Look, we've all been here. I know there are days that I sit down at my computer and spend hours doing literally anything else but write. It happens to everyone: screenwriters, novelists, poets (all not unlike content marketers). It's a frustrating process to overcome, and it's even harder not to quit. But when it comes to writing content for your inbound marketing campaigns, when you have writer's block, you have to beat it. There's no easy solution to overcoming writer's block, but there are a lot of things you can do to get back in the groove. But first, like overcoming any challenge, you need to fully understand what Writer's Block even is.
The Nature of the Beast
Writer's block isn't your brain expiring or a sign that you've lost your creative integrity. No. Writer's block is simply a lack of motivation mixed with some bad practices. Here's what the beast is made of:
- Entropy - you're too scattered. Your brain needs structure, a routine. If you don't have a writing ritual, then you're going to end up thinking about cleaning your kitchen or going grocery shopping, or anything else but your current job, writing.
- Perfectionism - relax. You don't have to be perfect. When you get stuck at a scene, or at a transition in your blog posts, don't tap your head against your desk looking for inspiration, just write what you have You can always come back to it when the words hit you. But for now, don't stop. Nothing is ever going to be perfect, especially not on the first pass.
- Distraction - Your smartphone, your Facebook tab, your music, your coworkers, your obligations after work all keep you from isolating your mind. When you eliminate distractions and let your inner voice take over, words just seem to flow from your fingertips.
Conquering the Beast
There are a few tips to get yourself writing again, and a few things that you can do to make sure that you don't get writer's block again in the future. Like exercising, you won't see instant results, but if you follow these guidelines, you'll have the writing equivalent of an ideal beach body.
Step 1: Create a Routine
The best writers make their work a ritual. Haruki Murakami said in a 2004 interview that "repetition itself becomes the important thing; it's a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind."
Our brains like repetition. That's why we feel better when we go to bed and wake up at around the same time every night, and why we invent things like "Thursday date nights" or "Taco Tuesday." Start creating a routine for your writing.
Try to find your most productive writing space and make that your home base. Wake up early and start writing first thing. Write for 3 hours, take a breakfast break, then work another 3. Go for a run, eat lunch and wrap up your writing day with 2 to 3 more hours. Then, get your daily to-dos done. Stick to this routine for 66 days and you will start to see that you are writing faster, better and without a snag.
Step 2: Use Smart Breaks
Science suggests that a lot of people who suffer from writer's block are people that are bad at prioritizing their time and utilizing breaks incorrectly.
Mismanaged time can really be called excess time. When you're not pushed by an impending deadline, you'll never find it "absolutely necessary" to sit down for 6 hours and get the thing done.
If you're like me, you utilize every hang-up between sentences as an excuse to take a break and play a game of computer chess or goof around on Reddit. "Okay, 5 minutes and I'll come back to this all fresh." But after you've done this 10 times, you're looking at an hour of wasted break time.
Instead, plan your breaks effectively. Work for 3 uninterrupted hours and take an hour break. But don't go watch tv or play around on your smart phone, get your brain flowing.
Kurt Vonnegut talks about how he'll do pushups and sit ups all of the time while he's writing to get those oxygen rich red blood cells flowing to his brain. You should do the same.
Go for a run, do some office jumping jacks or deskercise and come back to your writing with a fresh mind.
Lastly, train your brain to tinker. Consciously avoid picking up your phone or going to Facebook, instead get something to tinker with at your desk. Facebook, TV and your smart phone will only keep you distracted and senselessly consuming distracting sounds and irrelevant information. The silence and the fidgeting of tinkering at your desk will evoke the muse inside of you and you will hear your inspiration. Toss a ball up and down, get yourself some Legos or mindlessly doodle while you're thinking of your next chapter.
Step 3: Write Awful
Don't just jump right into your main project. Like professional athletes, you need to stretch your muscles before you get in the game.
Try free-writing for 15 minutes right when you sit down for work. Just write the first things that come to your head. Don't worry about it being anything even close to decent. Let it be awful. If you want to, you can even intentionally write something terrible. Just get the muscles flexing. After 15 minutes, you can throw away everything you wrote, or save it for a collection of nonsense for your future journals when you become the next J.R.R. Tolken.
Giving yourself the permission to write terribly will give you confidence and flexibility when it comes to your actual writing. Because perfectionism kills passion, you will find it easy and fun to write something bad. When it comes to your real project, there will be less pressure on you to write like Dostoyevsky, and you'll start to write even better.
Step 4: Know How Your Story Goes
You need a roadmap. There's nothing worse than being in the middle of a story and not having any idea where it is going. Ernest Hemingway's advice to writers is to write until you get to a point where you know exactly what's going to happen next, then stop and come back to that tomorrow.
The best way to do this is to understand what a story is made of and create a roadmap. When you're dealing with the buyer's journey, you are specifically crafting a story where your customer is the protagonist. Their adventure starts in a status quo where they don't know your service and ends with a valiant advocacy for your product and your guidance throughout their user journey.
This journey should look like Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey, or as I've written about in the past, The Best Writing Formula for Epic Marketing Content. And there's no better way to overcome writer's block then to plot out your story according to Campbell's 12 steps. This way, you'll know exactly what to expect and what dots to connect.
I've created an interactive Persona Guide for you to map out your story and learn some great tricks to crafting a master story.
If you're interested in an exercise routine to better train your brain to think like a master storyteller, take a look at our ultimate storyteller brain training guide in the next blog:
Also, you can write all you want, but if you don't have the tools to enhance your marketing content, then you're like Batman without his fancy utility belt. Check out some of the latest marketer must-haves: