Every marketer has been there: Staring blankly at the whitewashed computer screen, digging for the next genius campaign zinger that will send metrics through the stratosphere. Yet nothing comes out. It’s the dreaded writer’s block.
In the immortal words of Kurt Vonnegut, “Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?” For many of us who work in content creation, the worst feeling in the world is the lack of something to say. So, how do we most efficiently push through those moments of debilitating silence? It’s there a constructive way to use these blocks as catalysts of moments of greatness?
Tried and True Ways to Jump-Start Creativity
If you find yourself at a loss for words, there are many effective ways to dig yourself out of the rut. Try these on for size the next time you can’t seem to generate any new intelligent marketing ideas:
1. Stop Trying So Hard
We all have those moments of paralyzed recall where the one thing we’re trying to remember escapes us. The best way to trigger the memory — and it’s obvious — is to stop looking for that bit of information. The same is true for writing. If you’ve been struggling over that content marketing piece on SEO tools, walk away from the task. Occupy yourself with another to-do item. Let it go, and come back to it when the struggle feels less intense, or when inspiration strikes. Forcing creative genius just never seems to pan out as we hope.
2. Finish Important Tasks
Never sit down to write a creative campaign when you have several other pressing responsibilities. It adds tremendous, undue stress. Cover all the must-dos on your list for that day, then settle in to write your masterpiece. As Ted Nicholas, author of “The Golden Mailbox,” reminds us:
I don’t think anyone can write well when watching the clock. Don’t try to write if you have appointments later in the day or errands to run.
3. Be Refreshed
Trying to be creative in an exhausted state is another less-than-optimal scenario. If you’re too tired to drive, you’re too tired to write. Great content is generated in a clear and connected space; grant yourself that luxury and you’ll avoid tremendous frustration.
4. Carve out Time
Many productive writers literally plan out specific time frames to let the writing flow. Additionally, you’re wise to turn off your phone, close the inbox, and just focus on the task at hand. Distractions are what they are; by minimizing the likelihood of being inundated with outside influences, and setting aside a specific block of time to create, you set up a very sacred routine that more effectively allows you to be in flow.
5. Be Disciplined
If you only attempt to create content here and there, you are minimizing the opportunity to strike gold. Most of what we write normally is not worthy of mass consumption — it takes time to find your brilliance. Author Lili St. Crow puts it this way:
Discipline allows magic. To be a writer is to be the very best of assassins. You do not sit down and write every day to force the Muse to show up. You get into the habit of writing every day so that when she shows up, you have the maximum chance of catching her, bashing her on the head, and squeezing every last drop out of [her].
6. Find the Mind Tricks That Work for You
Every writer eventually finds creative techniques that help jump-start productivity. For example, when I have to stop writing a piece of content before it’s finished or edited, I always stop midsentence, so the action is dangling there, begging me to complete it. If I stopped at the end, there would be no inspiration point to jump off from. Consider this sentence: “Negative SEO takes many forms, and each causes a varying degree of damage.” If I stop there and come back later, it’s hard to find the right place to dive back in. But if I leave it this way: “Negative SEO takes many forms, and each causes …,” it’s far easier to fit right back into my train of thought and keep flowing.
It may take some time for you to discover tricks like these that help keep you connected to your inner voice; the key is to find them, and use them religiously.
Writer’s block is simply a part of the creative process. Almost everyone encounters it; what separates the quasi-writers from the bona fide marketing mavens is a dedication to pushing through. Remember to always be gentle on yourself, with realistic expectations. We can’t always pen a winning campaign every time we sit down to create. Let some of your efforts be lackluster, and find the gems as they form. And above all, be patient with yourself: Brilliance takes time. As blockbuster writer Malcolm Gladwell reminds us: “Never try to be the hare. All hail the tortoise.”
What are some of your best tips for combating writer’s block?
Photo by Alex Kerhead