How to fight writer’s block: a self defense guide
You stare at the blank page.
It stares back.
You hold the gaze.
Who will defeat who?
A single bead of sweat rolls down your temple.
You lift your fingers to start typing.
This is it.
Choose a letter.
Come on, you’ve got this.
The blank page smirks at you.
How did it do that?
Back to the task at hand.
You won’t let writer’s block take your-
Ooh! Look at the time! Lunch! You scarper off to the kitchen to procrastinate.
Listen. We’ve all been there. There’s no shame in it. But it is time to take action. Proactive action. After all, the best defense against copywriter’s block is a good offense. What do I mean by that?
Well, this brings us to the star of the show:
* Proactive Lists *
Ok. The star of the show has a fairly boring name but stay with me!
I stave off writer’s block by keeping a well-stocked list of good blogs, social media captions and sentence ideas. When I need to write a piece of copy for a company, I refer to my list and see if I can use or mould any of the ideas for my current task. And so far, I’ve always found something to use.
So. Make one page in your notes app titled ‘blog ideas’, another ‘social media caption ideas’, and finally ‘sentence ideas’.
I know what you’re thinking. Girl. The whole issue I’m facing here is I can’t think of anything to write. I can’t just start lists. I can’t magic up any amazing ideas right now.
I agree. You can’t.
I don’t suggest you come up with these lists in a single sitting. Or write now (mind the pun).
Here’s what I’m suggesting. Go about your day, week, life. Whenever you come up with an interesting thought or inner monologue, write it down in the appropriate list. It might be a dog pun. Or a long rant about how frustrating online dating is. It could be anything.
Some examples of ideas from my own lists include this very blog you are reading right now that I’m writing for Word Tonic. Also that God-awful pun I used in the previous paragraph.
That was from my sentence idea list.
Maybe not my finest example.
Our best ideas usually come to us when we’re not trying to think of them. In fact, they usually come to us at the most inconvenient of times. Like when you’re driving to work - already late. Or in the middle of a really nice meal.
My advice is to get your idea down anyway. Pull over your car (yes I have done this). Put down your fork. If you don’t, you’ll forget them. Your future self will thank you for developing this habit!
Is there a special technique for writing down copy ideas?
As it happens, there is.
When you have to stop and write down an idea, take time to write down all your thoughts. This applies especially to blog ideas. Let your whole inner monologue flow into the app.
Say you’re having an epiphany about the meaning of life. Don’t just write a few keywords like ‘life advice: be chill’. That’s not going to make sense to you later or even provide a good starting point. Take the time to write what you actually want to say in the article even if you also just want to get back to eating lunch!
Essentially make sure when you return to your idea later, you have a good chunk of legible text to work with. But if all you can get down is a couple of sentences - that’s ok! They could still help you out in the future.
The ideas in your list provide you with the first footholds you need to get started on a project. You can worry about the structuring and filling out of the writing later. That is - when you actually use it for a copy job.
So. Picture this -
The blank page returns
This time you’re prepared.
In fact, it’s no longer a blank page.
The starting point of your writing is in one of your lists.
You just have to find it.
What to write for a vegan restaurant’s blog? Hmm... Ooh!
‘What is the future of food? I mean surely we can’t keep farming cows forever - look at the environmental impacts and…’
Not all your ideas will be useful.
Or even make sense. It’s sometimes difficult to separate the wheat from the incomprehensible 3 am thoughts. But for the most part, you’re creating a gold mine of creative writing for when your future self is out of idea juice.
Writer’s block: 0
Isabel is a modest and incredibly talented copy and content writer. Writing for sustainable and ethical businesses is her (vegan) jam.