Written content is the backbone of every website’s marketing strategy. Content is what draws human users to visit and follow a website and it’s also what helps search engines figure out what a site should rank for in keyword queries. Having said that, it’s clear to see that every website NEEDS a good writer to create content on a regular basis. Content is what keeps traffic coming and we all know traffic is the lifeblood of every online business.
But what if the guy writing the content finds himself unable to get himself going one day?
It happens, cuz. Writers, especially the good ones, occasionally hit a wall and find themselves unable to produce content for seemingly no reason. It’s called writer’s block and it’s not just some fancy term for literary laziness.
Mike Rose defines writer’s block as “an inability to begin or continue writing for reasons other than lack of basic skill or commitment.” If you’ve ever written content on a regular basis, you know what I’m talking about: this is the feeling that you’re out of ideas or that nothing you write ever feels like it’s good stuff. It’s a really tough condition to be in, and it can stay with a writer anywhere from a few hours to several years. Researchers say that some writers get it so bad that they never recover and eventually abandon their writing careers altogether.
If your website relies on you for content, writer’s block is major trouble.
Fortunately, I’ve been through dozens of writer’s blocks and I’ve always found myself back on my literary feet in a relatively short time. I’ve discovered things that help me power myself out of my writing slumps and today, I want to share them with you.
So without further ado, here are Cuzin Andy’s tips for breaking out of the dreaded writer’s block:
1. Take a break – The easiest fix for a slight writer’s block is to snap the monotony of writing and have a little change of pace. If you ever feel bogged down and you start to realize that your ideas are sputtering, get up, drink some coffee or step outside for a quick smoke. It sounds pretty routine, but it really does work.
2. Take a shower and brush your teeth – A lot of writers associate writer’s block with the feeling of being stale and irritable. As much as writer’s block is an episode involving the human mind, having some physical stimulus shaking things up can break your literary dry spell and get your creative juices flowing. When a simple break doesn’t work for me, I take a warm shower and brush my teeth to get that fresh and reinvigorated feeling back into my system. Sometimes, I even stay longer in the tub to really soak up the relaxation. After coming out of the bathroom, I usually find myself with a renewed spirit and my thoughts seem to clear up all of a sudden. It works for me all the time and I bet it’ll work out great for a lot of you.
3. Spend some time outdoors – For some people, being enclosed in an office for extended hours -whether it’s in an office building or at home – can really drag creativity down. You may have this kind of issue without you even realizing it. When afflicted with writer’s block, try going to the park or some other available open area. Take a long seat and let your thoughts settle. Again, this sounds very simple but the change in environment can do you a lot of good.
4. Talk to people – There’s this concept that the prototypical writer is an utter introvert who lives in a basement where he dreams up his ideas and only goes out to find food. I don’t know if most writers are aloof and indifferent people, but what I do know is that engaging in social exchanges can really help a guy gain some fresh insights that can inspire his writing. If you’ve been focusing on work for extended periods and relaxing just doesn’t help you shake your block, get into conversations with colleagues or visit some friends or loved ones. Sometimes, you can get the best ideas from people whom you least expect to bring them.
5. Make time for travel – If simply taking a break or stepping outside isn’t working and your writer’s block is getting in the way of work, consider taking a vacation and going to places you’ve never been before. Nothing opens up the mind quite like travel can. Being exposed to things you’ve never seen up close and meeting new people can really break a mind’s stagnating state. Shooting films in new locations has this effect on me and when I come back to write, I always bring home lots of new topics to share and write about.
6. Read other writers’ stuff – If you find yourself stumped and struggling to start articles, transition between paragraphs, make ideas cohesive and put together a quality piece of written material, take the time to read the work of writers that you look up to. Absorb their work and in the process, analyze how they do the things that you’re struggling to do all of a sudden. As they say, one of the best ways to learn how to draw is to watch how a master performs his strokes. Personally, I like reading Dave Barry’s columns to get some inspiration. When I’m writing copy, I usually turn to greats like Dan Kennedy and John Carlton for mental nourishment.
