Have you ever found yourself wondering how to get rid of writer’s block?
Many writers have asked me how I deal with it. The thing is though, I don’t really believe it exists.
When a writer says, “I have writer’s block,” they’re actually just stuck. And being stuck stinks, doesn’t it?
In this post, I want to organically help you find your way out of being stuck. By the end of this post, you’ll know how to find inspiration so that you’ll be able to refresh your writing. You’ll have absolutely no reason to feel stuck or afraid of the blinking cursor. You’ve got this.
Let’s dig in.
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Is Writer's Block A Legend Or Is It Real?
When all is said and done, writer's block is really just a mixture of feeling stuck, having a lack of good planning, and maybe a hint of procrastination, which throws us into the downward spiral of being stuck. Which is usually when writers say, "I have writer's block!"
I love what writer, Neil Gaiman, says about writer's block:
“If you turn around and go, ‘I am blocked,’ this is just something writers say because we’re really clever. It sounds like it has nothing to do with you: ‘I would love to write today, but I am blocked. The gods have done it to me,’” he said. “And it’s not true. Cellists don’t have cellist block. Gardeners don’t have gardener’s block. TV hosts do not have TV host block. But writers have claimed all the blocks, and we think it’s a real thing.”
It makes sense doesn't it?
Ever since I heard him say that, I knew he was right.
I know that I've given myself the excuse that I can't write because I'm blocked. When in actuality, it's because I haven't planned out what I am writing well enough.
That's what caused me to be stuck in the first place. That's probably also what is causing you to be stuck, too.
An unhealthy dose of "being stuck" + lack of good planning + procrastination = Writer's Block
Imagine if you got your foot stuck while hiking. Would you just lay down there and say, "I can't move because my foot is stuck?"
No... you wouldn't.
I know you wouldn't.
You'd get your foot unstuck. And that is what you have to do when you get stuck with your writing. Instead of saying, "I have writer's block," it's important to see the culprit behind the phrase writer's block for what it truly is.
You are stuck.
But, you might be asking me, "But Devin, how do I get unstuck? I'm really struggling here." I totally know how you feel, so here are some helpful ways to get unstuck. Being stuck is hard, but you can always get unstuck.
First Off... Why Are You Stuck?
Take a good look at your situation. What is it that is causing you to be stuck?
1. Are You Scared?
Whether you are scared of what people will think or scared of being great, I can only think of what Marianne Williamson said about fear:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
So what are you scared of? Start writing.
2. Are The Words Just Not Coming?
Sit down and brainstorm. Keep reading for some awesome brainstorming tips that help me when I am stuck.
Are you completely into what you are writing? If not, are you procrastinating from finishing the project you are working on?
If you are working on (or procrastinating on working on) a project that needs to be finished, follow Nike's slogan "Just do it"! Stop painfully waiting for it to write itself.
Whether it's for work or your own writing, it's important that you continue doing the work. I went to a writing conference a few years ago and saw this video. It clearly pictures what happens when we've gotten past the "inspiration" part of writing something or working on a project.
A time comes when you have to just get into it and finish it. It's hard, but you can do it. (Promise me you'll watch this video. It's seriously amazing!)
A Note On Inspiration: Writers usually work really well when they're inspired, but once the inspiration goes away and you are left with bringing the project to completion, that's usually when people claim that they have writer's block. Or that they are stuck.
That's just a sign that you need to pull on the work boots and muck into the deep of it all so you can finish your work.
Write and finish it.
3. Are You Trying To Make It Too Perfect?
There comes a point in every writer's life where we have to ship what we've written. Are you grasping onto your writing and worried that it isn't perfect?
If you said yes to any of these points, follow me to the next section. You'll soon be unstuck with plenty of brilliant ideas.
It's Time To Get Unstuck
Here are some things that'll help you get unstuck so you'll be able to continue creating awesome content.
Do You Know Your Project Well Enough?
Ask yourself these questions:
- How well have I planned out my project?
- How well do I know about the things I'm trying to write about?
If your answer is that you don't know, then it's time to open the books and website pages to research your topics a little bit better.
