Overcoming the writer’s block as a blogger or content writer is difficult, especially when you have instructions coming from a content editor. If you are writing under your own leadership, you can swap articles and work on something different. But if you write on order or on command, you cannot afford to be blocked.
Yet, when the writer’s block hits you, the blog writer, you still have to produce your assigned work on time. So you either jot down some average content pieced together in a few hours, or you cure the writer’s block and produce the best content you ever have! If you are reading this post, I assume you belong to the latter group.
For bloggers, novelists, or any creative profession, such brain freezes happen often gradually but when we actually realize, it’s too late. We become too stressed and too irrational to find the right solutions. We keep on forcing ourselves in front of our computer screen waiting for a miracle to happen. In fact, we are working against ourselves.
Going through a brain freeze happens to every single content creator. It’s normal and we need to learn when we start to saturate to soothe ourselves before we actually become blocked. Each individual will have their own ways of alleviating their writer’s block (often paired with a burn out). Some need to forget about work for days, while others simply need a change of environment. Plus, we should not confuse the writer’s block with facing a really difficult work to deliver. Some articles I had to research and write in the past were so difficult that they took me days to just outline — this is not a brain freeze, this is just a tough task!
1. Change Environment
Changing where and how you work is the easiest way to cure a blogger’s block. Most of us are nomadic in our creative minds and we love (often need) change. Yes, this is how we keep our creative juices flowing: by shuffling things up! Yet at times, we get comfortable and fall into a pleasant routine… This is the enemy and once the first signs of brain freeze or writer’s block show up, get out, put a different playlist on and work from a new hipster coffee.
A good way to get a little electroshock is to work from a place that is at the extreme opposite end of your usual workplace. I work at home alone with the TV on, so going to a loud music coffee shop often boosts my energy levels.
If this is not working, book a roundtrip coach, train or plane ticket to a nearby location for a day trip. Make it an overnight trip if you can afford. This is a game changer. I had a two-week complete block due to a burn out last year and this solved it all. I booked a weekend alone in Antwerp in a cheap hotel, and I cranked out so much work there it was incredible. I wish I had visited the city but that will be for another time, ha!
2. Use Mindmaps to Brainstorm
Start by putting your ideas out there without doing much writing. Mind maps are ideal tools to visually project the larger structure of an article you must write — e.g. sections of an article, chapters of an ebook, etc. Especially for very long blog posts, always start with a pure brainstorm where every single idea that crosses your mind should go on a board (screen or cork).
There is no idea that is not worthy of being pinned down, at least for a bit until you understand what’s to keep, what’s to remove, and what’s missing. Mindmeister and other apps allow that. I believe Pat Flynn had a video showing how he wrote his book using post-it notes to structure the different sections and chunks. His methodology can be applied to any small or large piece of content.
3. Have a Hot or Alcoholic Drink
Having a low? Lack of creativity? Can’t find the first few words? Drink more coffee or have a couple of glasses of wine. Writing articles is demanding and seen as a chore for most of us. I know we love the job but far away are the times where writing a long article was so much fun. Any single thing done repeatedly sees the emotional reward die down a little. It’s normal, this is how we become ambitious — by seeking a greater reward thus producing better work!
So because the fun task turned into a chore that has become less exciting to perform, it’s your job to make it enthusing. We are humans, our brain is not that easy to trick, I know. Use a good hot drink, a fun TV series, or in extreme cases, have a glass of wine or two. Your stress and inhibition will lower, even disappear, and that’s a great window of opportunity to crank out some quality work. Make sure you set up a reminder to proofread when you are totally sober if you decide to go with the wine option.
4. Start By The Conclusion
Each article has a point it wants to precisely convey. A blog post’s conclusion is here for summing up every one of the main takeaways from the article. Start with that conclusion and work yourself back to the introdoction. If your blog writer’s block has to do with a difficulty to structure the blog post, this technique is wonderful to focus on what key ideas truly matter.
Introductions are here to tease the reader so they cannot divulge all of the key pieces of information just yet. So when we are starting by writing the introduction or the article’s body itself, we are writing about things we do not yet know. We haven’t yet established the final takeaways. But, when you write the conclusion, you are forced to study the subject matter (no writing yet), and understand it enough to be able to tell what key details should be expressed in the article. Then, you start writing that conclusion. Your article’s body is all of a sudden easier because you have an editorial direction and objective.
5. Switch to a Different Writing Tone
Each article content writers and bloggers deliver do deal with a specific topic as subject matter. Such topics can be very precise and niched down, or rather broad. Regardless of the topic’s details, an article’s subject matter can be tackled in so many ways:
- structured — most common type with a topic broken down into (sub)sections
- listicle — lists of items that are lightly developed but easily digestible
- long form — a long and generally personal article with very little structure
- interview — textual conversation with an authoritative figure in the domain
- roundup — recommendations of external resources on a specific subject
- review — buying guide along with a product review or list of “best of”
If the topic is defined but the content editor did not give you a particular writing style to follow, try to switch from your usual tone to a different kind. Do not get too adventurous without checking with your manager first, though. If you think the article would be better received in another style, explain why to your employer and explain that it is also easier to write quality content that way.
