I’m well acquainted with writer’s block. In undergrad and grad school, I studied English (read: I wrote papers like it was my job). My first position at EVG was as a full-time writer and editor. And I’ve also had the opportunity to teach writing to college students. So, yeah, I’ve come against one or two walls in my writing career and seen students crash into a few as well. Thankfully, I’ve learned several things through these challenges.
1. Write What You Know
We would all agree that the best content comes from writers who know what they are talking about. While you may be a perfectly capable writer, you probably aren’t an expert in every area, which is why you need to know your limitations and when to turn down projects. Drawing an immediate blank on the assignment? Then you should probably pass this one on to someone else.
2. Do Some Research
Maybe you have an idea for the piece, but you are just having a hard time meeting the minimum requirements (i.e. you’re checking your word count after every sentence). Do some research – consume content to create content. Find photos of that hotel room, read product reviews, visit competitor websites, etc. You may not always have the opportunity to pass on projects, and when you don’t, you’ll need to make yourself the expert.
3. Forget the Elusive Perfect First Draft
Ask any of my roommates from undergrad about my ability to whip out papers and they will laugh at you. I was the slowest writer. Every word had to be perfect the first time. Although in grad school, thanks to working full time, I didn’t have time for that luxury. I was forced to just get it on paper and then go back and clean up my work. And guess what? The world didn’t end; my grades didn’t suffer. If you’re a perfectionist and tend to stare at a blank page waiting to find the right words, stop waiting and just write.
4. Get Feedback
Whether it’s through a formal edit or just a quick chat with a coworker, receiving feedback can really help you get over a road block once you have a good idea / rough draft in place. Sometimes you just need someone to let you know you’re going in the right direction or someone to tell you to take a U-turn as soon as possible, both of which are helpful in producing a solid piece.
5. Make Time to Step Away
If you tried all of the above and still feel stuck, you may just need to step away and work on something else while you try to gain a new perspective of your topic. Whenever I get an assignment, I immediately start writing a rough draft in my head or make a quick outline. I want to get started right away so that if I do come against a wall I have time to work through it. If you struggle with content writer’s block often, starting assignments early will ease your anxiety (which often makes writer’s block worse) because you’ll know you have time to step away.
If you’re a writer and have different ways to beat the dreaded block, I’d love to hear them! Share in the comments.
Faith Jones – Project Manager