Writing can be super frustrating. Especially when you have a deadline and absolutely – nothing – seems to come out of your brain onto the screen. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve experienced this lack of inspiration (I’m refusing to call it writers block) a few times and it got me thinking about ways to avoid this. Now, I don’t think you can completely prevent this from happening, as you’ll have periods in which you’ll find it easier to write than others. There are however a few things that really helped me when I was completely stuck – and starting to slightly panic to be honest – so I thought I’d share them with you.
1. Get some Fresh Air
If you’re sat in the same space all day you can go a little crazy sometimes. If you feel like you’re not making any progress with the article or blog post you have to write, leave your laptop for what it is and go outside. Have a little walk while you listen to your favourite music and relax your brain. I’m not saying you’ll necessarily come back full of inspiration, but getting out of your room/office/wherever it is you’re writing, will give your morale a boost for sure.
2. Just Start to Write
This might seem strange, if you have zero inspiration how can you start writing, right? Yes and no. Sometimes you may be overcomplicating matters for yourself, meaning that you can think for hours about an original way of tackling an already much-talked about subject. Or over-researching a topic you need to produce an article on and hence get lost in an information overload, not knowing how to get all of it in a well-structured, comprehensible piece.
Whenever this kind of ‘blockage’ happens to me, I go back to the initial draft I made for the post I want to write. This is something I do pretty religiously every time I need to get an article together; I write down the structure I think makes sense and only start my real research afterwords. If the subject matter is ‘The Consumerization of HR through SMAC’ for example I’ll start by defining what exactly it is I’m talking about, followed by an explanation of ‘SMAC’ – Social, Mobile, Analytics, Cloud – after which I’ll say something about every single component of SMAC, and of course I’ll finish with a final note.
Structuring not only helps your readers to stay with you, it also gives you the support you need when you’re losing track. When this is the case, go back to your draft – yes this means you should make one first – stick with it, and just start writing.
3. Leave It
When your problem has nothing to do with over-researching or over-thinking, but simply with a lack of inspiration, it’s a different story. Unfortunately this happens to everyone, particularly if you have to produce a lot of content on a regular basis. If you feel like your brain has gone completely blank and you’re losing faith, the best thing you can do in my opinion is to accept it’s not going to work today and tomorrow is another day. I understand that this might not always be an option because of deadlines that need to be met, but if you can, you’re best to leave it and try again later.
I had this happening to me last week on a Monday, not the greatest way to start a new week. It was pretty clear to me though that no matter how long I was going to stare at my empty screen, or how many miles I would walk outside, my brain was not going to deliver. So I had no choice but to abandon and – on a positive note – a few days later I found the courage to pick up the same theme and somehow the words just came to me.
4. Change Locations
Obviously, if you’re working from an office this might not be an option for you. But even then, try if you can write from a meeting room or the reception area, as long as it is somewhere different than behind your desk. If you’re able to work where you want, for example from home, then that’s great, but sometimes a change of scenery can help you if you’re stuck. Go to a local café with good working WiFi, or anywhere you like, and work a morning or an afternoon in a different space, surrounded by different people, drinking different coffee. I know it sounds a bit weird, but physically moving out of your familiair working area can be a good thing if you’re having difficulties getting something on paper.
5. Read, Read & Read!
I think it’s easy to forget that if you want to write, you need to constantly keep reading. Why? To keep learning about new topics of course, and to stay informed about what’s happening in your area of expertise. But first and foremost because it will help you with your own writing. I’ve always loved reading – pretty much anything I could get my hands on – from my brothers boy books to comic books to my mum’s magazines, anything.
I still love to read and I try to do it as much as possible, I find it a great way of discovering different ways of writing, of interviewing, of presenting information and – I am a language nerd after all – of expanding my vocabulary. The latter is extra important if you’re writing as you don’t want to use the same words over and over again. So I can be very short about this one: keep reading!
Obviously there are heaps of other things you can do when in need for writing inspiration, if you know a good one, please do let me know!