6. Try With a Pen and Paper, or by Voice
Getting away from the laptop screen is fulfilling; more than I ever thought it would be. When I have articles to write up, I tend to be stuck with my MacBook. Either I stare at the blank page or I start googling some articles to research further, but regardless of what I do, I do it on my computer.
And it is only recently that I learned how to enjoy and recharge my creative juices by using a pen and a paper. That is all. After reading the nth article about a topic, I know enough to go sit down in a coffee shop or park and jot some ideas down on a pad. And, when I finally get into a good flow and somewhat crave my keyboard to start typing sentences, I still do not do it. Instead, I stay where I am, I whip out my smartphone and start recording. Then I just say the sentences I have in mind so I can write them down later when I am back on my laptop.
Some freelancer writers I worked with did their cardio with a voice recording app so they could dictate parts of their assigned blog article. It’s sometimes much easier to talk about stuff than it is to write it down. Writing is very formal, and we rarely want to write up something that may have to be removed or changed later. That is how we end up overthinking things and get blocked. Whereas talking is fluent and natural, we can talk now and edit it later!
7. Rewrite an Old Article
If you can afford to change the topic of your article, find a blog post you wrote ages ago and rewrite it entirely. Use new words you have learns and synonyms. Your brain will find this task much easier since you covered and researched the topic already. It will be clearer and more structured in your mind. And by taking this small step, you will then be able to motivate yourself and enter that virtuous circle.
This is only possible for bloggers who do the writing for their own website; you cannot just pick and choose what to write for somebody else. But it’s very effective. The idea behind it is that completing such a small action is going to help you gain momentum. Enough of it so you can then write a more complicated blog post on a topic you do not know at all.
8. Use Vitamins and Complements
Cognitive enhancers (nootropics) are a thing, and a very popular thing lately. The current era is very demanding and requires all of us to deliver better work, more often, and for longer. It makes sense that at times, our brain just freezes and the writer’s block occurs to all of us, content producers. Relying on creativity is wonderful because it opens incredible windows, but these can shut if the brain is not cooperating.
Medium chain fatty acids found MCT oils have been made famous in the Silicon Valley by the popular bulletproof coffee. They have some great cognitive enhancing properties that will help you focus better and for longer. There is a string of supplements that have similar claims so check with your doctors which ones are recommended to improve alertness, focus, and efficiency throughout the day.
I know you do not want to hear what is coming but I would be irresponsible if I did not mention this: go to the gym and have some exercise! I dislike cardio but I still go two or three times a week on top of daily walks. This is such a good way to start the day and make you feel indestructible.
9. Take a Nap and Write at Night
Some people find that writing, designing, coding, or doing any creative work at night is a lot more natural. I often do my programming late in the evening or even in the middle of the night. It seems like my fingers type naturally at these odd times. There are fewer distractions and, at this time of the day, it’s either work or sleep.
Instead of your afternoon chores, take a good nap and stay up later in the evening. Try it a few times because the first couple of attempts will feel very odd and you will wonder whether or not you are actually going to work that late. But yes, finish dinner, brush your teeth and be ready for bed but instead, open the laptop and let yourself be guided. Do not put any music in the background, just go with the flow of the night.
Almost like a trans, working at night is so special and it’s hard to be in the same state during the daytime. Also hard to explain, the feelings of peace are very helpful for focusing on problem-solving. If you have a mountain of notes to triage, it’s a great time to get started!
10. Steal Ideas From Competitors
Rarely is a blog or content writer working on a unique project that has never been covered prior. So why not use the outline of a competing blog post, and change the structure to make it more original later on, once you have written most of it? Although we all feel ashamed to admit it, we all looked at somebody else’s outline and thought of somewhat mimicking it when we lacked inspiration. Sometimes, it is about finding that little trigger to get yourself flowing. Such triggers are often keywords, a title or heading, an illustration, or oftentimes, a Wikipedia article that is very well structured (aren’t they all? ha). We even wrote a full article on using Wikipedia’s table of contents to write up a series of blog posts.
Stealing is bad, though. Gathering inspiration is better. Don’t just change the label to make it sound nicer; do it. Find inspiration, do not copy or plagiarize. See what every competing article is excelling at, and challenge yourself to beat every single one of them on its top strength. I love adversity and it is one of my main motivators so seeing people do a great thing makes me want to topple them.
11. Outsource an Article
The last resort when all else failed is to outsource an article to a decent freelance writer on Upwork or Fiverr. Don’t get somebody so good that they will actually write better than you, ha! Then, when they send the article back, you will realize how much editing you have to do. Trust me, you will get back to writing paragraphs on this very blog post yourself and find it so much easier. This works every single time I sense a strong writing block coming to me.
Basically, I find that editing somebody’s writing, style, and tone, is a lot more challenging than building the sentences and paragraphs from scratch all on my own. But when I face the blank page syndrome, getting a cheap writer to write a draft is helpful to remind me how much better I am at it. It is indeed a quick ego boost. There is no issue admitting that at times, that is all we need to restart the engine and overcome our writer’s block.
Do not worry, huge personalities such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and more recently Adele have been through the writer’s block. As bloggers and content writers, we have to produce content at a given time. We cannot afford missing deadlines so it makes everything a little more complex. Yet, following these surefire techniques, you will be able to overcome your writer’s block and blank page syndrome.
Lastly, you can use topic research tools and other cool apps to help you out writing great content again!