If you find yourself asking, “What is writer’s block?” … you might consider yourself lucky. At the moment, your blog post ideas are translating effortlessly onto your page and you’re in the flow of writing.
But that might not always be the case. You might not always be so quick to wonder why other writers stress over writer’s block and if it’ll ever affect you.
However, it doesn’t always have to be a source of anxiety.
Lucky you, indeed.
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Writer’s block is real
“They’re real, and they’re spectacular” is an infamous line from a classic episode of Seinfeld.
Well, what if I proposed that writer’s block is real, and also spectacular?
I know it’s a controversial subject.
Some associate writer’s block with procrastination or an unwillingness to put in the time and effort.
Others admit that it’s common and maddening, even for seasoned professional writers.
Regardless of which camp you’ve traditionally found yourself in, no one likes writer’s block.
Still, you can simply respond to the question, “What is writer’s block?” with the fact that …
Sometimes you just don’t know what you want to say
Instead of resigning writer’s block to a source of frustration, it’s a signal to dissect the current stage of your creative process.
You have something to say, but you don’t know the best way to say it or the main point you want to make.
When your message isn’t clear, you’re blocked. That’s not a myth or an excuse.
Once you recognize it’s a challenge that helps you grow as a writer, you can work through the obstacle until you get it right.
Befriend writer’s block
Reviewing your work with a critical eye makes you a strong writer, but when you’re overly critical of your text, you often get stuck.
Again, let’s move past “stuck” as a bad thing. It’s simply a stage you go through as you learn how to become a freelance writer. Say hello to your writer’s block, befriend it, and let go of any negative charge associated with it.
You might realize you have too many ideas, or conversely, you only have a vague topic in mind. Both can keep you from writing better content.
Accept this moment as a chance to pause and know it’s temporary.
3 small steps to clear up your block
When you don’t know what you want to say, you need to relieve yourself from the pressure of capturing The Ultimate Perfect Thing.
Aiming to write The Ultimate Perfect Thing is what’s keeping you blocked.
Playing around with your rough content ideas, however, will lead you to expressing The Right Things.
Here are three steps to start working with your vague article ideas. This exercise will eventually transform a rocky writing session into a smooth one … so you can go back to your original state of asking, “What is writer’s block?”
Step #1: Draft headlines
You can immediately start having fun with this step to alleviate any pressure you might have been feeling about not knowing how to express what you want to say.
Think of it as a creative exercise and reference inspirational quotes for writers if you need some motivation to get started.
You might also find this guide helpful: How to Write Headlines
Draft several headlines, polish them, and pick the most accurate one.
Step #2: Turn your headline into a question (temporarily)
Turn the title that you select into a question to pinpoint your main message. This step is particularly useful when learning how to overcome writer’s block.
You can use the word Who, What, When, Where, Why, or How at the beginning of your question.
Most of the time this question functions as a tool, rather than the exact headline you’ll use for your content.
Step #3: Answer your question
Your supporting points need to answer the question that you craft in Step #2 — other ideas can be saved for future content.
This is another opportunity to break down any foggy or overly ambitious ideas to get clear about exactly what you want to say.
Each subheading of your content will illuminate your message and guide your reader to a meaningful conclusion.
An example of this writer’s block exercise
We can use the title of this post as an example of how to incorporate this exercise into our writing habits.
- Step #1: What Is Writer’s Block?
- Step #2: Why would someone ask, “What is writer’s block?“
- Step #3: Each section of this post should answer the question above.
In Step #1, I drafted headline options and decided on “What Is Writer’s Block?”
For Step #2, I turned my headline into a question I could answer: “Why would someone ask, ‘What is writer’s block?‘”
Finally, in Step #3, I used this piece of content to answer the question I crafted in Step #2, and made sure each section of this article directly related to its title.
Spectacular content doesn’t always start out that way
As much as writers like to find smart habits to speed along the drafting process and write better headlines, each piece of content you write might begin a little differently — it doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer.
It’s wonderful when you’re asking yourself, “What is writer’s block?” and the exact words you intended to communicate spill out of your mind as soon as you sit down to write.
But on the days they don’t, you don’t have to get discouraged.
Readers only see your final product, so the first notes, outlines, or drafts that you needed to explore in a messy way can be your little secret.
Reader Comments (19)
Valentine Okoronkwo says
Thank you so much Stephanie for this post. One of the best ways I have used to actually cure writers block is starting with the headline first. It gets my creative juices rolling and gives me a vision of what I want the post to look like.
Faith Nicholson says
I totally agree! Getting writers block is the worst, but there are few things I’ve learnt that help, most of which you have mentioned. Thanks for sharing
Oh I struggle with this some days trying to write content for others’ articles on real estate related topics. I just try to write what I know as concisely as possible or try to relate the topic to a prior experience I had and I can usually take off from there.
Turn the title into a question: brilliant suggestion. I immediately applied it to the text I am stuck with, and it works wonders… 🙂 Thanks, Stefanie!
Great Post, new to blogging so find I get stuck quite frequently.
It’s always wanting to have the perfect piece.
For me taking the dog out for a walk just clears the fog and gets the creative juices flowing!
Thanks for the very informative blog post. Personally I am trying to write as much as possible. I started with trying to write one blog post a day Mon-Fri but mostly I manage to write on average 3 posts per week.
R.G. Ramsey says
I saw a YouTube video by author Jerry Jenkins. He said, “Writers are the only ones who use being blocked as an excuse for not working. Try calling your boss and telling them you are not coming in because you feel blocked.”
Entering into the hypnagogic state helps the most after coffee when my mind is blank.
Thanks Stefanie, aiming for perfection is certainly a trap I fall into often. Re-writing content seems to be the only thing I do sometimes.
Joe Garecht says
Great points, Stefanie. I love your idea that “spectacular content doesn’t always start out that way.” So true, and the drive for perfection in writing is often what stops me from getting started in the first place.
My best writing (articles, e-books, whitepapers) has always come when I just sit down, create an outline, and write… and give myself permission to make mistakes that will be fixed when I revise & edit later.
Brojendra Nath Ghosh says
Thank you so much, Stephanie, for this post. One of the best ways I have used to actually cure writer’s block is starting with the headline first. It gets my creative juices rolling and gives me a vision of what I want the post to look like.
Demi Le Huray says
Thanks for this great post! Sometimes I’m on a roll and know exactly what to do and what to write however sometimes I find it so hard and have writers block so thanks for this x
Tara Caguiat says
Ugh I can relate to SO many of the thoughts in this. It’s helped me so much to think of writer’s block as part of being a writer and something that comes with the territory instead of like a failing. Thanks for the great read!
Stephanie, thank you so much for your article. Starting with the headline is one of the most effective techniques I’ve found to overcome writer’s block. It gets my creative juices flowing and provides me a vision of how the post should appear.
Thanks for this great post Stephanie!
Xavier Satoshi says
Love the techniques Stefanie! As someone who writes for a travel and game blog, I get this from time to time. The fatigue and repetitiveness are causing my mental dryness sometimes. It’s nice to have your approach to turning things into questions.
Stefanie Flaxman says
Glad you found the tips helpful, Xavier!
Thanks for the great tips! I had always thought about writer’s block as something to push through rather than embrace, so thanks for this.
Franziska Panter says
Thank you for the tips, Stefanie! I especially like the second step – Reframing the headline into a question gives new perspectives which is great for for finding the specific angle for a post. I’ll definitely test it with my current writing project.
Stefanie Flaxman says
Cool, let us know how it goes! I absolutely use these steps all of the time. 🙂
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