Overcoming writer's block - 10 professional copywriter tips

Writer's block: the scourge of anyone who writes. A novel, website copy, a newsletter article or even just an email, writer's block can strike anytime. You've gathered your ideas together, fired up your word-processor and the clock's ticking. Then there's nothing; inspiration and writing momentum seem to have disappeared out of the nearest window. What's to be done?

1. Relax! Don't write - yet.

First, and hard as it may seem when a client is pushing for final copy or your boss wants the report before you go home, you need to relax. Worrying only gets you more bogged down and makes clear thought harder. Take a deep breath, a walk to the coffee machine or even a stroll out of the office. If you work at home, make that the kitchen and the garden respectively - or a 15-minute stroll around the block as you gather your thoughts. Sometimes, just putting the writing aside until the morning when you're fresh and enthusiastic, makes the difference. The fact is, that an over-busy mind and your determination to get the task finished may be exactly what's blocking your creativity.

Now let your mind wander, the way it does when you're driving, in the shower or watching low-stimulation TV. After a few minutes' displacement activity, the chances are that you'll be ready to write with renewed energy and enthusiasm. Don't as k why it happens – it just does!

2. Change your perspective

Try looking at things from a different perspective: your boss's, your reader's or a customer's. What will interest to them? How would they write the report or the article? You might be surprised.

3. Review your source material

Review your source material and/or rewrite your notes until new structures and ideas emerge. Do a simple mind map of the available information - starting with what you already know, then adding-in new headings and ideas. Once that's done, it's often easier to draft your document.

4. Plan your writing again

Use some of the '10 Copywriter Tips for Better Business Writing' listed elsewhere on this website. Be flexible, be prepared to lose some parts of your writing. Sometimes, getting rid of a difficult (but non-essential) passage can get your writing flowing again. Come back to the section later and consider whether it should be reinstated or whether it can be relegated to the recycle bin forever.

5. Start a rough draft

Write something - anything. This is just for you and no one else is going to see. Lay track, words that can be edited or thrown in the bin when you regain your writing stride. Don't edit and don't judge what you write – just write. (And to make things even more interesting try starting in the middle of your piece - or with your conclusion. Now there's an idea.


6. Don't do a thing...

This one's better if you have more time at hand. It's a great trick I use when, occasionally, I'm temporarily fed-up with a draft of fiction writing or a long project. Force yourself not to do any more on it. Resist initial temptations to get started. Resist, resist and resist again until you just can't not write. Strangely, it works!

7. Check out a good textbook on writing technique

Check out an inspiring textbook on writing technique or make a brief foray onto the Web for inspiration. Just as a well-written self-help book can inspire and promote well-being, so a dose of writing theory can get you back on track with your writing.

8. Call on the copywriter's friends

Still stuck? Get the copywriter's friends on the job. Start asking Who? What? Why? Where? When? Which? and How? questions around your subject matter. You'll find the ideas flowing in no time.

9. Talk it out

Back to that coffee machine or a friendly colleague. Take five to talk through your block, discuss the task and ask for your colleague's advice. Particularly if they do something different to you, you may well find that they can offer you the inspiration or a unique angle you hadn't thought of. (And be prepared to return the favour next time they're stuck.)

10. Get professional help

Is what you are trying to do outside your skill set. Should you even be doing this writing yourself? Perhaps some professional help would free you up to use your time and skills more appropriately - and result in a better piece of writing than you'd manage on your own.

This is particularly the case with specialised writing such as website content, newsletter or case study writing. You'd hire a professional to fix your washing machine or fit a new stereo in your car. So, why not hire a professional copywriter to worry about finding the right words and meeting that deadline.

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