Anyone who writes or develops content has been there before – at your desk staring at a blank screen and blinking cursor, because despite how hard you try to sit down and focus, nothing is coming out. In other words, you’re trapped in the throes of writer’s block.
This problem has plagued creative professionals for as long any of us can remember, but it's likely worse in our digital age. Since we are expected to produce more content than ever, content publishers and marketers are scrambling to produce as much material as possible to drive visitors to their websites and increase engagement.
Dealing with digital writer’s block is frustrating for most Web workers (trust me), but not impossible. There are plenty of useful tactics that have had proven success for other professionals. So, ease your restless mind for a bit and look at these methods for overcoming the creative stalemate.
When focusing is the problem, brainstorming is one of the best remedies. This is because it can help a writer organize his or her thoughts. In fact, writers should take 15 minutes to jot down all of the ideas that come to their head regarding a specific topic, and then organize those ideas by creating a mind map or an outline. Aside from old school pen and paper, there is also a multitude of mobile apps available to help with the organization process, such as Simple Mind, MindMeister or Mindjet.
While most writers use social networks to market their content, these sites should also be used to generate inspiration. However, if you don’t want to spend time sifting through the random content in your feeds, there are many tools available that can help you pinpoint information, such as Monitter, Twitterfall and Inboundwriter. While both Monitter and Twitterfall can be used to discover and filter Twitter conversations relating to a specific subject, Inboundwriter not only assists writers in optimizing their content for search engines, but can also be used to find insights and popular topics from hundreds of sources on the Web, including social networks.
Sometimes other authors can help you get rid of writer’s block, which is why it is important to keep your RSS feed full of publications and blogs that relate to your expertise or topics of interest. After scanning headlines and skimming through a few articles, inspiration should strike. At the very least, you have given your brain a break from the task, which also helps combat writer’s block.
Change your Routine
Routines are tricky. They can help keep someone organized and provide a sense of comfort, but can make life mundane (leaving little room for inspiration). This is why writers should test how changing a few aspects of their normal routine could negatively impact their writing process. For instance, looking at your social or RSS feeds during different times of the day may help you discover content you would have otherwise missed, while even taking a different route to work could present something as simple as a new billboard that could help spark inspiration. If all else fails...
Stop and Wait
Sometimes, when you’re trying to produce the right words (or characters, these days), you can get a little overwhelmed; and the real kicker is that this anxiety usually only serves to prolong your bout with writer’s block. In these cases, the best thing you can do is to stop staring off into your empty computer screen and just take some time to compose yourself and gather your thoughts, because obviously what you’re currently doing isn’t working.
The time you spend not directly mulling over the topic at hand will allow you to free up your brain and get your creative juices flowing again. These kind of mental breaks are an absolute necessity to any creative professional, and if you’re especially proactive, you can even take a few minutes to go for a walk or meditate, which are both proven methods for clearing your mind and getting it ready to go back to work. Plus, there’s always the chance that you’ll stumble upon something that will provide the inspiration necessary to finish your project. It can also help to strike up a conversation with other people; this not only serves as a good distraction for your overworked brain, but can be another source of inspiration, as well.
However, the key to being able to do this is to set strict deadlines (either of your own or from some sort of supervisor). This is because everyone is likely going to fill up the amount of time they’re given to complete a project. So, despite how much time you need to stop and ruminate on your work, you’re going to have to complete it eventually. As you approach that deadline, the virtual adrenaline will kick in and (hopefully) help you finish, but that only works when there is a deadline in place.