7. Use this easy writing process template – Sometimes, just the idea of having to go through an entire writing process is enough to bog a guy down and render him unable to even get started. Writing content can be stressful work because a writer has to come in with new ideas every day. When you feel overwhelmed with the work that you have to get done in a day, it can be a good idea to break down the big task of writing one article into several smaller, more bite-sized chunks.
When I feel a little lethargic and swamped, I usually break down my writing process into these simple steps:
- Research – This is the part where I find out everything I need to know about the topic I’m writing about. I do this even with things that I’m already pretty good at writing about like video marketing and SEO. You never know when there may be something new that you’re not aware of and it pays to add those things to the content you’re writing.
- Outlining – This is the part where I organize my thoughts, think of the things I want to discuss in my content, set up the flow of the discussion and prioritize which items should be written about ahead of others. This makes the actual writing part a lot easier.
Outlining can be done great with mind-mapping software but if you’re a little old-school, the classic pen and paper method can still work wonders. Write the topic and the headline that you want to use for it. Group your ideas into related clusters that will be discussed in sub-heads within the same article. Write those around your core topic/headline. Make sure that the flow of discussion follows a logical path and is easy to digest by any of our readers. Finally, set goals for what your content will do for your reader and identify the value that they’ll get from consuming it.
- The actual writing – Having the outline in hand, you can now proceed to write the article body itself. Make sure to express your ideas using simple, clear sentences that use familiar words and a minimalist approach to length. Explain your concepts and lay down your arguments, then strengthen them with examples. If you have the knack for it and if it’s appropriate, add humor to your writing, It helps keep readers from dozing off.
If in the middle of writing you start to get some anxiety over the quality of your article, don’t let that stop you dead on your tracks and distract you from the task at hand. Just keep plugging away and don’t worry about getting it right at this point. You can give your article a read-through later and apply tweaks as you see fit.
- Editing – This is the part where you can get obsessive compulsive about grammatical perfection, word usage, sentence construction and so on. This is also where you can fact-check your own content to make sure there are no loose ends that can leave you open to being discredited.
Okay, that’s the simple four-step process that you can use to divide up the tasks that you need to do to create a piece of great content. I know most of us do these things unconsciously anyway, but if you want to approach writing in an incremental way, this is a good way to roll.
8. Don’t be arrogant: you can’t always attain perfection – One of the troubles of being good at what you do as a writer is developing very high expectations for your own work. Writers who feel blocked usually think of their work as inferior when it really isn’t bad at all. That’s a pretty dangerous mindset to be in and you have to fight it with rationality or it’ll consume you and become a catalyst for depression.
Just as nobody begrudges Da Vinci for not painting more than one Mona Lisa, people won’t crucify you for not being able to write world-changing content every day. Understand that you are a writing mortal and there will be days when you’ll write average content as opposed to profound cpntent. Once you accept your own literary mortality, you’ll be more comfortable in your own skin and you’ll be able to deal with writer’s block a lot more easily.
9. Just keep writing – My last tip is a message of perseverance. Overcoming writer’s block is all about not giving up on your craft. In boxing, a fighter who’s getting beat up can’t stop throwing punches just because he’s not hitting his opponent. He has to keep trying because if he stops swinging, the opponent can just walk in and knock his teeth off. In basketball, a great three-point shooter never stops shooting just because his shots aren’t falling. Great shooters will keep firing until they find their rhythm. The same thing should be applied to writing. If all else fails, just try to barrel your way out of writer’s block until it goes away. It sounds crude, but when all the chips are down, there’s really no way to do things except to keep banging your head on the wall until the wall starts breaking from your sheer force of will.
Okay, cuzins, those are my nine tips for ending your writing struggles. Try them all and use them in combinations: I’m sure you’ll eventually flip your writing switch.
Andy “Blocks Don’t Scare Me” Jenkins