Let me start by painting a picture for you; You have your coffee, quiet music playing, you're nice and cozy and ready to start writing.
And then it happens...
The blinking cursor starts to taunt you and absolutely nothing is moving from your brain to your fingertips.
Your screen is blank, your mind is too. You've officially hit writer's block.
Don't worry, it happens to the best of us. (Heck, we have a whole podcast dedicated to it). In fact, it even happens to experienced writers who have been doing this for years.
The biggest difference between most of us and experienced writers is that the experienced writers have figured out tactics that work best for them personally.
Now, you're probably asking yourself, "well how do I know what will work for me?"
Let's start by discussing some of the common causes of writer's block:
Fear: Many people, whether they realize it or not, are simply afraid of taking their ideas and putting them into words for everyone to see and critique.
Timing: It simply may not be the best time for you to write. Perhaps your mood is off, your ideas may need to mature a bit more, or you simply just aren't equipped with all the information you need.
Your Expectations are Too High - a.k.a. Perfectionism: From your mindset when you sit down to write and crafting the perfect catchy title to mastering the on-page SEO, you want everything to be just right, and this is all before you even start thinking about the actual content or pressing the publish button!
You're Burnt Out: If you are tapped out, whether it be physically, mentally, emotionally (or all of the above), your brain just isn't going to have the gusto to create good content.
You're Too Distracted: You've got noise in the background, co-workers bustling around you, kids who need your time. or just other responsibilities and pressures that are occupying your attention.
So how do you overcome these common causes?
Now that you've hopefully identified the cause, or causes, of your writer's block, you are one step closer to overcoming it.
I'll be honest with you here, there's no foolproof solution or scientific formula that's always going to work for you. That's why they call writing an art!
However, if you use this arsenal of tips, you will more often than not find one that works for you no matter the cause of your writer's block:
1. Start practicing free-writing
Instead of cold-turkey forcing yourself to sit down for hours to write, try building up to it by spending at least 15 minutes a day writing whatever comes off the top of your head. It doesn't have to be polished or even have punctuation or correct grammar.
Doing this stress-free form of writing allows your brain to work without expectations, enabling you to tap into your creative side faster.
Try doing this for a few weeks before your next writing assignment.
Short on time? Prior to starting your next piece, try free-writing for 15-20 minutes, then getting into the nitty-gritty of your actual assignment.
2. Determine the time & place that's best for you
The next time you have writer's block, try changing your surroundings.
Try writing at different times of the day and in different places to the one where you feel most relaxed and creative.
Maybe you are best in the morning versus evening or perhaps you are most creative in a coffee shop or in a quiet nook at home with music playing in your headphones.
Point is, don't be afraid to experiment.
3. Give yourself enough time
If the piece of writing you're working on has a due date attached to it (i.e. perhaps a blog article for your company or a presentation), make sure you plan ahead so you can adhere to the deadline without feeling stressed out.
Even if you dont have a specific due date, try creating a personal deadline that will spur you on.
Planning ahead also allows you to leave time for revisions. If you work ahead, you may even have the chance to walk away from a piece when you hit writer's block and come back to it refreshed.
4. Skip the intro
Getting started is always the hardest part of any writing session.
If you're having trouble starting a piece of writing, try starting in the middle instead, and then work your way back to the introduction.
5. Read inspiring work
One of the best ways to become a better writer is to be inspired by one.
Try reading different types of content from a variety of writers, scientists, or artists. Pick up a book of short stories, poetry, or even quotes.
Try starting to read the morning paper or simply taking in magazine articles in between your day-to-day routine.
You'll be amazed by how much reading more can actually help your writing.
6. Don't expect everything you write to be perfect
Perfection is your best and worst enemy and if you let it get the best of you, it will always win.
Instead of getting stuck on every last detail being perfect, get your main thoughts out, step away, and come back later to make edits.
Even if it takes a few rounds of this, you are going to enjoy the process more and have a more polished and perhaps even "perfect" piece when you are finished.
7. Don't write when you are tired or hungry
The term 'hangry' was coined for a reason and it is the last thing you should be when you sit down to write.
When you start writing, make sure that you are well-rested, have had a nutritious breakfast or lunch and are thinking clearly.
Nothing is more distracting than rumbling stomach.
8. Do something creative
Instead of forcing your brain to create copy, try giving it a break by doing something creative -- other than writing. Try painting or drawing, listening to music, taking photos, or even building something with your hands.
By working on another creative project for even just a few hours, you give your creative muscles an opportunity to flex in different ways and approach your writing from a new perspective.
9. Get up and move around
When all else fails, get up out of your chair and move around.
Stretches, a bike ride, or even a short walk will help your mind let go of all the stress and expectations you are likely placing on yourself for a moment.
Try practicing a few yoga poses, meditation, or even simply getting up and dancing around like no one is watching.
It may sound funny...but trust me it works!
In addition to all of these tips, one of the biggest things to remember is that you are not a failure. Writer's block can and does happen to anyone, at any time on any day -- and often times there is no warning that it's coming.
So, try not to be too hard on yourself and be patient when you are faced with it.
Is there a tip that usually works for you when you have writer's block? Share it in the comments below!
About Margaret Ybarra
Margaret is an innovative strategist with over 10 years of experience forming integrated marketing campaigns through content marketing, email marketing, paid advertising, SEO, SEM, & social media. Before joining IMPACT, she worked in various verticals including education, hospitality, travel, and enterprise as well as an independent consultant. When she’s not helping IMPACT clients reach their goals, you'll find her in a spin or yoga class, out for a run on the beach, exploring new restaurants, or traveling with her husband and their pup Hunter.