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Quick Tips to Defeat Writer’s Block
Remember that uncomfortable feeling you used to get in school when you had a term paper to do? Every time you tried to write, you mind drew a blank. Now here you are with no worries of a bad grade, and still the words just won’t come. Why did you ever agree to take on this assignment?
Anyone can feel devoid of inspiration, at least for a while. Writer’s block is a thing. Even the great Ernest Hemingway found writing difficult. “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed,” Hemingway once said.
While there’s no need to shed any blood, when you must get a copywriting assignment done, you can’t sit around waiting for inspiration to hit. You’ve got to push through and ignite your creative thinking. Here then, are some suggestions to help you move past writer’s block.
There’s nothing more intimidating than a blank document. All that white space. Where do you even begin?
If you said “at the beginning,” you’re incorrect. You don’t have to write the copy in order. Trust me, there’s no law that says that. Start wherever you’re most comfortable.
You can first fill out the utility information. What’s the name of the project and client? What’s the job number? What’s the date? Your page might look something like this:
Healthcare Data Campaign
3 sales emails
January 30, 2023
Now at least you have something on the page. Next write up any of the sections you already know you need to include. Who says you have to start at the beginning? If it’s easier to get the ball rolling on some other section, go for it! For example, maybe you already know what the call-to-action should be – get more information, call, request a quote, view a demo, etc.
Or maybe you have a boilerplate paragraph about the company or some disclaimers to go at the end. Or perhaps there’s a sentence you already have in mind even if you don’t know exactly how or where you’ll use it. Something – anything – on the page can be the little spark that lights your creative fire.
In the book Tools of Titans, author Tim Ferriss quotes movie director Robert Rodriquez talking about the creative process.
“Even if I don’t know what to do, I just have to begin. For a lot of people, that’s the part that holds them back the most. They think, ‘Well, I don’t have an idea, so I can’t start.’ But I know you’ll only get the idea once you start. It’s this totally reverse thing. You have to act first before inspiration will hit. You don’t wait for inspiration and then act, or you’re never going to act, because you’re never going to have the inspiration, at least not consistently.”
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. If you have a large writing project that seems particularly daunting, break it into manageable chunks. Divide and conquer. As you complete each section, you’ll find momentum to move onto the next.
Or think of your writing project as a jigsaw puzzle. Start with the corners and edges, which are easy to find; then focus on specific areas that you . As you fill in more pieces, you gain some speed and the image takes shape. The same process can work for writing.
Even if you’re still gathering research, you can draft a preliminary outline. Note the major points you want to cover and flesh out some of those concepts with details if you know them, adding as your plan starts to take shape. An outline will help you organize your thoughts and keep you from forgetting facts you meant to include.
Mystery writer Agatha Christie was known to craft a detailed outline before allowing herself to get lost in writing the story. It worked for her; it can work for you.
You have some amazing resources right at your fingertips. Don’t hesitate to use them. Start doing some research. Familiarize yourself with the vocabulary of your subject matter. See what others are saying, being careful not to lift any of their content, of course.
You might even use Chat GPT to draft a few paragraphs just to get you started. Obviously, you’ll want to rewrite them to your style, but seeing the approach an artificial intelligence tool takes might be just the thing to get you rolling.
One more idea — search on Amazon for books on your subject matter. Take a peek inside them, paying attention to the table of contents for important points to include.
Most likely you’ve written other pieces that are similar to what you’re currently creating. Take a look at them, noting their format, tone and style. Can you structure your new content the same way?
Or perhaps the old piece has a few artful ideas you can apply like using callouts or sidebars. Revisiting earlier works doesn’t mean you have to follow the same guidelines; it’s just another way to spark some ideas while also helping you to keep your confidence level high.
Is there some part of the process you can assign to an assistant? If it frees you up to work on the more high-level part of the project, that could be an effective strategy.
Or, perhaps you can delegate some of your non-writing chores (cooking dinner, bathing the kids, etc.) to your partner, leaving you more time to focus on your writing task.
