I was browsing the internet the other day (because I had writer’s block) and I came across the article 6 Ways To Power Through Writer’s Block. I found the advice to be pretty spot-on for those times when I am staring at a blank screen, drumming my fingers on the keys and not actually pressing them. But the most sure-fire way I’ve found to beat writer’s block is to never get it in the first place.
Before I shifted my career toward content marketing, I had experienced patchy creative blocks here and there while writing college term papers, creating ad copy, or putting together newsletters. I have become much more intimately acquainted with writer’s block in recent years, however. Since joining Webs, I have written around 500 blog posts. That’s 500 staring contests with blank screens – not all of which did I win. But over the years I’ve learned some tricks of the trade that I’d like to share with you here today for avoiding that all-too-familiar situation in the first place:
1. Get enough sleep
I cannot stress this point enough. I have found that being well rested is the single best predictor of my ability to think clearly and write successfully. If you find yourself groaning, stretching, yawning, or all of the above when sitting down to write a blog post, you have already lost, my friend. When you’re tired, it’s much harder for your brain to focus and commit to a single task. And since brains are lazy and want to always do the easiest thing, it will soon wander away from what you’re trying to do.
2. Get some darn exercise
Speaking of wandering away, this is sometimes the best thing you can do before sitting down to write. Whatever ‘exercise’ means to you, do some of it before you even open that laptop. Pre-emptively increase the blood flow to your brain and get your neurons ready for action. Here at Webs, this often takes the form of push-ups (yes, we have a push-up club here) but running up the stairs a few times, doing some jumping jacks, or even a little yoga can work wonders.
3. Get comfortable first
I am the proud owner of a standing desk. And while I love it most of the time, I’ve learned that it’s not conducive to long-form writing. Answering emails, approving designs, writing ad copy – yes. Writing blog posts, no. I find that I’m just fidgety enough when standing that I can’t concentrate on the flow of what I’m writing. So whether the answer for you is sitting down, standing up, changing the temperature, or propping your feet up, make sure you do all those things before you start writing – because if you don’t, you’re going to use them as an excuse to stop.
4. Get an outline down
Think of writing an article like solving a jigsaw puzzle. You don’t just start with the top center piece and work your way down – you find all the edges first! Before I even start writing the actual copy, I start with the basics. I write a title (which I will most likely change when I’m done), and then break it down into logical sections or headers (like the ones in the article you’re reading now). Not only does this help ease you into the writing process, it will prevent that awful feeling of getting to the end of an article and realizing you forgot to say half the things you intended to.
5. Get an editorial calendar
This may seem like a no-brainer, but for those just starting out in content marketing, it’s worth saying: keep an editorial calendar for your blog! Sure, every now and then you’ll stray from it in order to cover breaking news or a timely topic, but the knowledge that you have already decided what you’re going to write on any given day is priceless. If you have to spend hours searching for a topic, your creative energy might already be used up by the time you actually start typing.
6. Get to know thyself
Do you work best knowing you have plenty of time to spare, or are you more deadline driven? I don’t think anyone would disagree that in a perfect world we would all have articles done well before we need them, but the fact is that some people’s brains just don’t work that way. Personally, I do my best work on a deadline. I simply can’t make myself write days before something is due, unless there are other team members who need my work in advance. Admitting that about myself over the last couple of years has resulted in a good deal of inner peace, and some much higher-quality articles. Whatever your preferred timing may be, get to know yourself and work with what works for you.
I hope this advice will help you not only be a better content writer, but a happier and less anxious one, too!