(insert headline about B2B writer’s block here)
A blank page, a flashing cursor, and a dial tone in your head.
Whether you write for a living or just for the fun of it, we’ve all sat at a keyboard and stared vacantly at that vast empty expanse, waiting for the words to magically start appearing.
As journalist and author Gene Fowler said, “Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.”
FEELING LIKE A BLOCKHEAD
If you’re writing for a living, especially in the marketing or journalism worlds, you probably have the added benefit of a deadline—a constant reminder that someone is waiting for you to do your magic RIGHT NOW.
And for those of you writing in the business-to-business (B2B) space, it’s quite possible you might not have the most dynamic and exciting topics to deal with. (All our clients happen to be truly fascinating. We’re just lucky that way.)
But, we persevere. We check our notes against the business objectives and the audience personas, identify the key topics we need to cover, and build a rudimentary outline.
Now, where to start? Maybe some more internet research will spark an idea.
It’s kind of astounding that we get anything done at all in the always-on, always-connected world we’ve created. Between cell phones, email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and that never-ending rabbit trail of the internet itself …
The point is, when it’s time to write, write.
- Turn off your cell phone
- Close your browser windows (the internet will still be there when you’re finished)
- Close your door if you have one
- Put on some familiar music
- Start pressing keys
USE BRAINSTORMING TECHNIQUES
The strategies we use for developing new ideas can also provide new insights into an existing task.
- Take your premise to a comical extreme.
- Approach your premise from a 180° position—what could you write that would generate the exact opposite of what you’re trying to achieve?
- Free associate on the key concepts in your outline—start writing down whatever comes to mind, no matter how outlandish or irrelevant.
TAKE A WALK
Sometimes, even all the focused attention you can muster can’t break the spell. Your manager might not approve of a three-hour stroll through the forest preserve on company time, but a couple laps around the office (or just getting outside and breathing some non-air-conditioned air for a change) can sometimes help those mental gears engage.
DO SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT
If you have the time, getting your brain deeply involved in something wholly unrelated to your task can spark inspiration. Releasing your mind from the need to produce compelling content, even for a little while, can relax your mental muscles.
We said to close your browser windows earlier to prevent distraction, but finding relevant examples of the kind of writing you’re trying to produce can lead to new avenues of thought. You can also go back and read things you’ve done before, just to remind yourself that you’re actually capable of putting sentences together in an orderly fashion.
START IN THE MIDDLE
If you’re stuck trying to come up with the perfect headline or introduction, skip it. Put in a placeholder and dig in to whatever part of the project you’re most comfortable with. Often, you’ll find the opening and closing thoughts come naturally once you’ve made some headway. And don’t worry about making every sentence or paragraph perfect at this point.
JUST DO SOMETHING
There’s no single best way to overcome that initial, terrifying inertia you experience when you’re staring at a blank page. But the words aren’t going to write themselves. So, you might as well get started! And we should remember to go back and put in a real headline for this article. Maybe Wikipedia has something about writer’s block …
In addition to helping StudioNorth’s clients align their messaging across multiple channels as Content Director, Dan enjoys brewing beer, riding motorcycles, and competitive pistol shooting (not all at once).