As a junior copywriter, my mentor, who was a world-class procrastinator, would task me with writing a first draft of her assignments. Although she often rewrote most of what I provided (a humbling experience for me), my draft was often enough to help her get started.
If you’re doing research, you may have gathered multiple materials or perhaps the person who gave you the assignment sent you background material. Of course, you’ll want to go through it. But at some point, it can be overwhelming.
If the items are creating a messy environment for you to plow through, and you find yourself with a dozen open files on your desktop, feel free to set some of them aside. Sometimes clearing the clutter can also clear your head.
Create an environment conducive to your productivity. Turn off the TV, email and your Smartphone.
Author Jeff Goins recommends that writers “eliminate distractions.” He uses Ommwriter, which offers multiple tools meant to improve focus and “provide your mind with an ideal setting for concentration.”
It’s easy to compare yourself to others and feel like you don’t measure up. You may know of other copywriters who can crank out near-perfect copy with almost no preparation. But that’s not you, so stop dwelling on it.
“Comparison is soul-crushing and fruitless,” states NY Book Editors. “What’s the point of comparing yourself to someone else who will never be you? While your writing may never be perfect, it can be 100% authentically your own. Uniqueness is the best alternative to perfection. Cultivate a voice and storytelling style that cannot be compared to others.”
Get in the habit of writing at the same time each day. A routine can help prepare you physically and mentally to get down to business. You’ll be less likely to procrastinate when you follow a set schedule.
Every day Charles Dickens would wake up at 7:00, eat breakfast at 8:00, and was set and ready at 9:00 to write. Dickens would write for 4-5 hours until 2:00 P.M. Stephen King writes from 7:30 a.m. till noon most days. Other writers set a daily word count goal.
Whatever routine you set, treat it like your job. Show yourself no mercy when it comes to getting to work and completing the task at hand.
Set a timer and tell yourself you have to keep working until the allotted time is up. The idea of imposing a time limit can keep you motivated to reach that final tick.
An alternative is the Pomodoro Technique. This method is a time-management system that instills a sense of urgency. Break your workday into 25-minute focus periods followed by five-minute breaks. Each of these focus periods plus a break period is called a Pomodoro—after the tomato-shaped timer first used to test the method. You might be surprised how focused and productive you can be when working with a 25-minute deadline.
What time of day is your most productive? “Find out when you’re most creative,” suggests Wordrake. “For many people, creative tasks are easiest in the morning when it’s quiet and emails aren’t piling up. Others prefer writing late at night.”
Once you determine which hours are your best for challenging work, get in the habit of writing at those times to maximize your efficiency.
If the words are flowing, just keep going! Feel free to write in a stream of consciousness. Don’t get hung up on the details like grammar, spelling and syntax. This isn’t the time to be a perfectionist and overthink everything. It’s okay to write it wrong.
“Give yourself permission to write imperfectly,” suggests Reedsy blog. “Write what you’re thinking, whether it’s eloquent or not. You can then come back and refine it later.” Just get words from your head onto the screen (or paper) and let the good times roll!
If you’re really stumped for an idea, take a break. Let your subconscious play with the problem for a while. Go for a walk. Meditate. Take a brief nap. Read a book.
You might find that you’re struck by inspiration when driving, cooking dinner or taking a shower. If all else fails, give yourself permission to move on, at least temporarily. Work on a different assignment for a while, assuming your deadline has wiggle room, and then come back to your project when you’re ready.
Creativity is a muscle that needs to be exercised regularly. The more you get in the habit of writing, the easier it gets.
Purdue University Global says the secret to overcoming writer’s block is simple: “Sit down at your computer and write. If you wait until you’re inspired, you’ll never do it.”
The difference between professional writers and amateurs is that while both may face writer’s block at one time or another, the pro pushes through while the amateur gives up. Be a pro.
If you’re not a DIY type, consider hiring a professional copywriter who can get the job done for you quickly and easily.