How to overcome writer’s block when you write for a living
As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a writer. Sure, it wasn’t as cool as being a gangster (for those who spotted the Goodfellas reference in that opening line) but reading and writing were always my favourite things at school and while I expected to be an author with at least as many books as Stephen King by now, I still consider myself lucky to be paid to write.
And it’s not just me, Social is full of great writers working on content and copy for our clients every day. But what happens when the words just… stop?
Writer’s block is something that can affect anyone, but while a multimillionaire author can probably afford to take some time out before returning to their latest bestseller-in-the-making, that’s a luxury you can’t afford when you’re working to a client’s deadline.
After all, George R.R. Martin has been writing The Winds Of Winter – the latest book in his A Song Of Ice And Fire series – since 2010 and still seems nowhere near completing it.
In that time the entire Game of Thrones TV show the series inspired has been produced and completed. He can get away with it because he’s George R.R. Martin, but that press release won’t write itself and needs to be sent to the client by COP.
So if you’re struggling to get your writing mojo working, here are some tips, including those from famous authors who have overcome it in the past:
Use it as an opportunity for a fresh perspective
Stephen King has published more than 60 novels and novellas and around 200 short stories and he’s attributed this productivity to committing himself to writing at least six pages every day. But even he hasn’t been immune to writer’s block, and it was a central plot point in his book Bag of Bones.
While he was writing his epic apocalyptic novel The Stand, he had managed 500 pages but felt like the story was no longer going anywhere. King came close to giving up on it. However, he persevered and all of a sudden came up with a completely new plot twist that took the novel in a new direction – killing off several main characters in the process.
The Stand has sold more than 4.5 million copies and been turned into two separate TV series. If he hadn’t opened himself up to new ideas and had been defeated by his writer’s block, we might never had read about Captain Tripps, Randall Flagg or the Trashcan Man.
Create the right writing conditions
Sometimes writer’s block can be brought on by the conditions you’re trying to write in. If you struggle to be productive in noisy offices where you might be distracted too often, find a quieter space where you can focus.
If you’re working from home, listen to music if that helps you write. Some writers, like prolific children’s horror author R.L. Stine, prefer peace and quiet, but if Madonna helps you overcome writer’s block, the important thing is that you can get into the groove.
Take a break
If you’re really struggling for inspiration, sometimes you just need to get out of your own head to find it again. While it might feel like you need to knuckle down and force the words onto the screen, you might discover that simply going out for a walk would actually do more to get your creative juices flowing again.
Even if it’s just a walk around the block, the fresh air and exercise could help you even if it just takes away the feeling of overwhelm.
Just write anything
Sometimes it’s the quest for perfect that gets in the way of writing something that’s actually good enough. Of course you need that case study to be impactful and engaging, but it’s not going engage anyone while it’s a draft in Google Docs.
Remember that you’re working on a first draft and can easily go back and edit it later, so just focus on finishing the draft, even if it’s terrible. You could even rename the file as Total Garbage v1 (just remember to change it back before sending it for client approval). Taking that pressure off could make a big difference to your creativity.
Try being bored
Being bored at work? Impossible! But it could be important too. Just like when your laptop needs rebooting after you’ve tried working with 237 Google Chrome tabs open, your brain can need this too in order to be productive and creative.
If you really can’t get going with something you’re trying to write, why not use your lunch break to go and sit and watch cars drive by or go to a local park and count squirrels. This boring interlude could kickstart your ability to come up with creative solutions.
Don’t ever say “writer’s block”
This might seem an odd final tip from a blog about writer’s block, but a study by the American Psychological Association claims that it doesn’t even exist, with Professor Paul Silvi telling us that “naming something gives it power.” If that sounds like a way that a group of kids in a Stephen King novel might defeat a monster, then maybe that helps too.
Psychologically, believing that you are struggling with writer’s block can potentially make your situation even worse, so instead, don’t give it a name. You don’t have writer’s block, because it doesn’t exist, so you can do this.