I’ve been a writer for just about as long as I could talk. In fact, I pretty much started writing because I talked so much it annoyed my brothers and I needed a place to put all of the extra words.
I’ve been writing professionally now for more than ten years. I’m a songwriter. I’m a marketing writer. I live and breathe words. It’s my life to play with words on a page. And I love it--most of the time.
But sometimes, the words just aren’t there. Writer’s block is a real thing. No matter how long you’ve been a writer, it still happens. These days, it doesn’t stick around for long because I’ve finally cracked the code of what causes it.
Uncovering these four causes of writer’s block have saved my life and my sanity more times than I can count, so I hope sharing them is helpful for you too.
Why You Can’t Will Writer’s Block Away
Whether you’re a professional writer, you’re aspiring to launch a new brand, or you’re simply wanting to increase your personal following, you’re going to need powerful, creative messaging to help you cut through the noise.
But knowing you have to create kick-ass content is intimidating, and pretty soon you’ll find yourself at a block in the road, if you haven’t already. If you’ve ever experienced writer’s block, you know that you can’t just WILL yourself to not be blocked. It doesn’t work like that. In fact, the harder you try to break the block by sheer force or will or denial, I guarantee, the worse it will get.
To truly beat writer’s block, you have to first understand WHY it happens. And no, it’s not because you’re too distracted or spending too much time on Facebook. Those things are just symptoms of your block--not the causes.
Here’s what I’ve found to be the four main causes of my writer’s block. Once you can identify which one is tripping you up, you can quickly tackle it and be on your merry way.
Cause #1 - You Don’t Have Enough Information
Often, you sit down to write something before you have enough information gathered. I always say that 80% of writing is done before you start putting fingers to the keyboard. If you are stuck, it’s usually because you haven’t done your due diligence. Before you’re really ready to write, you must first:
Know Your Purpose
What you are writing and who you’re writing it for. It’s essential to first define the purpose your writing serves or you will wander around like a confused and lost little puppy.
(i.e. I’m writing about beating writer’s block for the purpose of helping other writers save themselves from wanting to bash their heads against the wall.)
Gather, Organize and Outline Your Information
For me, this usually involves interviewing clients, which is my favorite part. If you listen well and ask quality questions, usually “the writing” is already done for you. The voice and the story are there, you’re just “harvesting” it from the interviewee, organizing it and putting it down on paper in a way that makes sense to readers. One key tip: No matter how “experienced” I am, outlines are my friend. Outlines are roadmaps.
Honestly, once you know your purpose and your audience and have gathered and organized your information, I swear the thing practically writes itself.
Cause #2 - You’re Not Being Completely Honest
Writer’s block is an honesty issue? Yes, definitely. For example, my co-worker recently wrote a very personal (and amazing) article she shared on our company blog. When she was facing writing it initially, she shared with me that she “felt kind of stuck.”
But after talking through it for a few minutes, the truth was, she knew exactly what to write about. She was just nervous about writing about the topic on her heart because it was so honest and vulnerable. I encouraged her to go with her gut. She did, and it turned out to be one of the best blog articles our company has ever released.
If being honest and vulnerable isn’t for you, you should probably be a car mechanic and not attempt to write. #toughlove. We write to bring about change and to challenge people to think differently. You can’t do that when you’re playing it safe. It’s perfectly okay to be nervous about being vulnerable, but you just need to recognize it, accept it and decide to be brave. Then you’ll be able to push past your writer’s block.
Cause #3 - You’re Tapped Out
It happens. In our company, we write for multiple clients varying in every topic imaginable. Sometimes, after the end of a long week or two, you’re just tapped out. That’s when we encourage people to take an “educational” break. You need to feed yourself before you can pour out words for someone else.
I pick up a book, take a long walk or, honestly, sometimes just stare at a wall to let my brain breathe. For those A-type personalities out there, this might seem like a waste of time. And it is--if you do it all the time. But if you’re truly tapped out, you aren’t good to anyone until you take a step back and take an artistic chill pill.
Trust me, if you take some time to recharge your creative juices, you’ll come back refreshed and with much better ideas.
Cause #4 - You Have Your Editor Hat On
I save this till last because it’s probably the one I see plague writers and aspiring writers the most. STOP JUDGING YOUR WRITING before it even has a chance to get on the freaking page. Seriously. Not your job. Write it. Let the words come out. The sentences may be dumb. It may not be ground-breaking.
But here’s the deal. If you:
-Have a strong purpose and know who you’re writing for and why
-Are being honest with yourself and the characters/content
-Have done your due diligence in gathering, organizing and outlining your information
Then you’re ready to write. The only thing that is stopping you at this point is that you are trying to do a job that’s not yours. So stop. Just write. THEN, once it’s written, you can go back and put your editor cap on. Stop trying to control freak and police yourself out of creativity.
Ugh! I used to do this to myself all the time and it makes me so mad when I see crazy amazing creative people self-sabotage their work before it even has a fighting chance to breathe its first breath.
Why This Is So Important
Why am I so passionate about sharing this? Because I believe that in a world completely oversaturated with advertisements and marketing campaigns hitting you in the face around every corner, creating unique and compelling content is more important than ever.
If you don’t learn to beat writer’s block, one of two things can happen:
You can’t pull it off and you miss your deadlines
You turn in crap
In a digital age, having a quick turnaround for content is crucial. Companies depend on it. Marketing campaigns count on it. So if you’re a quirky content person like me, your job and your sanity depends on beating these 4 causes of writer’s block.
Good luck and may the words be with you.