Get Offline To Get Unstuck
Unstick your brain by getting off the computer.
Go for a walk and get some fresh air. Stanford researchers found that walking really improves creativity. You'll be amazed when ideas come to you while your away from the desk.
So make sure you bring your phone with you so you can take notes if ideas come to you.
In The Power of Full Engagement, Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz said that:
...between 90 and 120 minutes, the body begins to crave a period of rest or recovery. Signals include a desire to yawn and stretch, hunger pangs, increased tension, difficulty concentrating, an inclination to procrastinate or fantasize, and a higher incidence of mistakes.
Here are some other ideas on what you can do to get some energy away from the computer:
- Write by hand with pen and paper.
- Take a water break.
- Implement essential oils into your day. Lemon is great for re-energizing yourself and lavender is awesome for relaxation.
- Eat something healthy. Something like fruit.
- Take a short nap if you can. Even a 20-minute nap would help.
- Go out to eat lunch at a new place. Change up your surroundings.
Write Something Else To Unstick Yourself
If you're finding it really difficult to work on what you're writing, switch it up and spend a little time writing something else. You can do this by:
Writing For Social Media
Writing For Email
Writing For Content Upgrades
If you want more examples of what kinds of content upgrades do well, make sure you check out our Resource Library!
Types Of Brainstorming For Getting Unstuck
One way you can get to know your project better is by brainstorming. It's a creative way get more ideas. It also really helps with this so-called "writer's block".
When I’ve been writing a lot and staring at a computer screen, I need to turn off the computer. I grab my favorite pen and notebook, and then I find a nice sunny spot where I can brainstorm and write.
There is just something special about writing by hand and seeing the ink soak into the paper. I think it really helps you sort things out in a deeper way.
Paul Bloom, Yale psychologist, said, “With handwriting, the very act of putting it down forces you to focus on what’s important... Maybe it helps you think better.”
That's so true.
Sometimes you might be hashing out all your ideas on the computer, and when nothing comes together, you give up on the post. It’s so easy to throw the towel in and walk away from an unfinished project that has potential, but that lost its shiny excitement.
If you ever feel stuck, get out your notebook and pen. Brainstorming takes many different shapes and forms. First though, you need to figure out what you are writing about and why.
Finding Your Topic
What problem are you trying to solve for your audience?
If I wanted to write this post "8 Social Media Best Practices That Will Save You 25.5 Hours In A 2-Week Sprint", what would the problem be?
The problem I'd want to solve is= "My readers are spending too much time on social media when they'd really like to be working on the things that are truly important to them."
My next step would be to think about the steps they'd need to "save time on social media".
You can also do this, too. Start by following these steps:
- Pick out a problem that you want to solve.
- Then write out the steps it would take to solve that problem.
The steps will look something like this:
- Step one that'll help them. (These steps will turn into your subheads.)
- Step two that'll help them.
- Step three that'll help them.
After you've figured out the skeletal system for your post, you'll be able to flesh it all out. Go in depth and make it actionable.
Say Bye To "Writer's Block" By Making A List
You can do this two different ways.
Either you could brainstorm a list of things that are related somehow and put those into a blog post, or you could use this brainstorming activity to help you create a list of different writing ideas.
Steps to brainstorming with a list:
- Sit down with your pen and paper. (Or whatever kind of note-taking utensils you like brainstorming with.)
- Set the timer for 5 minutes. (When you set a timer, this will help you whip out your ideas quicker. You'll spend less time hmmming and humming about what you actually want to write, and you'll spend more time actually writing.)
- List out all the things you'd like to write about. Remember, it can be anything. (Or list out everything you want to put into a single post.)
- Once you're done with the brainstorm, pick an idea and flesh it out.
Mindstorming With Mind Mapping
We've all done this kind of brainstorming at one time or another. Remember those bubbles that you used to draw in elementary school that would connect to other bubbles filled with similar ideas?
It's still pretty much that simple. It's a great way to get your ideas all out in front of you.
Are you ready?
- Set a timer for 5 minutes.
