Writer’s block is real, isn’t it?
You sit numbly at your keyboard, thumping on your forehead and thinking:
“What shall I write about?” … thump, thump, thump
“How should I start it?” … thump, thump, thump
“What examples should I use?” … thump, thump, thump
But no matter how much you thump your forehead, you’re not getting any further. The ideas just aren’t coming to you. Your inspiration tank is dry as old bones abandoned in the Sahara.
It makes you want to tear your hair out.
What if you could stop all the thumping and banish your writer’s block forever?
Banishing writer’s block is 100% doable.
Where Writer’s Block Really Comes From
Think about this for a second: have you ever experienced talker’s block?
Have you ever been completely stymied when a client asked you a question? One that hits the sweet spot of your expertise? And for which you have the perfect answer?
Of course not.
On the other hand, writer’s block strikes when you sit isolated before an expectant screen.
So what’s the difference?
When you’re talking, you have a context. You have another human being to stimulate your ideas, and you have real-world issues that demand your consideration. So the ideas flow thick and fast.
In a verbal interaction, you’re not focused on being word-perfect.
You have the knowledge, and you want to help. So you dive in and tackle the question, working it out as you go in comfortable, conversational style.
That makes all the difference.
And that is why writer’s block is avoidable. Because it’s not some malevolent lack of inspiration that has you at a standstill. It’s the isolation of the writing process.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
You have plenty of ideas and answers in your head. You just need a way of accessing, on tap as it were, the questions that a real live person wants to ask you.
How Process Trumps Inspiration
In one of my favorite posts from James Clear, he talks about why systems trump goal-setting in terms of getting results. It resonated with me.
Years ago I had set a goal for myself to lose weight, but it just wasn’t happening. Only after I joined a local weight-loss group and submitted to their system did I start seeing results.
As a blogger, your goal is to have a successful blog, and for that, you must blog consistently. But that won’t happen if writer’s block keeps showing up and putting on the brakes. No way will you write a blog post week in, week out if that’s happening.
So what’s your system for busting through writer’s block and achieving consistency?
Here are my five proven steps to banish writers’ block:
1. Tell Them What’s Coming
When you tell your subscribers when and how you will show up in their inbox, it has powerful effects on you mentally. It forces you to tap into your creativity and flesh out your ideas. Feeling blocked still happens, but backing away is not an option.
You started your blog because you wanted to share your best ideas. You have life-changing insights to offer your readers and subscribers. Commit to giving that to them on a regular basis rather than waiting for inspiration to strike.
You’ll find that the more you share, the more ideas you will have.
That’s the beauty of creativity. When you share your insights with your audience, your mind generates more and more ideas.
Copyblogger has an excellent article about building relationships and how “frequency” can help build an impression of reliability.
2. Harness Inspiration Immediately
Good ideas strike when they strike. Inspiring material shows up everywhere.
Are you able to capture the inspiration?
It might happen in the middle of the night, in the shower, or while driving the kids to school. Ideas are guaranteed to show up almost any time except when you are sitting in front of your laptop.
You need to capture your ideas no matter where you are. You don’t have to use them all, but why risk them going to waste? Nothing is as frustrating as the dim memory of a brainwave but too few details to flesh it out for your readers.
And you have loads of ways to harness your best ideas.
Most phones these days allow you to capture short notes as lists. You can use an app like Evernote to tag and file your inspirations, ideas, and references in different notebooks, whether online or offline.
You can even go analog and use a notebook or a nearby scrap of paper. The key is to make sure you always have something on hand when inspiration strikes.
3. Use Structure as a Creative Springboard
Saying “write an outline” may sound too dull to release a flood of creativity, but it is your most powerful tool for getting your fingers typing, which is what you need.
An outline lets you bounce your ideas around and then stand back and inspect them before putting them in a logical order, with perfect punctuation and inspiring language.
You can select the outlining process that best suits the type of post you’re writing.
If it’s a “how to” post, you can use a question-driven process like this:
- What are we learning to do?
- Why is this important?
- What’s the first step?
- What’s the next step? And the next?
- What can go wrong?
- What about an example?
If you’re writing a story-based post, you can use a narrative outline:
- Where did the action take place?
- Who was there?
- What happened first? Why was that important?
- What happened next?
- And then what?
- And so on…
Outlining your post helps you avoid writer’s block because you can avoid starting with the opening lines, which tend to be the most block-inducing of all. With an outline, you’re free from that pressure because you can skip the opening to work out the meat of your post first.
The outline helps you get to grips with the body of your post, which is the bulk of the writing work. Once you’ve done that, you can feed off the sense of achievement. And craft a powerful opening paragraph, and then add your rousing conclusion to be sure they take action on your idea.
4. Construct Your Best Headline… Afterward
Every blogger knows that headlines are the most important part of your post. They largely decide whether people read or don’t read your content, which can truly put you under pressure to come up with the perfect one.
But we can obsess about getting a cracker of a headline and never get to writing the post. So just settle for a working headline that encapsulates your idea. Next, get the writing out of the way. Lastly, come back to honing the headline.
Without a headline idea at all, an article can quickly lose focus and meander all over the place. So a working headline keeps you on track. At the same time, the writing process gives your subconscious time to mull things over. As I’ve mentioned before, inspiration strikes at the weirdest moments.
Chances are, by the end of the writing process, you’ll have an excellent headline idea in mind, and then it’s just a matter of polishing it to a dazzling gleam.
The always enchanting Henneke Duistermaat has written a splendid post about writing seductive headlines.
5. Set Yourself up to Succeed
Do whatever you must do to break your writing process down into independent stages so that you are always writing while mentally on top of your game.
If you set things up so that you regularly need to generate a post idea, outline it, write it, and then craft the headline all in a single sitting, writers’ block will take up a permanent position and taunt you from the top of your workstation.
If you set things up right, you will always write when you’re fresh
“Write when fresh” sounds so obvious, but is it realistic in the breakneck speed of life? The reality of achieving it can feel as remote and unobtainable as the quest for the Holy Grail.
Let’s say you publish to your blog once a week. You could aim for the following as a possible process:
Plan out the posts you want to complete, plus the day and time you’ll publish them.
Day 1: Select your outline, and write the post.
Next day: Edit your post, and come up with a headline.
Day after: Publish the post to your blog, and notify your mailing list about it.
Add one idea to your swipe file. Outline one blog post idea to use the next time you have a blog post to deliver.
It might seem simplistic, but it’s a start. Planning ahead allows you to pace yourself. And pacing yourself is more than half the battle of banishing writer’s block.
Blogging can be an inspiring, exhilarating, and addictive endeavor. But it’s also relentless in its demand for tending.
It takes a special kind of person to meet that demand.
If you use the tips above to conquer your writer’s block, you can be that person.
Just imagine the exhilaration of gushing your ideas onto the page. Imagine the sense of achievement as you effortlessly meet your publishing schedule week after week after week. Imagine your blog’s audience growing more and more engaged with every post you publish on time.
It could be you.
Nothing can stop you now.