As someone who mostly writes for a living, there’s nothing that scares me more than a blank page. Blogs on how to write are as meta as they come. Yet so much of our work in PR is centred on writing that I think it’s important to address. Whatever the content, whether it be a byline, webpage or an email pitch to a journalist, I’m happy to share my coping mechanisms for the dreaded block.
1. Be realistic
Someone much smarter than me once said something along the lines of ‘finishing is 95 per cent starting’. But what if you manage the first sentence only to run out of steam?
Unless you have a deadline in the next thirty minutes, few of us will be able to write a 1000-word article in one sitting. The key to finishing a long form piece is to set yourself small, regular and achievable goals. Writing 250 words a day will dispatch a 1,000-word article in no time.
The one downside to this content creation method is that you need to begin early and leave yourself plenty of time. We don’t always have this luxury, but when you do you’ll thank yourself for making a start.
2. Don’t waffle around
Never waffle your way out of a block. We’ve all been there of course. Sometimes you have a word count to hit and you just have nothing left to say. At that moment, all delusions of grandeur and the carefully constructed argument that has carried you through the entire piece collapse under the cold reality of the blank page.
The problem with long, meandering sentences – like the one I just wrote – is that they don’t really say anything. It will be obvious to any reader who’s paying attention that it’s just there to fill space. If they value their time, they will stop reading. In a byline it’s bad technique; in an email pitch it’s game over.
3. Learn from a master procrastinator
I often think the best way to solve a problem is to run away from it. The good news is, in the age of the internet, it has never been easier to do so. However, if that sounds like a license not to do any work, it isn’t. You won’t solve writer’s block with chronic procrastination, but taking a break to do something, anything else, will.
I don’t think it’s right to say that your best ideas will come to you when you’re procrastinating. Mine come to me in moments of total panic, but everyone is different. However, ideas WILL come to you if are not stuck staring at a blank page.
Never underestimate the creative power of the subconscious mind. When the rational person in you is trying their hardest to ignore the problem, your subconscious will be hard at work to solve it. Sometimes, the best way to beat writer’s block is to close the book and go for a walk.