If you’re like me, you’ve worked hard to create a website that you’re happy with.
You’ve polished the style, you’re passionate about the subject and you’re really starting to get to grips with marketing it on social media.
But people will only keep visiting a website if it has fresh and interesting content to read and that can often be challenging.
No matter how passionate you might be about a subject, being able to continually come up with ideas for new post topics can be quite challenging.
What can be even more challenging is when you have a subject but you just can’t seem to start writing. The dreaded “writer’s block”.
How to recognize if you have writer’s block
If you’re staring at a blank page with a subject in mind but the words won’t come, that’s writer’s block.
If you’re half-way through an article and suddenly the words stop flowing, that’s writer’s block.
If you’re feeling disillusioned about what you’re writing and you’re forcing yourself to write it because you have to, that’s probably writer’s block too.
Common causes for writer’s block
Writer’s block can feel like it’s come from nowhere but usually there are contributing factors at play.
If you can identify them, you can remedy the situation to create a more productive environment for your creativity.
Here’s some of them to get you thinking.
Sleep is more than just rest
Sleep is essential to help your body recharge but it’s so much more than that.
As you sleep, your brain is doing all sorts of cool stuff. It’s clearing out toxins that prevent clear thinking, it’s strengthening new neural pathways, based on what you did the previous day and subconsciously, it’s processing all the things you didn’t know were ‘on your mind’.
If you’re not getting enough sleep (I’m guilty of this one) then you’re not helping your most creative tool to shine.
Trying to write with a tired brain is like trying to chop wood with a blunt axe. Sure, you can force it to do the job but you won’t be getting through that wood-pile as fast as you’d like.
Many people sleep with a notebook by their beds because sometimes they wake up with an ‘a-ha’ moment they need to write down before it’s forgotten.
Stress can be distracting
If you have a lot on your mind, it can often be hard to focus.
Juggling the needs of a family as well as the needs of your home-business can make it difficult to do either.
The hunter that chases two rabbits will catch neither.
If you have lots of thoughts all competing for your attention, it will be difficult to address any one of them.
Don’t worry – there are ways around this too.
Finding the right time to write
Many of us still believe that we should work during the day and sleep during the night but actually, we’re not all wired the same. Some of us really are night-owls and do our best work then.
Some of us are day-birds and we need to work when there’s light streaming through the windows.
It we try to work at the wrong time of the day, we just won’t perform at our peak and the words just won’t flow.
Sometimes, it’s nothing to do day or night but simply not the right time to write.
If you’re a single parent, perhaps the best time to write is that wonderful moment when you’ve just dropped the kids off at school and the house is silent.
If you’re working full-time, perhaps getting up an hour earlier to write might work for you.
We all have an optimal time to write. You just need to find yours.
Confidence and fear
Self-confidence (or lack of it) can be a real motivation killer.
It’s so easy, when looking at what you’re writing to believe that nobody will want to read it, that it’s not good enough or that it’s not very interesting.
The thing is, if everyone believed that, nothing would get written, we’d have no great books and we’d have no blockbuster movies (often based on those books).
Write it and then act on the feedback.
People can’t give you feedback if you haven’t given them something to read in the first place.
If someone says what you’ve written is rubbish, don’t react, just ask them why. If they can’t give you an answer, they’re just being mean so their opinion doesn’t count. If they can, that’s fantastic because they cared enough about your writing to help you improve it.
The best way to become a better writer is to write.
And in the meantime believe this – no matter what level of writing you believe you’ve attained, there will be an audience out there for it. When someone can only read and write at a 5th grade level, do you think they want to read a post written in college-level English? No. They want to read someone that writes at their level.
There will always be an audience for your writing.
Incidentally, fear of failure (i.e. lack of confidence) is one of the main reasons that people either stop writing or never write in the first place.
It’s great that you want to write quality content.
It’s really important (Google thinks so too) but it’s not so great if you get too hung up on the word, “quality”.
Quality doesn’t mean perfect. It means that the reader enjoys it and gets something out of reading it.
The reader isn’t going to enjoy reading it much if it’s full of spelling mistakes and the grammar is awful but again, that doesn’t mean to say it has to be perfect either.
One of the great things about publishing digitally (as opposed to printed books) is that you can go back and edit it later.
There’s been a few times I’ve looked over previous articles and realised I could have worded something better or that a comma would help break up a sentence. The Edit button is your friend.
I find that my writing dramatically improved with the help of Grammarly. It’s a free tool that you can install in your browser that automatically checks your spelling and grammar as you type and makes suggestions.
I’ve been surprised at the number of things it’s picked up on and I’ve found it’s been improving my grammar as a result (in other words, I make less mistakes now).
So write it, check it with an automatic tool like Grammarly and don’t be afraid to click Publish!
