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The Struggle Is Real – 10 Ideas to Break Writer's Block

January 07, 2019
Whitney VanKlaveren - Marketing Communications Coordinator

When it comes to writing, let’s face it – the struggle is real. From those times where the stars align and everything clicks to those we’d rather just not talk about, writing is a double-edged sword.

It’s frustrating; it’s hard; it’s challenging; and it can make you want to pull your hair out. But it’s not all bad and doesn’t always elicit a feeling of wanting to run for the hills screaming. It’s also rewarding, fulfilling and challenging in such a way that it helps you to grow and enhance your craft. 

Plus, there’s solidarity in writing my friend. It’s like an exclusive club where unless you’ve been there, you just don’t belong. Being a part of this club, you know what it’s like to sit and stare at your computer screen, or piece of paper, for what feels like an eternity only to go back and delete the 10 words it felt like pulling teeth to get out.     

I’ve by no means got this writing thing perfected. But I do have 10 ideas to try to break the monotony and clear out the cobwebs to hopefully get you back to writing. Because writer’s block, it’s real. 

1.) Step away 

Sometimes, the best thing you can do is to step away from what you’re working on. Take a breather by working on another task for a change of pace or get up, stretch and take a walk. It sounds simple, but allowing yourself to mull a little can be all you need to get the ball rolling.  

2.) Get inspired

Listen to a song that pumps you up, read a post by your favorite blogger, flip through an industry publication, watch a tutorial, listen to a podcast – the list is endless. You never know when or where inspiration may strike and what might trigger it. Music is a big one for me personally. When a favorite song comes on, I feel pumped – I got this.  

3.) Change surroundings

If possible, change your surroundings. Go outside and work in the sunshine or visit that coffee shop you’ve been dying to try and pop-a-squat. Changing your location or even making subtle changes to your current environment, such as a chair with better support, can make a big difference in your energy level, comfort and mindset.     

4.) Talk it out

Share with a coworker, mentor, friend, etc. what you’re working on and the challenges you’re facing. These conversations have the ability to open your eyes to things you may not have considered before and have a tendency to challenge preconceived ideas. Keep in mind – while this should be someone you trust, it should also be someone you can rely on to give you candid feedback. 

5.) Alter the approach

Consider how you’re researching the topic. Is there another approach you could try? Switching up your approach can make what seems impossible, possible and mitigate or eliminate roadblocks. Let me be clear – by alter your approach, I don’t mean change your stance. For instance – if you’ve researched online and can’t locate a piece of information you’re looking for, check with your library for books on the subject matter or interview an expert on the topic.    

6.) Set limits

Dedicate a specific amount of time to work on a piece. Once this time is up, put down the pencil or switch tasks. For some, this may help increase productivity as they perform better under pressure. While for others, this may keep them from spinning their wheels when it’s simply not working. We have to recognize that sometimes it’s necessary to put down the pencil.   

7.) Scrap it

If you’re having this much trouble covering the topic, should you be covering it in the first place? Maybe there’s another topic that provides similar value or meets the needs of your target audience that you find more interesting – have you considered writing about that? You can’t expect a reader to be interested in what you’re saying if you’re not. While not always an option, whenever you can, find a topic that does interest you and pitch it instead.   

8.) Write it

More times than I can count, I’ve heard that you should expect your first draft to be – well crappy. That’s where your later drafts come in, refining the text and message. If you expect the first draft to be crappy then what do you have to lose? Just write; don’t think about how to perfect it. If you agonize over every word, you’ll never complete that first draft and have something to work with.   

9.) Time

Deadlines exist, and there will be times you’re up against the clock; however, writing is a process. Whenever you can, give yourself ample time to research, interview, write, edit, have a peer review, etc. You’ll likely feel more prepared and less rushed to write the article by giving yourself the time you need and, depending on your planning/situation, potentially have some buffer for when those unforeseen challenges arise – because they will.      

10.) Acceptance

As a writer, you have to learn to accept that perfection doesn’t exist. You can write a really good article, but there will almost always be something looking back that you feel you could have spent more time on, changed or done better. It’s hard, but I’ve had to learn to accept that it’s not going to be perfect. Once I’m happy with a piece overall, it’s time to move on.  

Whether you’re a longtime member or the club’s newest inductee, best wishes on your writing endeavors!

Whitney VanKlaveren - Marketing Communications Coordinator