5 Ways to Bust through Writer’s Block
by Jake Poinier
Joshua Hoyt’s post earlier this month, “Character Development in Action: How to Get Past Writer’s Block,” struck a chord with me. It’s a little different as a freelancer who focuses on business writing – because writer’s block isn’t something I can afford to let creep into my nonfiction world.
As James Chartrand of Men With Pens once put it, “If you’re taking money from people, you have a responsibility not to do crappy work.” At the risk of sounding cynical, writer’s block often comes down to making excuses. This is not to say that I don’t have times when the words don’t flow; but “waiting for the muse to strike” is a dead end, and I’d sound ridiculous to any editor or client if I blamed a missed deadline or subpar effort on writer’s block. Bottom line, the successful freelancer needs to be able to get the words on the page.
Here are five ways that I find helpful to busting through writer’s block:
- Coming up empty on creative ideas? Do a brain dump or mind map to get a bunch of concepts on the page, without filtering or editing yourself as you go along. Once you’ve filled a page or two, use the best of what you’ve got to start and try to bring it up to snuff as you go along.
- Lacking the motivation to write about a topic that bores you? Write it as promptly and quickly as you can, so it’s off your to-do list and, more important, out of your head.
- Not sure how to get started? Look for the places where you can even get a hint of forward momentum, whether it’s the standard “About Us” page of a corporate website or a minor sidebar in a feature story.
- Deadline is looming, but the work is still not ready for prime time? Talk to your client or editor well in advance, and politely ask for additional time. But do it in a way that you’re taking responsibility, rather than pawning it off on writer’s block.
- Snow-blind from staring at a blank Word doc? Get the heck out of your chair and take the dog for a walk, dig in the garden, or exercise for a full hour. You might just find that a terrific idea reveals itself when you release the pressure a bit.
Not every swing is going to result in a home run, but if the bat never leaves your shoulder, you’re never even going to put the ball in play.
Jake “Dr. Freelance” Poinier blogs on freelancing topics at DearDrFreelance.com. He is the author of The Science, Art and Voodoo of Freelance Pricing and Getting Paid and Help! My Freelancers Are Driving Me Crazy, available in print and ebook versions on Amazon.