Writers should post consistently. Yet, it is one of the hardest things to do—I say as I publish after several weeks. I could rationalize and explain that I have been busy with my semester, but that is not entirely true. Sometimes, it’s just hard to produce content, even when there is time and intent.
“Why can’t I come up with something good right now? I have the time, and I want to!”
*Stares at blank Word document for 23 minutes*
Writer’s block. We all face it. Often, in different forms. I write a lot, yet it has taken me longer than I had wished to outline this post.
Since you can read this, I’ve succeeded in overcoming my writer’s block, and I intend to share some strategies I use to produce content that I can be proud of! Here are 8 helpful strategies to conquer your writer’s block.
How to generate ideas
It’s helpful but not necessary to have a defined idea development process. I don’t have a process. I use my phone’s notes app to note down ideas as they come to me. You know how you have those “shower thoughts” and come up with really good ideas at “the worst possible times”? Note them down! There’s science behind how this works as well.
Your brain works in a focused and diffused mode. The focused mode is good for technical things, while the diffused mode is good for creativity. But your mind is focused when attempting to actively trigger the diffused mode. At times, it becomes hard to come up with ideas and content you can feel good about because you are trying to process them in a mode that might not work best for you or for that moment.
Understanding the focused and diffused modes of the mind can be very helpful for many life tasks. If you’re a student, you might find it excellent to know how to use it for studying and writing exams! Check out these posts on unconventional and effective studying strategies and exam tips.
My notes app is filled with random ideas and small sentences or even mini paragraphs about ideas I want to write about or research further. This is effective as it gives me a large pool of ideas. Yet, sometimes it’s helpful to carefully pick a new topic that isn’t on that list or ask people for suggestions and prompts. This post was a prompt given by a friend to break my writer’s block!
The power of freewriting
Your writing process also determines how your content will turn out. ‘Freewriting’ is an effective strategy in the initial stages of the process that helps induce creativity. The idea is to keep writing to get the ideas and thoughts flowing without worrying about technicalities, spelling, or grammar.
When I wrote this post, I first put all my ideas down and reflected on my writing process to better understand how I write and overcome certain challenges. Making edits during the first draft composition can inhibit creative juices. Besides, no one gets to see the first draft, so it’s okay if the content you free-write isn’t top-notch (I am not just saying this to comfort myself writing this… really).
Defeating writer’s block by outlining the topic
Developing an outline can help you write more efficiently as it provides direction. But that might not be possible for fiction. At other times, it might not be ideal despite the possibility. This post’s topic could have easily been outlined beforehand, but if I had done that, I would have missed out on this post’s creative approach.
Word count is another factor I consider when deciding whether to free-write or outline. Outlining can help prevent breaching word limits. Although, it may limit creativity. There’s a trade-off. Breaching word limits at the draft stage is okay because you can reduce them after free writing and keep only the best content.
I always free-write first and then outline and edit later. In academic work, I use a loose outline, research for a long time, and annotate on the go. Often, this leads me to collect over 20-30 pages of content and 15000+ words for a final draft that reaches no more than 4000 words. Is the process of filtering content and reducing words a nightmare? Absolutely. Is it worth it, though? ABSOLUTELY! Collecting much content before the writing process requires good time management, though. When under time crunches (if for an assignment), this might not work, and you might have to create and commit to an outline early on.
Changing your environment for creative breakthroughs
Take your laptop, pen, and paper to the local coffee shop, romanticize the next few hours, and get that piece done! Changing your environment can be a helpful catalyst for creativity and the writing process.
Certain places might not work for you, so it’s important that you find your spots. Like many other strategies, it’s going to be trial and error. Revamping your room’s setting might also be helpful. Pay attention to other environmental considerations, like scent, décor, and temperature.
This doesn’t have to be high-effort. You may also just use a different room in your house. Although most of my writing is done in my workspace setup, I sometimes write in other rooms in my house because it makes me feel fresher.
Ascribing work ethic to certain environments may also be helpful. Many stay in university libraries, offices, or desk setups in their house only to get work done. By avoiding using these places for leisure, they can trigger productivity by being in those spaces. This also helps create a work-life divide!
Breaking the writer’s block by taking breaks
I won’t make you read about the Pomodoro technique for the billionth time. But do take breaks! In some cases, spreading your work across several days may also help.
I spread my writing process around heavier, technical, or academic topics over several days to get adequate research done. “Letting the ink dry,” editing with a gap of hours or days (depending on content length) after finishing a draft, is a great editing tip, too! Doing this may also sprout new ideas and approaches.
Finding inspiration: research and reflection to overcome writer’s block
Sometimes, writing on a blank sheet with no references can be difficult. I felt this way writing this post. I don’t have a conscious process that I use to get over my writer’s block. I subconsciously do things I figured out over a long process of trial and error. However, writing a post requires direction, structure, and the use of certain words.
I used a three-step process to reflect on overcoming my writer’s block. Firstly, I set to free-writing. I reflected on what I do and what I am doing to write this post and giving my strategies sub-headings and attaching stories and logic underneath them. When I felt stuck, I referred to some well-known and unconventional strategies floating on the internet and reflected on if I had used any of those. If yes, I adapted them to this post with my own story and modified them as necessary.
Writing with purpose: role-playing and understanding perspectives for your writing
Who do you write for? I know my audience is global and diverse, and I write so readers can benefit from them. I ask a series of questions when writing about a certain topic that helps me understand what direction I want to take with that piece:
- Who am I writing for?
- What do they want to read?
- What can they do with this information?
- What do I have to offer to them regarding this topic?
By approaching a topic from the perspective of readers and through these questions, I successfully produce ideas and content that make sense and have direction. Thinking about writing on a broad topic without direction can be daunting, and perhaps we face a block because it feels like too much information with too little context to process at once.
In writing this post, I thought (and I hope I am right!) that readers would be interested to read a post on overcoming writer’s block because of how common it is and because the strategies might be credible coming from someone who writes often.
A bad first draft is better than no draft at all. It’s a risky precedent to set by not writing or fearing the process because of perfectionist and unrealistic ideals. Becoming better requires producing content you will laugh at or be embarrassed by five years later.
Ultimately, overcoming writer’s block requires a combination of strategies, willingness, and effort. The experience differs for all, and you may have to trial and error and tailor strategies to what works best for you. By embracing the power of ideation, freewriting, outlining, time management, and role-playing perspectives, you can generate many ideas and produce quality content! The key is to start writing, even if it means producing a first draft that embarrasses you.
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