My wife was struggling writing a presentation she was to give in five days. She told me she was blocked because she didn’t know what to write. She had spent more than an hour staring at a blank screen. Not only were the words not coming, she was paralyzed. So, has this ever happened to you? If so, here’s how to defeat writer’s block.
My wife asked me how I overcame writers block. I’m not bragging but I write thousands of words every week and never have writer’s block. Never. It’s not because I have superpowers. It’s because I have a system, and I think my system will work for you. You may have to play with the steps to fit your style, but if you follow the basic structure, you’ll defeat writer’s block too.
The system is based on the idea of knowing what you want to write before you put your fingers on the keyboard. Blocking out an hour or two to write isn’t a plan. It will almost certainly lead to writer’s block. You need a plan. One of the keys to this plan is you don’t attempt to do it all at once – it’s in stages.
The first step is to pick a topic. For example, on this blog site, I have eight categories (topics) including, leadership, training, presenting, and writing. I use an editorial calendar to plan my publications by topic.
The next step is to form an idea for the post, not to write it, but to conceptualize it. For example, under leadership, I have, 5 things every leader should learn, and then two weeks later, 7 steps to the art of setting expectations.
After choosing a topic and creating an idea I research it by googling the idea to see what’s out there. I do this for two reasons, first I often find sources that I can attribute in the post, and sometimes I get ideas I didn’t consider. I never plagiarize, but I will occasionally take an idea and run with it.
The next step is to create an outline of the topic idea. For example, earlier today I outlined a post for TKO Graphics tentatively titled, 4 Keys to Successful Vehicle Graphic Design. The 4 keys are appropriateness, branding, creating a call to action, and attraction. These will become the subheads. Under each of these, I listed three or four bullet points to discuss.
Do you want to know a secret to writing without being blocked? Turn. Off. Spell Check. Yes, when you’re writing, you don’t need the distraction. Spell Check slows your flow and will throw you off the page. Of course, you turn it back on after you’ve written the post, but while your writing – just write. When you attempt to write and edit at the same time, you’re not doing them at the same time you’re task switching, which usually leads to losing your train of thought and making mistakes.
And by the way, “Research also shows that, in addition to slowing you down, multitasking lowers your IQ. A study at the University of London found that participants who multitasked during cognitive tasks experienced IQ score declines that were similar to what they’d expect if they had smoked marijuana or stayed up all night. IQ drops of 15 points for multitasking men lowered their scores to the average range of an 8-year-old child.” — Forbes: Multitasking Damages Your Brain And Career, New Studies Suggest
Here’s my editing checklist.
- Write drunk edit sober – turn off Spell Check and write
- Run through Spell Check at completion
- Let the post sit at least 24 hours
- Read the post aloud
- Read and review each sentence beginning at the end
- Keep the following in mind
- The less words, the better – cut and cut again
- Is it the right word? Are you certain? Look it up
- Have I overused a word? Did I use the same word in the last sentence? Replace it
- Do one final review. So, you don’t use mediate when you meant meditate.
- Run it through Grammarly
- Did I say one last review – do it again in WordPress
- Post to WordPress and review through Yoast for reading ease and SEO.
- Read and review one last time before publishing
So, How to Defeat Writer’s Block?
Pick a topic, create an idea, form an outline, do your research, write and then edit and you’ll never experience writer’s block again. If this post struck a nerve, you might want to check out my book, How to Stay Ahead of Your Business Blog Forever. The book is full of action plans for you to create a blogging system that works for you.
If you liked this post you may also appreciate, Help for the Office Manager Who Missed Deadlines.