A Surefire Cure for Writer’s Block

Let me share a secret with you. Every writer gets an occasional case of writer’s block. The very thought of sitting down to write makes them break out in a cold sweat. If you write copy for your business, you may have experienced it too. Here are simple strategies for overcoming it. 

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I’m fortunate to have a great art museum nearby. I love to stand close to portraits and study the painter’s skill — all the tiny details of the face, hairstyle and clothing. So perfect. And yet, a painting never starts with a perfect detail. It starts as a rough drawing, with details and colors layered onto the canvas.

In the same way, few have the talent to sit down and write perfect copy on the first draft. Not even the masters.

Writing is a process. Here are the main components.

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1. Practice a ritual

Carried to extremes, a writing ritual can be counterproductive. Does your chair really have to be just so? Does your desk really need to be clear (or a total mess?) Probably not.

A ritual is a shortcut that helps you get going. It can be as simple as grabbing a fresh cup of coffee (that’s mine). Shorter is better.

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Have a little ritual!

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2. Get clear on your intentions

You already know why you’re writing the piece — to create a blog post, newsletter, sales letter or ad. But ask yourself deeper questions. What do I want to happen as a result of writing this piece? Whom will it help? How will it move my business forward?

This saves time, because you’ll need fewer revisions. And you’ll be more motivated to complete the project.

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What's your story?

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3. Set your timer

This is the most incredibly helpful writing tip I ever learned. And the simplest.

Set your timer for 30 minutes. A kitchen timer works fine, not one that ticks. I found one at a dollar store that lasted for a couple of years. Now I use the built-in timer on my iPhone. The marimba chime is like a tiny celebration!

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Time - a priceless treasure

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4. Start

Do you have to start at the beginning? Not necessarily. Start in the middle or at the end if that’s what’s on your mind. The key is just to start. Here’s an actual quote from one of my first drafts.

“oiwejr pomwf skksmffkm asfoimsomfd jfolasmfom.”

You guessed it. I just put my fingers on the keyboard and wiggled them — to replace that infernal blank screen with some text. I’ve written some pretty good copy that started with a string of gobbledegook.

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There's an exit from every mind tangle...

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5. Stop

Stay in the chair until the timer chimes. (And don’t distract yourself with social media or other work.) If you can’t think of anything to write, just stare into space until ideas being to flow. They will!

Then stop old. Don’t even finish your thought (it will be in your head the next time you write.) You need the interruption to keep your mind on track — counterintuitive but true.

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Stop!

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6. Revise

Just because a creative idea popped out of your head doesn’t mean it’s good. It’s an uncut diamond that needs polish.

So tend to the annoying tasks of correcting the grammar and spelling, always striving for clarity. And style? Your personal style emerges in the choices you make as you edit and revise.

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Make a choice

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7. Publish

Enough already! No more polishing, revising and second-guessing.

At some point, it’s good enough. So hit the Publish button and watch what happens. Audience feedback is part of the writing process too.

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Ask for feedback

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Your turn

OK. Scan through those 7 tips and answer this question: Are any of these tips impossibly difficult? No! Taken separately, each step is quite doable.

  • Dan Armishaw

    Great Article. The challenge of resistance is common as Stephen Pressfield reminded in The War of Art. I’ve heard the advice to just get started for decades and used to resent it, but I’ve come to appreciate the suggestion, especially at the end of the day, when I see the forward progress. Brian Tracy suggests we get addicted to the feeling of accomplishment. Good idea.