- Write down the problem point in the center of the page. Draw a bubble around it.
- Now, think about what things will solve that problem. Write those down and connect the ideas with lines.
- For each of the points that help you solve the problem, try to come up with 3-5 bubbled points that will actionably walk your readers through solving the problem that you want to help them with.
1-Sheet Brain Dump
Take all your thoughts on a certain topic and write them down on 1 sheet of paper. You can also do this to come up with tons of great writing prompts.
For this kind of brainstorming, you don't need an outline. No bubbles or lines leading to other points. Unless of course, you want to do that.
This is a safe place to just percolate on your ideas. Write it all down.
Steps To The 1-Sheet Brain Dump:
- Set a timer for 5 minutes.
- Write down all your ideas on one sheet. There is no format to this type of brainstorming. What is important is that you get all your ideas out on paper. It is a massive brain dump.
Speak Out All Your Ideas
This is a form of brainstorming that I use to come up with fresh and exciting writing prompts. It will also help you flesh out your ideas quicker.
Ever thought of brainstorming out loud? If not, follow these steps:
- Get your tape recorder or your smart phone recorder. Record yourself talking about your post ideas and what you'd like to do to help your audience figure out the answers to their problems.
- When you're done recording yourself, listen to the recording. Type everything out. You'll probably find out that you'll want to press pause a lot since other ideas will come back to you. You'll be amazed by how much more you'll write.
Brainstorming on your computer?
Now I know that sometimes brainstorming works perfectly on the computer, and for those moments, you don't want to brainstorm on paper—just go onto the computer.
There are many great places to brainstorm on your computer and online. Here are some great programs that I love using:
Scrivener: It is a great program with many different settings for writers. If you haven't heard of it, make sure you check it out!
Index Cards: A wonderful app that allows you to organize digital index cards in a way that will help you sort your thoughts. You can also sync your index cards to Scrivener.
SimpleMind+: It's an app that you can use on your iPad to make mind mapping easier.
CoSchedule: I really love working with CoSchedule when I am brainstorming a new project.
Use CoSchedule To Brainstorm Your Posts
There are so many great ways to use CoSchedule for brainstorming your blog post ideas. It gives writers a way to organize their ideas and follow through with publishing them.
Steps To Brainstorm In CoSchedule:
- Open a stand-alone content in the CoSchedule app.
- If you have any links, photographs, graphics, infographics, gifs, or memes that you'd like to put into your post but don't want to lose them in between the time that you write the post and publish the post, you can just upload them into the comments section. It makes it so much easier so that you don't have to search around online or through your files to find the images or graphics at the last minute.
- If you brainstorm or write your blog posts in Evernote or in Google Docs, there is a way you can convert those into WordPress. Isn't that awesome? I love this function.
- You can also write your brainstorming/outline in the content editable area of CoSchedule's stand alone content.
- Another awesome thing about brainstorming in CoSchedule is that you can automatically get your brainstorming and ideation publish-ready. Do all of this by pressing the button that little arrow points at (as seen in the picture above) and then press "convert to WordPress. This makes it super easy to bring everything over to WordPress.
- Now all you have to do is flesh out your brainstorm session/outline.
4. Now Create Your Own Writing Prompt Library
After you've used all of those brainstorming ideas, keep track of your ideas in a writing prompt library. You can do this by storing them in an Evernote note or even on Google Docs or Sheets. (You also get this in the bundle that complements this post.)
It will look something like this:
How To Use Your Writing Prompt Library
Fill in the columns in the spreadsheet. You'll be asked these questions:
- List your prompts in the spreadsheet.
- In what blog category will this post fit?
- Do you have a keyword for it?
- When is the publish date?
If there is something else you want to track in this writing prompt library, add to the columns at the top and track away.
Ready To Get Writing?
You know that the real culprit behind the phrase "Writer's Block" is really just an unhealthy mixture of "being stuck" + lack of good planning + procrastination.
Even though it can be a real bother to be stuck, you now know how to get unstuck.
You might have a set of brainstorming techniques that you are excited to start using. I hope this post helps you get unstuck and writing!