The dreaded writer’s block.
Most of us have been there.
“There,” being that place where you’re stuck.
You can’t find the words.
You can’t create.
Writer’s block can happen for a number of reasons:
- Feeling under pressure, for example having a number of assignments you’re responsible for, or personal pressure like bills being due
- Awareness of time, or lack of time, such as impending deadlines
- Fear, for example, that your writing isn’t good enough or that you’re not skilled enough for the assignments that you have
- Burnout, like when you’ve been fortunate enough to be filled with assignments, but it’s leading to an overall feeling of overwhelm or lack of motivation
Whatever the reason, writer’s block feels awful.
For some writer’s block lasts an hour or less, for others, it can be days, weeks, or even months.
A writer’s block of more than a week may be fine if you have a novel and a far-off deadline, but what if you’re a freelance writer with numerous assignments and ongoing due dates?
Writer’s block- Who has time for that?
Not freelance writers.
We are paid to write. If we don’t write then we don’t get paid.
The Two Best Ways to Avoid Writer’s Block
Even though we’ve all been there with writer’s block, wouldn’t it be nice to avoid it completely?
While avoidance may not be 100% possible, there are two proactive ways to minimize the chances of writer’s block.
- Start your assignment well ahead of time; in other words, don’t procrastinate. By working ahead of deadlines (which I know, isn’t always possible), you can avoid some of those feelings of pressure due to deadlines. When you’re busy with work, it’s natural that you’ll end up working close to deadlines, but if you can at least get an outline done ahead of time, this can help you avoid writer’s block when your main writing session happens.
- Keep track of your thoughts about upcoming assignments. Make sure that you have a way to “capture” or file away thoughts you have related to upcoming posts. How many times have you thought of a great lead-in or angle for a post, and then when it comes time to write, you’ve forgotten it? And then you waste time trying to remember, or you beat yourself up for forgetting. Either way- it’s a waste of time and it gets in the way of productivity. What can you do? Whether you carry around a notebook, use an app, or record audio files, you want to find a way to keep track of those important thoughts that you have at the most random of times.
And since we’re probably not always going to plan ahead, which means sometimes we will end up with writer’s block, here you go:
17 More Ways to Bust Through Writer’s Block
If you’re suffering from a bout of writer’s block, try one or more of these 17 ideas:
- Take a break. Turn of the computer, put the notebook away, and just stop working. Sometimes we need to get away from the situation to get the creative juices flowing.
- Shift to another project or assignment. Rather than continue to feel “stuck,” make a choice to start working on something else. Though these interruptions might not allow you to get into the groove, I find it easier to focus on a task for a shorter period of time and then shift. If you’re struggling with a block, start on another assignment or task.
- Do some research. Even if you’ve already done your research, do more. Additional information or a new source may spark something you haven’t thought of yet.
- Read your previous work. If you’ve got a recurring client and you’re stuck on the current post or project, go back and read what you’ve already done. This may help you dive into the current topic you’re struggling with.
- Read or listen to an audiobook. Many of the writers I know love to read, but we don’t always make the time. Check out from your writing, but keep yourself mentally stimulated. When you shift focus in this way, you might find that you have an idea to get you back into your writing.
- Write for fun. There’s a saying with babies that “sleep begets sleep.” Meaning, that the more your baby sleeps, the better they’ll sleep. It seems counterintuitive in sleep and writing, but it can help. Instead of trying to write about the topic you’re blocked on, write about something that’s enjoyable. Revisit the fiction story you’re working on, or write a letter to a friend. You might find that the flow you create on a fun topic with no pressure leads back into the assignment you’re working on.
- Work up a sweat. Getting your body moving and your blood flowing can create endorphins and a fresh mental perspective. You may end up with an idea while exercising, so if you do, be sure that you have a way to capture your great idea. (Check out our freelancer’s home workout).
- Get out and about. The freelance lifestyle can be lonely at times. You sit in front of your computer screen working on your assignments. When you get stuck, there might not be anyone to bounce ideas off of, other than your cat (Or dog. Or fish). So, if you’re stuck with your work, get out from behind the screen. Schedule coffee with a friend, or run errands and be around other people. That interaction and different type of mental stimulation may be just what you need when you come back to your work.
- Change the time of day you write. Routines can help writers, but sometimes they also create ruts. Consider shifting to a time when you’re more energized or have better ability to focus. This may also break any negative habits associated with that time of day, for example getting distracted by the morning news when you sit down early in the day to write.
- Change your location. Similar to the time of day, we can get into negative patterns with our location. If you sit down at your desk, knowing that you’re not going to be able to write about anything, you may be creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. By changing to a fresh location, you might break that mental connection and get those creative juices flowing.
- Start in the middle. If you’re stuck at the beginning, then consider moving to the middle. Or even the end. Chances are, you can write part of the piece. Don’t let those first few words be a hang-up.
- Freewrite about the topic. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, syntax, or any of those things you might normally consider. Just write anything that comes to mind- no judgment, no editing. Just write.
- Change the medium. If you normally type, get out your favorite pen (you know you have one!) and a notebook (or a takeout menu) to write on. Inspiration may strike when you’re not frozen in front of your keyboard.
- Talk it out. Use your audio recording and simply talk about the topic. See what comes to mind. Similar to freewriting, don’t judge what you say; try not to stop if you get stuck- just keep going. You never know what may come of it!
- Check your surroundings. Sometimes we’re not dealing with a block- we’re actually distracted. If you’re someone who likes silence and your neighbor is doing construction, or you like a bit of white noise and your home office is suddenly silent, this can create a challenge for writing. You might be distracted and not blocked, so check in and see if you need to make a change.
- Listen to music. Many of us are inspired and energized by music, so if you’re stuck with your writing, take a break, listen to some music and see if inspiration hits.
- Write for a timed period. Set a timer for five minutes and just write, write, write. No, you won’t get very far, but if you know you only have to be productive for a short period of time, you might find it easier to start
Remember, not all ideas will work for all writers. If you’re feeling stuck, try using one or more of these ideas to bust through that writer’s block.