We’ve all been there, the age-old enemy of a writer: writer’s block.
In fact, I have a blank document up for an afternoon. Despite knowing what topic I’m going to write. Nothing just seems to come to my mind. As if there’s a force opposing me from putting my fingers on the keyboard.
For a copywriter or a content creator, we can’t afford to waste time. We have a deadline to catch and a product to sell.
So here are some quick tips on how to overcome writer’s block.
Read more, write more, push on.
1. Read more from your industry, research more on your topic.
“For all I know, writing comes out of a superior devotion to reading.” – Eudora Welty
Read books, articles, blog posts. You can only write as good as you can read. How can you produce something when you have absorbed nothing?
- From reading frequently you get used to the structure, the vocabulary, the flow of a sentence and how to put a punctuation. You see where the pull is placed and how the ending persuades.
It’s impossible to create something that you have never seen before. So instead your best effort should be put into recreating something great but off your own ideas.
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough” – Albert Einstein
As a copywriter, you are trying to create conversion. You want to sell something. How can you convince anyone to buy from you if you yourself don’t know what it is?
Here’s an example from Apple. See how they flaunt their knowledge of the product?
I’ll be frank I have no idea what an OLED screen is, nor do I know what differs true blacks from black. But I appreciate having that information about the device. It is perfectly convincing and wowed me with the high technology it seemingly possesses. All in one 25 words sentence.
2. Ask yourself what you want to write and create a list.
Writing on a blank document from the scratch is always the hardest. The beginning is always the hardest. If you find yourself getting the writer’s block before you even start on it.
- Ask yourself these questions:
- Have you done enough research?
- Do you have all the points that you need to write on?
- Do you know enough about the subject to write?
If you do, you should come up with a list. Not like a draft not even like a sketch, just a list of things that you want to include in your writing. Be it a sentence, a keyword, a quote. Make a list of it.
Here’s the list I made for this post. It’s different from the end result and it’s messy and unorganized. But it helped me to get Focus on the topic.
Now you got your brain focused on what you want to write. You have cleared out a path on what you are gonna write. You will find yourself starting to add more and more to the list and without knowing, you are writing.
3. Use swipe file
A swipe file is a collection of advertisements or copy examples. It’s simple to start creating your own swipe file by utilizing applications like Evernote. You can also keep a folder of PDF on your Dropbox or Google Drive. As long as you can easily retrieve them for your need.
Browse through them when you’re stuck. See how others write. Analyse their ways of writing. That will, in turn, inspire your own writing.
If reading books, blog post or copy is like having your 3 meals a day. Reading through your swipe file should feel like eating vitamins or supplements. It should be focused and effective.
- You target what you need, and you analyze how others do it. If you can’t think of a good headline, open up the folder of headlines. Know where you’re stuck and pull inspiration for it.
You can even try to modify them to your own use like you would a template. The point is you don’t have to stare at a blank document or a jumbled list of content. You have a skeleton to put in your own words. That can really help push start your work.
4. Eliminate distractions
Now that you have everything you need. You know what you need to write, you identified the tone of the piece, you even have your featured image ready. But you just can’t type it out.
Maybe the music is too loud, your phone screen keeps flashing or you can’t help eavesdropping on your co-worker’s conversation.
What you need to do now is take a deep breathe and tell yourself to focus. Turn off your music and phone, move to another space. Force yourself to focus.
Distraction can be hard to beat. There are tools that can help you like software that gives you a minimal distraction writing space. I call them writer’s block app, FocusWriter and WriteMonkey to name a few.
Utilizing them can help keep your mind from wandering to other applications on your computer. Or get distracted by that little pop-up chat bubble.
If your working space is cluttered, clean it up. Wash that empty coffee cup that has been sitting there for hours. Tear off those dog-eared post-its. Keep your workspace as distraction-free as your typing screen.
- Everything you need is in your mind, and all you need is your fingers to type it out.
But the most important part is, you need to help yourself to focus. You need to take control of the steering wheel. Only then can you start sailing and fill up that empty document.
If you still can’t focus. Why not try writing about what is distracting you? Freewrite can help you free out your mind and get focused.
Write whatever you want, whatever it is on your mind. Disregard structure, disregard grammar, you can have a dozen of typos in a sentence but it doesn’t matter.
If you’re frustrated with your inability to write. Curse it out. Think of it as a window to throw out all the glue that’s messing with your mind. Vent it out or keyboard smash.
- Writing something, anything is better than staring at the blank document for hours.