Perfectionism is the enemy of creativity.
Solutions for the causes of writer’s block
Now that I’ve talked about the common causes of writer’s block, I’m going to suggest some ways you can overcome them.
The reason I didn’t address these above is because some of the solutions will work for more than one problem so I wanted to talk about them separately.
The important thing to remember is that some of these solutions will work for you and some of them won’t.
We all have different challenges in life so what works for one person won’t work for another.
Some of these suggestions are more suited to parents at home, others are more general.
Some will work on their own and others will work in combination (such as listening to music in combination with changing your environment).
I’m sure you’ll find something that works for you.
Do some housework
As the main carer for two energetic preschoolers, I need to fit my writing around the freelance work that I do for clients as well as the house work and taking care of the little people. As a result, there’s always something that needs doing.
I don’t like leaving things undone. If the carpet needs vacuuming, I’ll notice it out of the corner of my eye or if there are dishes in the sink, that’s going to annoy me, even if I can’t see them.
Often, little things can all weigh on our minds, even if we’re not aware of them and just tackling one of them can create that mental space we need to get creative.
When we put off chores, we’re not really making life easier for ourselves because they’re still there in our minds.
I’m not suggesting you have to do everything on your list. Just doing one can be enough of a lift to get you going again.
One way to create some mental space that I’ve discovered as a stay-at-home parent is to take the worry of dinner off my mind. I love our slow cooker – it’s so easy to throw some things in there, turn it on and forget about it until it’s actually dinner time.
Like the previous suggestion about doing some housework, preparing food before it’s needed takes that subconscious pressure off your mind because once it’s done, you have something to look forward to (instead of dreading making dinner).
Maybe it’s just me but I also find it super-easy to prepare food in a slow-cooker. Just chop some stuff up, throw it in there and add a bit of stock. Job done.
Of course, the smell of tasty food can become distracting a bit later.
Go for a walk
If you’ve been starting at the blank page trying to start writing something, the best solution may be to just stop and take a break. Go out for a walk, smell the air, hear the birds and basically, be somewhere else.
By forcing yourself to sit at your desk and try to create, you’re actually creating a punishment scenario where you’re not allowing yourself to leave until you achieve a goal.
That’s not a positive frame of mind to be in so give yourself permission to go out.
We just got one of those little bistro tables for our tiny back garden and when I’m stressed, I love to take a coffee out there and just listen to the crows shouting at each other.
Change your writing environment
A lot of the time, I find myself having to write on my laptop in the living room, squeezing it in between kiddy demands for milk and other domestic demands.
Sometimes, when I’m not the sole carer, I get the opportunity to work in our spare room that I’ve converted into an office of sorts. It even has a pot plant. I like plants.
When I’m in there I find it much easier to relax and the words find their way out of my head and onto the screen much more readily.
I’m not sure if it’s the fact the room is brighter, has a big pot plant or is much cooler than the rest of the house but the change in environment is definitely beneficial.
You should try writing in the different places you have access to, even coffee shops and see what works for you.
Listen to music
I personally prefer to write in silence but with two preschoolers bouncing around the house for half the day, that’s not always possible.
For me, the next best thing is to wait until they’re watching Peppa Pig, put some headphones on and listen to some music.
It’s rather like the point above about changing your environment above.
Although I haven’t changed anything physical I need changed the surrounding soundscape and that seems to have a huge effect on my ability to write.
As for the kind of music that works; that’s totally subjective.
I don’t like listening to music with lyrics when I’m typing as the song-words distract me but I’m sure some people find songs more effective. To each their own.
Write somewhere new
At first glance this might sound like changing your environment above and in a way, it is.
On a nice day, you might find writing in a local park energizes your productivity or your might find writing in the car on a rainy day by the beach works for you.
Our brains are sensory addicts. If we liked doing the same thing all the time we wouldn’t spend so much money on foreign holidays. When we take our brain somewhere new, it reciprocates by being more creative.
I once wrote one of my best posts in the car, parked at a supermarket.
Laptops enable us to really get creative with where we get creative!
Needless to say, don’t take your laptop somewhere it’s likely to attract the wrong kind of attention.
Get rid of distractions
If you’re going to really get into the flow of writing you need to write without distraction.
Once you start feeling the words flowing, you don’t want something to interrupt that process. To do that you need to remove all possible distractions.
Where possible, turn off the television, close the other tabs in your browser and silence notifications on your phone.
Some people really benefit from writing in full screen mode using an application such as Focused. Without menus, icons or other distracting elements, it enables you to just focus on what you’re writing.
If you have children that you need to care for, they need to take priority because they depend upon you for everything!
