It’s the strangest thing that writer’s block. You know what you want to write about, you’ve set the time aside to write it, but for some reason, nothing is coming out.
We’ve all been there before. Whether it was when we were in high school, sometime during college (probably more often than we would have liked) – even right in the middle of our most recent blog post or email newsletter – the dreaded writer’s block sets in.
Is it the topic?
When you’re writing about a topic you know a lot about, it can be even more difficult to explain it in the way you know it should be explained. Your expectations are high when you’re writing about something you’re an expert on or that you have a lot of experience with, and that’s okay – they should be.
But just because you’re feeling stuck right now doesn’t mean you can’t get started.
Just let go: A writing exercise
When you’ve been faced with writer’s block in the past, have you ever tried to just let go of your thoughts?
I challenge you to go through the following exercise the next time you’re faced with writer’s block. It will not only help you get started, but it will also be here for you as something you can practice moving forward. A little something in your back pocket, if you will :)
1. Open up a Word or note doc
Now, just start typing.
Describe the topic you’re going to write about, write out why that topic is important to your audience, and try to identify the #1 thing you want your reader to walk away with after they’ve finished reading.
2. Don’t expect amazing
If complete sentences aren’t coming to you, then that’s okay. You can write words, phrases, bullet points, a numbered list – just go with it.
…I know you’ve avoided writing before by messing around with your font, the size, your doc layout and other such things… STOP using that as a crutch.
If you find yourself feeling frustrated because what’s coming out isn’t making complete sense to you right now, then stop being so hard on yourself. Don’t go into it expecting amazing; you’re going to have a much easier time getting something out if you just let go.
3. Brainstorm a title
Given what you’ve just written about your topic and why it’s important to your audience, start brainstorming a title. Use what you already know about your audience to help you along. What might catch their eye?
Don’t feel like you have to come up with your final title right now; sometimes getting one step closer to your title will help you get one step closer to the actual act of writing.
4. Find a story
Recall any experiences you’ve had personally related to the topic you’re writing about. Do you have a story you can weave into this piece? If so, start writing out what happened, and how it’s related.
5. Dump it
This is your chance to get anything else left in your head – out. Don’t worry about whether or not it makes complete sense right now or is in the exact right order. Remember, you’re not trying to write a final draft on your first go around.
Writing is not about knowing exactly what to write and exactly how to write it the first time, every single time.
Improving as a writer takes a lot of practice, and the only way to practice is to keep writing (even when you don’t feel like you have anything to write about).
How many edits does one of your posts go through before you publish it?
How many times will you re-read it before you’ve seen it so many times that, eventually, you don’t even realize you’ve spelled something wrong?
It’s okay to expect amazing, but expect it at some point – not right away.
Know that it takes a lot of practice and patience before you’ll feel the true satisfaction that comes with writing a strong piece.
Avoid this mistake
When you set out to write about something – regardless of whether you know the topic like the back of your hand, or you don’t know it all – avoid making the mistake of sitting down intent on finishing right then and there.
Don’t expect that the words will just pour out onto the page, even if it feels like they’re ready to flow right out of your mind and onto the screen.
Don’t sit down and assume something is wrong – that you shouldn’t be writing about this particular topic – just because you can’t figure out what to say right away.
It happens to all of us; it’s not just you.
I hope you’ll accept my challenge, because once I accepted it, I took my writing to whole new level.
I started enjoying that initial period of stress-free expression, and I’ve found that I enjoy the entire process so much more when I don’t sit down with the expectation of finishing a piece right then and there.
I’ve also realized that one of the most important things we can do when we’re frustrated with our writing, or when we’re experiencing writer’s block full on, is make some kind of progress.
If you can complete several little steps towards your big goal, like the steps I’ve laid out above, then you’ll actually be making progress towards writing that amazing blog post or email newsletter or other piece.
Remember, don’t expect amazing – at least not the first time anyway.
Take a page from Seth Godin’s blog: Overcoming the impossibility of amazing