If you’ve written anything, and we all have, then you’ve surely had the experience of struggling to get your words down on paper.
Whether it was a professional assignment last week or an essay for homework back in fifth grade, it can be daunting to stare at a blank page and try to get your ideas down.
Writer’s block is universal, but the good news is that there are several effective strategies for getting over it.
If you’re struggling with writer’s block, try any of the following techniques and see what works best for you.
1. Write About Something You Know, If Possible
If you’re in control of what topic you’ll be covering, you can always pick something you know well.
That’s one way to beat writer’s block before it starts. We’re all more comfortable with some topics compared to others based on our education, interests, and experience.
It’s not always possible to choose the topic:
- Sometimes you’ll be covering something that’s completely new to you.
- Or sometimes you’ll be choosing the topic and still want to write about something unfamiliar.
In either of those situations, you can usually find ways to incorporate what you know into the project, even if only to a small degree.
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2. Take a Break
Sometimes the best thing to do is to take off for a few minutes, hours, or even days.
- Watch TV
- Read a book
- Grab some coffee
- Text a friend
You get the idea.
Many creative people, including scientists, musicians, and writers, have found walking to be a great way to generate ideas.
For example, Eric Hoffer would routinely walk around Golden Gate Park for miles. In an interview, he said, “The words, the ideas, come to me in the park. I shape them in my head there, and I write them in my notebook.”
3. Switch Locations
Did you notice that many of the examples in the last section involved a change of scenery?
Taking a break and switching locations usually go hand-in-hand, but they don’t have to:
- You can always take your laptop or notebook to a new location and write there.
- If you’re sitting in your home office at your desk, maybe switch to the couch or dining table.
- Or write in your backyard, at the coffee shop, or anywhere else you feel comfortable.
4. Write About Something Simple to Get Momentum
When you just can’t form the words, it can help to just start writing anything.
- It can be a story about your first day of school or what you ate last night for dinner.
- Or you can start writing a letter to a friend or family member, even if you aren’t going to send it to them.
And you don’t have to finish any of these either—just starting them is usually enough.
The topic doesn’t matter—it’s simply a technique for getting words down and building momentum.
Copywriter Gary Halbert used to start writing “blah, blah, blah” (literally) until something else, anything else, started to come out, and then he’d just go with that.
Ernest Hemingway used to stop each day’s work knowing exactly what he wanted to say next, just so writer’s block wouldn’t be a problem. Rumor has it he’d even stop mid-sentence for this reason.
5. Do More Research
Sometimes, writer’s block comes from not having enough knowledge about a topic.
The more you research and understand a topic, the easier it is to write about it. So if you’re struggling with writer’s block, consider getting a new book on the topic, reading a blog post about it, or watching a documentary on it.
But here’s the key—don’t feel like you have to finish it before you get back to writing. As soon as you get an idea, get back to writing. You’re not reading or doing research for its own sake at this point; you’re just trying to get the ideas flowing and get back to work.
Don’t miss my earlier post on writer’s block, which has even more tips.
At Super Copy Editors, we have experience proofreading and copy editing a wide range of writing projects—so bookmark this page now, and when you’re ready for a final polish of your text, contact us to learn how we can help you.