It’s just about the least fun part of being a writer, and one of the big stumbling blocks a lot of businesses face with content marketing.
You never seem to have enough ideas.
Or you have a bunch of ideas, but you don’t quite get around to writing them.
Or you start a dozen different projects, and manage to finish half a page on each one.
It’s maddening, and it’s got to stop.
And then, some non-writer rolls his eyes at you and says something trite like …
“You know, plumbers don’t get plumber’s block”
I’m no plumber, but I’d imagine that unblocking a sink is pretty much like doing housework — it might not be fun, but it’s not exactly fraught with creative uncertainty.
Writing is different.
When you write, you pluck ideas out of your head, impose order upon them, and translate them into black marks on a screen.
And you hope that those black marks will mean something. They’ll teach, or entertain, or persuade.They’ll touch the lives of people you’ve never met.
Writing takes focus. Dedication. Energy.
And, sometimes, you’ll get stuck.
The 3 causes of writer’s block
No writer in the world feels inspired every single time they sit down to put words on a page.
Sure, you’ll have had moments when the words flew from your fingertips, almost without conscious thought. But more often, it comes a little more slowly.
You chew the end of a pen. You check Twitter. You delete two sentences. You check Twitter again. And then you find your stride, and get a draft written.
That’s a pretty normal day.
But some days are harder. You try to get started. You try. But you can’t face putting down words. You feel almost sick at the idea.
There are three types of blocks you’ll face on those tough days.
1: External blocks — when real life intrudes
Family trauma. Financial struggles. Childcare issues. All sorts of non-writing factors can tank your productivity and get in the way of your work.
Sometimes you can battle through. Sometimes it helps to lose yourself in the words.
Sometimes you can’t.
This is the easy one. It’s actually okay to take a break from writing. In fact, it’s often good. Tackle the real-world problems that are blocking you, and come back to your work with a clear head and fresh eyes.
2: Internal blocks — your emotional state
Stage fright. Perfectionism. Fear of trolls. Your worries fill your head and stop the words from getting out.
If you’re terrified of “getting it wrong,” it’s almost impossible to write.
There’s no quick fix for this one, but there are ways to make it easier:
- Write a journal that only you will see — work through your struggles on paper
- Write something deliberately bad
- Write every day, but remember you don’t have to publish every day … give each piece of writing the Rule of 24 and see if it holds up
- Remember that everyone’s first drafts are crap
3: The writing itself — you’re good and stuck
This is where writer’s block gets tricky.
Sometimes, the problem isn’t you. It’s what you’re writing.
- You’re six chapters into your novel, and your main character is irritating the hell out of you.
- You’ve been blogging for a year and you realize that if you write one more post on your topic, you’ll scream.
- Your sales page just doesn’t seem to come together — however many times you redraft it.
Whatever the problem, you want it fixed.
You want to keep going, but you’re stuck.
So you do what you think will help. You sit down, religiously, and you write. You force out some words. You tell yourself the cliche about Plumber’s Block again.
It doesn’t help.
What you need to do is take a big step back from your work.
If your writing isn’t on the right path, there’s no productivity tip or trick that will help you.
The only way out is to get truly honest with yourself.
Does your novel need a new cast? Or a new plot? Maybe it should be a short story or a screenplay or a video game.
Are you still interested in the topic you’re blogging about? Do you still feel driven to serve the readers you’ve attracted? Are you still learning and growing in your topic?
You may be able to rekindle that spark and fall in love with your blog all over again. Or it may be time to change gears. You don’t necessarily need to retire the blog, but it may be time to bring a writing partner in who has the energy you’re lacking.
Is your sales page promoting a product you really believe in? Is there something in the product or service that makes you hesitate when you promote it? Do you know who your buyers are? Are you solving a problem they care about? Are you solving a problem you care about?
It’s hard to get this kind of perspective on your own. When I’m stuck, I ask around in Third Tribe or on Twitter.
Sure, it’s scary to share something which you know isn’t quite right. It’s hard to be ruthless with yourself and face the uncomfortable stuff.
But it’s the fastest way to smash through a block and get moving again.
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