Fresh, original content is the cornerstone of any effective marketing strategy today. The problem is that creating fresh, original content is sometimes easier said than done. Here are some tips for navigating writer’s block.
1. Walk away. Yes, we mean literally. Staring at a blank page and growing more and more panicked as the minutes tick away can temporarily paralyze our mental muscles. Give those muscles a much-needed break by getting up and taking a walk. Studies show that walking helps us think and can boost creativity. It’s amazing how your perspective will have changed by the time you return to the page.
2. Just start typing. For many writers, the hardest part is getting started. That blank page can be incredibly intimidating. The best way to attack it? Get words onto the page ASAP. If you find yourself struggling to come up with any words, try one of the following:
- Turn to your trusty list of keyword phrases that you target on your website.
- Turn to Google Trends and see what words pop up regarding your business or industry.
- Look at a competitor’s website and choose a few phrases.
Once you have a phrase, simply write your thoughts regarding that phrase. Pretend you’re explaining the phrase to a 10-year-old. Consider all the questions potential customers might have about the phrase and answer each question, one by one.
As you write, you’ll start to notice themes and other topic ideas. Before you know it, you’ll have filled up a page or two with content. Sure, it will be rough, but as many writers have famously pointed out, you can’t revise a blank page, but you CAN revise a page filled with words.
3. Time yourself. This goes hand-in-hand with the previous suggestion. In addition to “just start typing,” keep at it for twenty-five minutes straight. (Yes, set a timer.) Don’t take your fingers off the keyboard. Keep going with wherever your mind goes, but don’t stop. After twenty-five minutes, take a five-minute break. Rinse, lather, and repeat. This is known as The Pomodoro Technique, which we’ve discussed in articles about time management, but it also works in kick starting your brain.
4. Don’t give too much credit to the notion of writer’s block. Sure, everyone gets “stuck” in their jobs at some point, but writers have cornered the market on so-called writer’s block, haven’t they? They make it sound like this larger-than-life “thing” that weighs on them and doesn’t allow them to write.
What other professions have their own block? Do you hear plumbers talking about “plumber’s block” or the surgeon in the middle of the operating room needing to stop because she’s suffering from “surgeon’s block”? Of course not.
This doesn’t mean the plumber or surgeon doesn’t encounter problems or have moments where he or she doesn’t exactly know how to proceed. But they don’t spiral into an existential crisis and lament this “block” for days, weeks, or even years. Instead, they work through the problem. It would behoove all writers to do the same thing instead of giving away so much power to the romantic notion of the tortured writer wrestling with words.
5. Don’t reinvent the wheel. When fresh, original ideas aren’t flowing out of you, revisit your existing content.
- Can you repurpose content from one piece and turn it into something new? For example, can you take a white paper and repurpose it into a blog post series? Yes, the core content might not be new, but your presentation is in a new format, and you’ll likely reach new readers as a result.
- What’s changed about a topic since you last wrote about it? Update the content and republish.
6. Change your format. Do you typically write using a keyboard? Grab a legal pad and try writing longhand (and vice versa). Sometimes this change alone is enough to get the mind thinking a little differently.
7. Change your scenery. If you usually work from home in your jammies and you find yourself becoming more and more stuck every time you sit down to write, then a change of scenery might be exactly what you need.
Try writing at a coffee shop, the library, or a local workspace geared towards people who typically work from home but occasionally need a more office-like setting. You could even get dressed up in business casual attire, again all in an effort to trick the mind into getting serious.
8. Remove distractions. Ask yourself this question: are you blocked, or are you merely distracted? Spending all your precious writing time on Facebook isn’t writer’s block.
9. Make sure you have firm deadlines. Nothing provides motivation like a drop-dead deadline. Some writers work best under pressure. If that’s you, make sure you have the pressure of a real deadline.
This can be especially challenging if you’re a small business owner who is handling content creation yourself. Make the deadline real by involving someone else in the equation. For example, if you’re writing a blog post series, maybe you hire a marketing consultant to proofread, lay out, and schedule your blog posts. If you’re writing a white paper, hire a graphic designer to design it for you and have the designer give you a deadline for content.
10. Do something that inspires you. We all have sources of inspiration. Seek them out. Maybe it’s an afternoon matinee or a tennis match with your friends or a visit to the latest exhibit at the museum in town. Whatever it is, go do it. Allow yourself to feel inspired.
What do you think? What other ways have you dealt with writer’s block? Share in the comments.