Writing is a way to organize your thoughts. An organized mind is more focused because you have to get rid of all the white noise in your brain. You are giving your brain some fresh air.
With that breath of fresh air, you can now get back on track and start writing what you’re meant to instead.
Move your muscles to activate your mind
6. Crack your joints
If you’ve been sitting in the same spot for the whole morning. I would recommend you to try moving around.
Go take your bathroom break, and while you’re at it have a quick stretch. Pop your neck and your knuckles like you’re stepping into the ring. Well metaphorically you are, and your opponent is writer’s block.
You don’t notice how cramped up you are until you start moving around. Then you’ll be strike with a throbbing pain from the top of your spine, your waist, even your wrist.
Staying still in the same posture for a long time is bad for your body. Not only that, it’s also bad for your creativity. So move around, pop those knuckles cause you need to finish up another copy in an hour.
7. Chew a gum, drink a cup of coffee
If you bring gums around with you, now is the good time to chew one out. Get your muscles moving. Maybe it’s just me but I always feel more refreshed when my mouth doesn’t taste so stale. Snack on some crackers, get a mint or brew yourself a cup of coffee.
Chewing gum gets more blood flow to your brain. It wakes you up and gets your gears start warming up. The effect only lasts for a 15 to 25 minutes window though. Make use of that window to get a hydrogen blast on your writing.
If gum’s not your thing. Well, maybe you need a coffee break. Coffee encourages the flow of stimulation chemicals in our body. It gives a wake-up call to your numb state of unproductiveness. Take advantage of that caffeine rush to get through the slump.
When you got that head start from the chemical boost, you will realize in your frenzied state of word vomiting you have a big chunk of content out already. Now while that chemical rush retreats, you can start editing stuff instead. In no time, you’ll have your first draft done and staring back at you.
Shift your focus for a breath of fresh air
8. Do other creative work
Sometimes you need to keep your mind off your current work. But not completely. You still want to keep the creative side of your brain active, but with some other stuff.
Brainstorm about the featured image for your post with the designer. Or just open up your notebook to start sketching. Watch a creative video on youtube is another good idea, have you watched the dollar shave club video? That’s pretty funny and inspiring for someone in marketing.
Some writers like to work on multiple works at the same time. So when they are stuck on one, they can jump to another. If you have multiple projects under your belt, you can try jumping around.
The point is, put down what you’re currently working on. Stop trying to write. Work on something else instead. Sometimes it just gets really boring staring at the same thing for hours. So why not shift your focus to something else? It works for your creative flow like pressing the f5 button, trust me.
9. Take a rest
If the worst comes to the worst, you have tried everything you can. But your creative juice is still stuck and your mind is as dry as the Sahara desert. My friend, give yourself a break.
If it’s time for lunch break, get a sandwich and go take a walk in the park, or just walk around the block. Take your mind off your work completely. What’s more, don’t actively think about anything at all. You might catch your mind wander to stuff like “maybe I should change that “a” to “the” ” or ” Do I need to pick up a new jar of jam after work?”. But don’t dwell on it. Let your mind go completely blank.
Let your conscience focus on other things instead. Like the texture of your sandwich bread, how the concrete feels under your feet, how bright the sunlight is. Let the sensory take control of your brain. Feel, not think.
If you’re lucky enough to work from home, do some housework that relies on muscle memory. Do the laundry, vacuum your room, or even take a long warm bath.
Give your brain some time to rest. When you feel you’re ready to start writing again, you will realize your productivity has returned. You are not stuck anymore.
Develop a routine and stick to it
At the end of the day, success lies in perseverance, resilience, and discipline. There is no shortcut to these qualities, the only way to achieve it is by doing it.
Putting off work until the last minute and rely on random bursts of creative energy to complete a project may work. But it’s not the ideal way when you’re in a corporation with 9-5 working hours and deadlines to catch. I personally think (no offense) that it’s just an excuse to not deal with writer’s block.
Developing a routine is beneficial to both your writing process and your mental health.
Japanese writer Haruki Murakami is famous for sticking to a fixed routine when he’s in the midst of writing a novel.
“The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.”
Find out what works for you in the restriction of your work hour and working environment. Maybe you feel more productive arriving at the company after a jog in the morning. Then stick to it, jog every morning before work.
- Sit down and write for an hour non stop the first thing you turn on your computer. Do it every working day, embed that into your muscles and mesmerize your brain into the process days in and days out.
When your body and mind got used to the schedule, you will find that ideas and creativity come naturally everytime you sit down for writing time. Say goodbye to writer’s block when you have routine and discipline as your weapon.