Writer’s block is a cop-out. It’s the lazy man’s excuse for not getting stuff done.
I’m going to show you how to eliminate writer’s block from your life forever. First I’ll show you three problems that cause writer’s block, then I’ll tell you how to defeat them.
What you perceive as writer’s block is actually good old fashioned procrastination, and it’s almost always based on at least one of the following three hang-ups:
- You dread the grueling process of going from blank page to finished piece.
- You believe you lack a good idea or inspiration.
- It’s “not the right time”—your kids are being too loud, the football game is on, you need to eat lunch first, etc.
Problem One: The Grueling Process
Writing is mentally exhausting, so you may feel a nagging dread when you need to start a new piece. That’s because you know how hard it is to go from a blank page to a finished product.
Often, writers start a new project by imagining the masterpiece they hope to create. Then, they start to realize how hard it’s going to be. So they’ll soothe themselves with displacement activities like these…
- Checking email, news, weather
- Inventing errands to run
- Finding stuff to fix around the house or office
- Watching TV or surfing the web to find “inspiration”
- Wasting time on social media
- Seeking human contact via phone, text, email, etc.
Man up and stop doing this crap. You are killing productivity. Even worse, these mindless activities stifle creativity by hogging precious brain power.
Be honest with yourself… You purposely do this stuff because it keeps you from writing. You tell yourself it’s important, but surely you must realize you’re just stalling.
Here’s the fix… Never look ahead to the perfect product you hope to achieve.
Instead, enjoy instant relief by accepting this one simple truth:
Your piece will be completed in steps.
The first draft will not be a masterpiece. In fact, it might be a complete turd. The second and third drafts might be turds too. IT’S OKAY.
Just keep taking steps until you end up with the final product. Don’t let dread of the process stop you from beginning in the first place.
So here’s what you want to do. Get rid of all distractions, sit down, and physically force yourself to start writing. Even if you think you have nothing to say. Plant your butt in the seat, and get to it.
The physical act of writing will subconsciously destroy writer’s block and trigger creativity. Trust me…it works.
I don’t care if you type out the lyrics to your favorite song—just write something. Once you break through that first obstacle, ideas will come to you quick and easy.
Problem Two: Perceived Lack Of Ideas Or Inspiration
Waiting for inspiration doesn’t work. So quit stalling and just start writing.
If you don’t have an idea, it’s your own fault. You’re missing amazing ideas that popup in day-to-day life because you only think about writing when it’s time to write.
You should constantly look for topics and inspiration. Keep a notepad at all times so you can jot down ideas for later use.
Or whip out your smartphone and email ideas to yourself. I do this all the time using the voice-to-text feature on my phone. It’s awesome because ideas go straight to my inbox before I forget them.
(I prefer email because it’s easier to organize and search than SMS, and I hate apps like Evernote.)
After a while, you’ll have a massive stockpile of great ideas. But what should you do if you need an idea right now?
Here are four ways you can quickly find ideas and inspiration…
As you follow these tips, keep in mind that you’re looking for interesting or useful tidbits around which you can write your own material. You don’t need to spend a ton of time on this stuff. A quick scan is sufficient.
TIP ONE: Look through the image gallery on your phone. You’ll be surprised by the useful memories this triggers. If you take a lot of pictures, you’ll likely stumble upon something that inspires you to write.
I know it sounds dumb, but think about it…
You probably write about things that interest you. And what do you take pictures of? Things that interest you! So the pics on your phone could be the perfect inspirational match for your writing.
TIP TWO: Go to Yahoo (preferably on desktop) and slowly scroll all the way to the bottom, scanning the headlines as you go. I realize there are other news feeds that are trendier, but Yahoo will give you an eclectic mix of stories and topics in an easy-to-scan format.
You don’t need to read every headline word for word. Plow through them as fast as you can so you don’t waste time or get distracted.
For instance, as soon as my brain recognizes an image of a Kardashian or the word “Kardashian” in a headline, I don’t even read the rest of it.
I instantly skip ahead to the next headline because I only want to devote brain power to stuff that’s worthy of my attention.
TIP THREE: Get the Texture app on your smartphone or tablet. Swallow the fifteen bucks a month to subscribe—it is worth it. You will get full access to pretty much every magazine you can imagine, including back issues.
Texture is an unbelievably rich pool of easy-to-scan information that you can exploit for your own purposes.
I write about marketing, advertising and writing, so I scan every issue of Adweek, Bloomberg Businessweek, Bloomberg Markets, Entrepreneur, Esquire, Fast Company, Forbes, Fortune, Inc., Interview, Money, Money Sense, The Hollywood Reporter, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and Wired.
All of these magazines can provide inspiration for me, so they are saved as favorites in my Texture app. I use a little time each week to quickly scan them until an idea sparks.
TIP FOUR: Look at your own website or any other past content you’ve written and try to find little bits of information you might personally take for granted, but could be useful to your readers.
