For many college students, the often-required “writing-intensive course” is just an obstacle to overcome on the way toward earning a degree — until they discover that the non-writing job they’re able to land with that degree in hand still requires…good writing skills.
Writer’s block is a serious occupational hazard for people who craft words for a living in one form or another. It’s just something they accept as part and parcel of the career. But if you work in a field that ISN’T writing-intensive, writer’s block can be much more paralyzing.
Maybe you’re tasked with creating a PowerPoint presentation and just stall out when trying to write the speaker notes. Or you need to write a persuasive treatise advocating for a position of interest to your company and the words. Just. Won’t. Come.
Fear not: the same tips writers use to bust out of Writer’s Cell Block One can work for you, too.
1) Do something else. If possible, turn to a different project when you find yourself stuck. Often after you switch your attention away from what you’re struggling with, your brain enjoys a “reset” that can make it easier to push past the block when you return to the task.
2) Change your environment. Sitting in front of a screen trying to push words out can sometimes be an exercise in futility — and focusing too hard on what you need to produce can result in anxiety that makes it harder to succeed. Step away from your desk to hit the water cooler, chat with a co-worker about something unrelated, or get a protein-filled snack. Even better, go outside for some fresh air, sunlight and nature views. You’ll be surprised how the words can flow more easily after you disengage.
3) Use a sounding board. When there’s a disconnect between your brain and your keyboarding fingers, it can help to engage your other senses while getting feedback from someone else. Enlist the help of a coworker (or willing friend, if you’re self-employed) and TALK about the writing task. Explain what you’re trying to convey and encourage them to ask you questions if something doesn’t make sense to them. Talking about the topic in real time with a real person offers a different perspective and can provide the clarity you need to start writing.
4) Just do it. For some people, the longer they sit thinking without writing, the more writer’s block they have. One solid way to break this vicious cycle is to just start writing. Anything. You can either put down your initial thoughts about the topic WITHOUT editing or deleting a word — that part is very important — or simply write about anything else. Nonsense. What you ate for breakfast that day. Eventually, this can loosen the anxiety grip enough for the relevant words to flow.
5) Ask for help. If you think your writer’s block is being driven by an unrealistically tight deadline, ask if you can push it back by a day or two. If that’s not advisable, share your concerns with your boss or a trusted coworker. You might be surprised how a little honesty about your struggle can go a long way. The person you confide in might lend an opinion or strategy that gets you to where you want to go without worrying you’ll lose your credibility.
Author: Lauren Somers