If you write for a living, you know that dreadful feeling.
You’ve been staring at the blank page far too long and feel incapable of putting words down. Sometimes, just crafting a coherent sentence—much less a cohesive story—seems daunting.
There are innumerable ways for writers to get stuck in the muck, but six productivity stranglers stick out:
- Lack of motivation
Regardless of which obstacle tends to bog you down, there are plenty of ways to get rolling again. Try these nine tips:
1. Take a break. Don’t confuse this with procrastination. If you feel your brain turning to mush, give yourself a break.
Take a walk to get the blood flowing, and deeply breathe in some fresh air. If you’re working late into the night, consider snapping your laptop closed and starting fresh in the morning. If you’ve been doing loads of research, give your eyes a rest.
Fresh eyes and a rested mind will do wonders for filling your page.
2. Remove distractions. When you’re feeling stuck, any activity (other than writing) sounds appealing. Writer’s block can make washing the car, mending the fence or cleaning the house seem urgent.
Avoid these procrastination temptations. Stay off social media, turn off the TV, and mute other app notifications to avoid getting derailed. Productivity programs such as Freedom and RescueTime can help you stay on task.
3. Write an outline. Start small by creating the shell of your story. Jot down bullet points, answer the five W’s, and compose an outline of the key points you’d like to communicate.
4. Get creative. Writing prompts and exercises can get creative juices flowing. You might also make a list of keywords and phrases you’d like to include in your story, or consider using the autocomplete and related search fields in Google to find even more topics to cover.
5. Listen to music. Music can drown out distractions and help get you into a writing mood, but choose tracks wisely. Different types of music can affect productivity in different ways, so determine which genre helps you focus.
6. Set doable deadlines. Instead of setting one looming deadline for a completed story, establish smaller, more manageable deadlines for yourself. Set different deadlines for your headlines, body copy or art, for example. Slice your project into bite-size chunks.
7. Change it up. Are you stuck in a rut? Try changing your routine a bit, whether it’s writing at a different time of day or working from a coffee shop instead of your home office. Give working outside a go. Sometimes, just a change of scenery will jar ideas loose and get creativity flowing again.
8. Don’t edit yet. If you struggle with perfectionism, it’s tempting to fix mistakes as soon as you spot them. Remember: Every great piece starts with a horrible first draft.
Avoid editing during your first draft, which can be distracting and discouraging. Just let it rip. Get ideas down, and type as sloppily as you like. You can edit and revise your masterpiece later.
9. Write. Perhaps you’ve heard that the simplest solution usually is the answer. That’s the case with writing. To bust through writer’s block, you simply must power through and get words onto the page.
Don’t give up—even in your darkest moments of self-doubt. Write, persevere, and then write some more. Eventually, you will defeat writer’s block and get your grammatical groove back.
Once you’ve hit your stride and left writer’s block behind, evaluate your process. What was happening when you got stuck? What helped you to move past it and start writing again?
Everyone’s writing process is different, so don’t be afraid to adjust and find the routine that works for you. Understanding the causes and solutions for your personal battle with writer’s block can help prevent it in the future.
A version of this post first appeared on Cision’s blog.