Something that seems basic to you could be mind-blowing to your audience. If you can find these little nuggets, you’ll have a great topic you can write about.
I guarantee these four tips will provide instant inspiration until you can build up a larger bank of potential topics.
But you have to be careful because it’s easy to get distracted. Yahoo alone can send you down a very deep rabbit hole if you’re not careful. Remember, you need to write, not waste the entire day messing around on the internet.
It’s ok to schedule time for research and thought. But show some self-restraint… make sure you are actually using the time to research and think. When the time is up, make yourself start writing.
I give myself 15 minutes each morning to scan Yahoo or Texture or whatever and to think a little bit. Then I write. You should do the same.
I promise that what you currently perceive as writer’s block will instantly vanish. Because it’s not writer’s block. Writer’s block doesn’t exist.
Problem Three: “Now Is Just Not A Good Time”
Total B.S. There is never a good time to write, so stop waiting for the perfect moment. I get that your kids are screaming, you’re hungry, the game is on…
Forget about that crap. You are manufacturing excuses. If you wait for the perfect time to write, it’s never going to come.
Make yourself start writing. You’ll be surprised to see that you’ve forgotten about the “distractions” that were supposedly holding you back. I guarantee this works. Just try it.
If you’re genuinely struggling to find time, go to bed earlier and get up earlier.
There’s an abstract sense of wonder that can only be experienced in the pre-dawn hours when the rest of the world is sleeping. I don’t know what kind of ether is in the air before the sun comes up, but the buzzing, creative energy it radiates is startling.
You owe it to yourself to try this at least once: Go to sleep (not bed, but sleep) no later than 10pm. Get up at 5am the next morning and give yourself 15 minutes to research or think. Then immediately start writing.
You’ll be shocked by how alert and creative you feel.
If you try this, don’t waste time or mental bandwidth by checking emails or Facebook. Research for 15 minutes, then write. Capitalize on the mysterious morning magic before it vanishes.
After an hour or so, you’ll come back down to Earth, and then you can check your email.
The early morning braindump is a wondrous thing, and you don’t want to let distractions steal it from you.
Six Tips To Turbocharge Your Writing
Writing is work. Some of you have your head in the clouds, and you’re blinded by the supposed romance of the “writer’s lifestyle”.
In truth, writing is no different than any other job. So I suggest you take it seriously.
Another problem is the Internet, which has pretty much screwed writers forever.
Professional writers used to have real bosses and hard deadlines. Now that everybody is blogging, there are no bosses or deadlines.
Bosses and deadlines suck, but they are good motivators and they ensure quality. Stuff used to get done, and it got done well.
Now, since bloggers are their own bosses, there’s no consistency. Most of them churn out crap just for the sake of keeping fresh content on their site. And they don’t have a boss to tell them their blog sucks.
Here are six things that will help…
1. Approach writing like it’s a job. Yes, it can still be fun and it can still be a creative outlet. But stay focused.
They are plugins that will keep you from visiting time-wasting websites. If you don’t know how to use them, do a little googling and it’s easy to figure out.
2. Write in iterations. Don’t try to make your first draft perfect. You’ll only stifle creativity. It’s ok to write a turd at first. Just get your main ideas down, and you can polish them later.
3. Force yourself to use deadlines. Legendary sales copy writer John Carlton uses what he calls “soft deadlines”. He writes in iterations, and he gives himself a deadline for each one.
For instance, he’ll say “Ok, on Monday I want to have 20 headlines written by 3pm. Tuesday through Thursday I’ll write body copy and bullet points from noon til 2:00. And I want to have a complete rough draft by Friday.”
This method provides precious structure and accountability. Whether or not you do it Carlton’s way, try using deadlines to keep yourself accountable.
4. Don’t edit as you write. You’re only jerking your brain out of creative mode and forcing it to follow rules. Rules and creativity hate each other.
Get your first draft done and edit it later. Don’t even worry about misspellings. Every time you stop to fix a misspelling, you’re destroying your current creative streak.
5. Schedule time to find ideas and think about ideas. Keep this separate from your writing time.
You don’t want to start looking for an idea when it’s time to start writing. Ideally, you’ll already have an idea when it’s time to start writing.
6. Take a hot shower. Tons of writers agree with this. There’s just something about a hot shower that gets your creative juices flowing.
When you’re in the shower, try to keep your thoughts on topic so you’re not wildly daydreaming. Let your mind wander, but gently keep it on topic.
And keep some paper or a voice recorder handy, because the ideas will start gushing and you don’t want to lose them.
If you follow these tips, you’ll realize that writer’s block is actually a myth. It’s really just thinly veiled procrastination.
I’ll leave you with one warning… It’s ok to draw inspiration from other writers. In fact, this very article borrowed main points from four different sources.
However, it’s not ok to steal other writers’ words. So get an idea and make it your own.
Nobody likes a word thief, and in the digital age, word thieves are very easy to find. You’ve been warned.
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