We’ve all been there: staring at the blank page, the blinking cursor beckoning us to get started. But we’re paralyzed by writer’s block and nothing comes out. It seems the longer you glare at the empty document, the harder it becomes to begin.
What to do when writer’s block strikes?
Today, I’m sharing five ideas for ways to find inspiration when you’ve hit a rut and one bonus tip to proactively help you from reaching that point.
1. Switch projects – Sometimes I find that trying to force the writing only makes the problem worse. Depending on your workload and deadlines, you may find that switching tasks for a short time can help you stay productive while taking the pressure of the writing work that eludes you.
This works especially well if you have a quick and simple administrative task to complete. You’ll probably continue to think about your writing assignment in the background while you work on the other task so you may find that by the time you return to it, you’ll have a better idea of how to get started—plus you crossed another item off your to-do list while you thought it through.
2. Go for a walk – Rather than continuing to stare at the blank screen, get up from your desk and stretch your legs. A breath of fresh air and a change of scenery can make a world of difference. I personally find that more ideas come to me when I’m moving rather than sedentary. The change of environment can help enhance your creative thought process; you may see or hear something that inspires your work. You’ll likely return to your desk refreshed and ready to get started.
3. Talk to someone – Whether you plan a brainstorming session or just have a short conversation with a friend, talking to someone else can help. Throughout the conversation, the other person may say something that catches your interest and sparks an idea for your writing.
If you have a vague idea of what you want to write about, talking it out with a colleague can help you find and define your message. They may ask a question you hadn’t considered or offer an addition to your outline that you overlooked. I believe that writing is always improved by collaboration, so why not start from the beginning and get some help with the idea stage?
4. Review your past work – This can work in two ways. First, you can reread some of your best work to see what elements worked best and then apply them to your current project. You may find that reviewing your favorite writing assignments gives you the confidence you need to overcome your writer’s block.
Alternatively, you may find inspiration by reviewing some of your less-than-perfect work to see what can be improved upon. Maybe you missed an important topic that you can write about now? Maybe there is new information available now that would warrant an updated version of the previous piece? There’s no need to start completely over if you can repurpose something you have already created.
5. Browse a creative resource – If you’re at a complete loss of ideas, there are endless resources available to you. You might find that flipping through a magazine can trigger some new ideas—either by reading the articles or looking at the advertisements.
You could try reading a blog relevant to the topic you’re writing about or the channel you’re writing for such as this helpful post from HubSpot about writing a blog post.
You can also search for examples that may inspire you. For instance, if you’re trying to write copy for an email campaign, you might search for “Best B2B Email Campaigns”.
Depending on your topic, visual sources like Pinterest and Instagram can also be a great well of ideas.
Bonus tip: Keep a running idea list – If you finding yourself in a writing rut, the above ideas may be helpful in working through it. But you can help yourself out before you get to that point by keeping a running list or a folder of ideas that you can reference at the first sign of writer’s block.
Since I create advertisements regularly, I keep a folder of ads that I’ve pulled from magazines or printed from my email that I can review when I’m searching for a new idea. I also keep a digital sticky note open for blog post topic ideas. That way when I realize I have a blog post due, I don’t struggle to come up with a subject to write about (full disclosure: that’s definitely what happened with this post).
In closing, I want to say that while these tips should help jostle you out of your writer’s block, the only real way to get through it is to write. Just start writing—and keep writing until you figure out what you want to say.