Say you’re on deadline with a proposal, report, or other written piece and you’re stuck on what to say next and how to say it.
Where can you turn to get words and ideas flowing again?
Try taking a break from putting words on paper or a screen. That’s right—
Put down the pen. Stop typing. But don’t
give up on the assignment. Do something besides write—such as these five activities:
Maybe you’re stuck because you don’t have enough material to keep fueling your writing. Going blank can be a sign that you haven’t done all of the legwork and need to do more fact-finding before you can make your points articulately.
One giveaway? You lack solid examples or specifics that tell the story you’re trying to get across. The cure is the do some more research or think through more clearly the points you want to make.
Tell a friend or colleague what you want to say. Voicing your points—in plain language, out loud—sometimes frees up the brain. Explaining, verbally, what you want to say, can flush out the clog that sometimes prevents people from explaining, in writing, what they ought
to say. Then you can make the case better when conveying your thoughts on paper.
Take your thoughts and writer’s block, strap on some comfortable shoes, and move. Here’s the trick to this one: Allow yourself to think about the writing and the project as you walk. Picture what you want to accomplish with the piece. Imagine getting the breakthrough you need. Try a 30- to 60-minute stroll while you think. Then, head back and get into it.
If you don’t already have an outline or a framework for the written project, make one now, while you’re stuck. What’s the most important thing you want to achieve with the report? Why are you writing the proposal? What points should the reader take away? Remind yourself about the main reasons you’re undertaking the effort and then map the work accordingly.
You can use a mind map
. They are powerful. They boost creativity and prevent brain seize. My favorite is iMindMap:
Another useful site, Biggerplate
, features a library of mind maps that its community of users has already created. See whether any of those offer inspiration.
Just be. Try to relax and think of something else entirely. Listen to music, or brew a cup of tea. Close your eyes. Do something that lets you empty any anxiety that might have crept into your being about the writing and about finishing the task.
Remember, writing doesn’t flow perfectly on the first pass. That’s why those takes are called rough drafts—it’s OK to be clunky or wordy. You can fix it later when you’re revising and editing.
Good luck! Let me know what you think of these ideas, and what gets you writing again when you’re stuck.
Becky Gaylord worked as a reporter for more than 15 years in Washington, D.C., Cleveland, and Sydney, before she launched the consulting practice, Gaylord LLC.
Read her blog Framing What Works, where this story first appeared.