hour to an hour of regular, dedicated writing time. Research and editing can wait for later. This should be the same time every day for all 5 weekdays (and weekends, too, if you’re the kind of person who needs consistency in your schedule). Early mornings are usually best (before anyone else in your household is awake), unless you’re a night owl and can’t possible rouse yourself in the morning.
Next, pick a place to write. Ideally, this will be a quite location in your home where you can block out distractions. Having a room with a door is a huge plus.
Now develop a sacred writing ritual:
- Clear your mind and focus only on writing.
- Skip checking text messages and email until your writing session is over, so you don’t have distracting thoughts on your mind.
- Make sure your family knows to leave you alone while you are writing. Close the door to your office, if possible. Lock it, if necessary.
- Write for the entire session. If you finish a piece of writing before the end of your session, switch to an unfinished project or start a new one.
Do this for at least two weeks and you’ll be able to write on demand as soon as you begin your session because you’ve developed the habit of writing.
#3 Quit Writing for Deadlines (i.e., Stop Procrastinating)
I’m a major procrastinator and it’s a terrible habit I’m working to break.
Sure, many people (myself included) use deadlines as a motivator to finally sit down and start writing. But the adrenaline rush from racing against a deadline that might have carried you through school will work against you in real life.
Instead, change your approach. Start viewing your writing as an ongoing process, not as set activity with a fixed deadline. Write your ideas as they occur to you (in fragments, bullet points, or even entire blocks of text) in a journal or use online tools like Evernote.
Then go back and flesh them out into completed pieces.
#4 Forget the Rules You Learned In School
If you’re new to writing for an online audience, here’s the best tip you’ll ever get: Forget what you learned in school about writing.
No one but your teachers (and maybe your parents) ever read your term papers. Let’s face it, they were boring to read and probably boring for you to write.
Write the way you speak, but with enough structure so what you write makes sense to your reader. Keep your sentences short and limit paragraphs to about three sentences. You have my permission to use sentence fragments and end on a preposition. And use contractions like don’t, you’re, it’s, etc., to avoid writing that sounds stilted.
You want your writing to flow from one word to the next. And if skimping on proper grammar is what it takes for that to happen, then go for it.
And here’s a basic tip for structuring articles and blog posts: Begin by telling your audience what you’re writing about, write it, then wrap up by reminding them what you just wrote.
#5 Write for One Person, Not an Audience
Writing a letter or email to a friend is easy, right? You’re sharing your thoughts and ideas with a single person who’s interested in what you have to say. And you say it directly, like you were having a conversation, without a lot of structured BS.
Sounds easy? It is. Now write for your audience as if you were writing to an interested friend. Forget about writing for a crowd and focus only on one person. Talk to that one interested person.
Your writing will get easier instantly.
#6 Always Have Multiple Projects Going
One of the best ways to avoid getting stuck on a writing project is to have a number of irons in the fire. If you hit a wall on one project, simply switch to another.
#7 Try Free Writing
Free writing is an exploratory process where you write ideas straight from your head, as fast as you can, without regard for grammar, sentence structure, or even punctuation. The goal is to spew the contents of your brain onto the page in all it’s messy, unformed glory. Somewhere in this verbose slop you will find kernels of useful ideas and maybe even some brilliant fragments you can use in their entirety.
Most importantly, you’ll have raw material to start with, sometimes far more than you’d ever expected. You’ll also have loosened up your writing muscles.
Free writing is often a good way to prepare for a writing session or break through a blockage. It’s like a warm up for your brain.
In his book, Accidental Genius, Mark Levy explores how you can use free writing to tap into your subconscious, generating ideas and making connections that your conscious brain can’t through traditional structured writing and outlining.
#8 Never Write and Edit at the Same Time
Write now; edit later. Trying to edit while you’re writing is the best way to block yourself. Your internal editor is an anal retentive nag who’ll kill your writing momentum as surely as a bullet to the head.
Writing is a creative, right-brained process and you don’t want to interrupt it. Editing, on the other hand, is far more technical and left-brained. So write when you’re in the zone and leave the editing for later.
The same is true of research. Do your research when you’re planning your piece, not while you’re writing it. If you find you need more research while writing, skip that part and move on. When you’ve finished actively writing, go back and research what you missed.
#9 Stop Trying to be Original
If we’re being honest about original ideas, then I’ll be the first to admit that there’s nothing new under the sun. Every idea has been written about many, many times, and you’re not likely to write an article or blog post about an subject that is earth-shatteringly original.
So stop trying. Ideas are not original, but how you present them is.
Write about what you find interesting and useful and that your audience is likely to appreciate. Originality comes not from the ideas, but how you write about them in your own voice.
#10 Keep It Simple
You’re writing a blog post, not a doctoral dissertation.
This is a problem I sometimes struggle with (like this blog post of 10 tips that has already exceeded 1600 words). I tend to dig deeper and deeper, including more material, until I feel that only a book-length work will even begin to do justice to my topic.
Not a productive way to write a blog post or article.
Pick one aspect of your subject (hopefully, the most interesting or useful aspect) and write about that. Better to narrow your focus and produce a concise and useful piece than to go too wide and burden yourself with an unplanned book—or writer’s block.