Trying to write with unoccupied preschoolers around is like trying to sculpt ice in the Mojave. You might as well just enjoy playing with them. You never know, it might inspire your writing later.
Don’t forget to keep a notebook or your phone handy. Even playing with toddlers could inspire your next article!
Become a regular
Depending upon how much control you have over your schedule, you might find that you benefit from establishing a regular writing period.
For some people this is best late in the evening when the children are in bed. For others, it’s early in the morning before breakfast.
Ernest Hemingway revealed in an interview in 1958 that he liked to work in the morning as early as possible.
When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. The Paris Review Interview 1958
Because of my hectic schedule, I’m seriously considering getting up an hour earlier just to write.
I really like the idea of having a scheduled time that I know I’m going to use for writing instead of stressing about fitting it in where I can.
Break it down
Staring at a blank screen or page is never a good way to write anything.
Most of the books on writing, be it for a novel or an article, suggest that you break down what you’you want to write into sections. Yes, there’s a start, middle, and end to most writing but you need to take it further than that if you’re going to make your life easier.
What subjects do you want to cover? What do you want to include? What points are you trying to make?
As an example, before I wrote this article, I wrote down some vague headings on a piece of paper.
Yup, paper. I find something tactile and visual works for me when I’m planning.
In this post, I started with a short section about recognizing writer’s block.
I then talked about the possible causes.
I’m now writing about potential solutions to help you get over it and I’m going to wrap it up at the end with a conclusion.
I already listed the causes and solutions as headings and I’m filling those in as I write the article.
In other words, before I even try to write, I already know what I’m going to write about.
Trust me, this has revolutionized my ability to write.
Six months ago I would never have been able to write a three thousand article.
Now, thanks to the training on Wealthy Affiliate, I can now do that relatively easily in a few hours.
Get a coffee
I’m a bit of a coffee fanatic.
Sometimes, when my head just isn’t delivering the goods, I like nothing more than going into the kitchen and going through the ritual of preparing a coffee.
I love coffee so much that I need a few different ways to make it.
I need an espresso machine. I need a mocha pot. I need two cafetieres. I need an Aeropress (it’s looking pretty cracked now, after all the years of use), and I need one of those little pod machines. I use them all.
I find the act of choosing a method of making coffee then preparing it is a wonderful way to take my mind to another place for a few minutes.
Sometimes, I’ll make a pot of tea instead.
By the time I’ve returned to my laptop, it feels as if I’ve reset my mind and I’m ready to write again.
If not, well, I can always take the coffee outside and listen to the birds screaming at each other.
Meditation has been gaining quite a lot of attention in recent years.
Being able to sit quietly for a few minutes and clear your head can be enormously beneficial and doesn’t require joining an eastern religion or buying special chairs or garments.
Enabling you to relax, declutter your mind, and just take a mental break, meditation could really help you to get yourself back into the right frame of mind for content-creation.
Ranging from just focusing on your breathing in silence for a few minutes to more advanced meditations, it’s up to you how complicated mediation needs to be.
If you’re curious, Headspace’s Mediation For Beginners might be a good place to start.
Before trying to draw anything, many artists will spend some time doing warm-up sketches, coloring exercises, or gestural drawings. They do this to get into the feel of drawing before they try to draw anything seriously.
If you’re struggling to write, maybe you should do just that?
It doesn’t matter what you write, just write.
Write about your day.
Write what you aspirations are for the coming month.
Write about where you’d like to be in five years time (that old interview cookie).
Writing can be physical (in a notebook, with a pen) or on your laptop. It doesn’t matter as long as you’re writing.
After writing a short piece (no more than two to five-hundred words) you may find yourself more in the mind to write.
Go and read
If you’re still stumped and you just don’t feel you can write, go and read some of your favorite websites, magazines or books.
Pick up a book you’ve meant to read for weeks and start reading. My bookshelf is full of books waiting for me to find the time to read them.
Reading articles that interest you starts you thinking and often triggers thoughts or opinions that could be the source of new articles.
I find that the writing of others often inspires me to write.
Ironically, that’s where this article came from.
This article was inspired by writer’s block
Today, I wanted to write something new for this website but I found myself staring at the empty screen with no idea what I wanted to write about.
None of the keywords that I’d researched particularly inspired me (that sometimes happens) so I needed to find a subject that fired my imagination.
I was tempted to walk away and do something else (I needed to empty the dishwasher and put a load of washing on) but I decided to catch up on some reading first.
After reading five or six different articles (including “Is Writer’s Block Really So Bad?” on the Huffington Post), I felt inspired to write about writer’s block and this post was born.
Writer’s block isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In this case it inspired me to write about something I totally didn’t expect.
When you find it hits you (and it will unless you’re some kind of content-writing AI) I hope the tips I’ve offered here will help!
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