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10 Tips: How to Break Through Writer’s Block (when writing your own non-fiction content)

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If you are writing your own content for any of your sites, you might get writer’s block at some point, turning what was previously an easy flow into a hard slog. Rest assured, here are some practical tips for breaking through writer’s block – and get you moving forward fast.

In years past I took on freelance writing work, some of which had tight deadlines. I literally couldn’t afford to have writer’s block, and here I’m sharing the strategies I’ve developed over the years which have helped me keep writing – back then, and now for my own sites.

1. Don’t assume you have to write linearly from beginning to end

Just as a painter doesn’t necessarily start painting in the top left and finish in the bottom right, neither do you have to write in a particular order. So if you are stuck, consider working on a different area of the article. The reader won’t know which bits you wrote first or second!

2. Temporarily lower your writing standards

Whether you have a blank page or a partially filled one in front of you, lowering your writing standards temporarily will allow you to proceed to making your next point. Understand that I am not suggesting you write a bunch of garbage for the remainder of the article. Instead simply write down the overall gist of the point you are making, even if the phrasing sounds horribly clunky, and then move on to the next sentence or paragraph with your usual high standards. Expect that this area of the article will need a little more attention when you come back to edit, but you will be surprised at how quickly you will be able to re-word it during the edit phase.

Don’t expect perfection from yourself on your first draft; if you have writer’s block then lower your standards until you can move on with the article.

3. Leave underscores for things which need to be filled in later

Do not disrupt the flow of your writing by having to hunt down some obscure fact, unless of course that fact is germane to the remainder of the article. Simply leave an underscore in the place of the missing fact, number, or word, and then research it at the next convenient stopping point – but for now, just move on.

4. Set down subheadings as you think of them; you can choose to fill them in now or later

A common cause of writer’s block is “not knowing what to say”. You can solve a lot of this by writing down subheadings in your article document whenever you think of them. It’s up to you whether you fill in the subheadings now or later, but having them there will make it easier to know the sorts of things about which to cover.

5. Take a (short) coffee break

For non-fiction writing I am generally not in favor of taking a break as a method of overcoming writer’s block. This is because a factual style of article needn’t depend on “inspiration” as much as fiction writing might. However, a 10 or 15 minute coffee break can make a great breather.

Keep it to a pre-set time though and don’t use this tactic every time you have writer’s block – otherwise your mind will subconsciously trick you into thinking you have writer’s block more frequently!

6. Jot down great sentences as you think of them; fit them in later

Working on the introduction but thought of a superb sentence which should go into the body of the article? Jot the sentence down away from the rest of the article (I usually use the end of the document for this) and then leave it: figure out much later where this sentence will fit. This ensures you won’t later forget your beautifully worded sentence, while still allowing you to carry on with the momentum of the task at hand when your inspiration struck.

7. If you have a bunch of posts in mind to write, do the topics in a pre-set order

This strategy prevents you from wasting time by wondering which article should be written first. By forcing yourself to do your articles in a pre-determined order, you’ll also ensure that you get used to just sitting down and writing, without agonizing or soul-searching over anything. This is true even when the writing is done over several sittings.

View each of your non-fiction articles as exciting new territory and a new way to capture your audience (remember: readers = traffic), even if you’re not having the best day. That way, you feel fresh and enthusiastic each time you start a new article in your batch, and this will come through in your writing and have a tendency to prevent writer’s block.

Of course, there are times when you might want to break the rule for one reason or another. Still, in the long term, I find that writing your topics in a pre-set order is a good default strategy for preventing writer’s block.

8. Designate “no email”, “no entertainment” times

It’s easy to think you have writer’s block when in reality you are being distracted by checking your email, social media, etc. Simply remove those distractions by logging out of all of those windows. Obviously, at some point you will need to check those things. You can either:

  • go for a “timer” method where you can log back into email after a set amount of time writing such as 20 minutes

or

  • log back into email after a set task has been completed (e.g. you have written a good first draft of your post)

9. Spend a short amount of time on a less agreeable task

Take a short break to carry out a task you do not like (and which is not urgent). This works because your subconscious will suddenly realize that by comparison, writing can actually be easier and more fun! The time away will also refresh your mind. As in the case of a coffee break, keep it short: 10 – 15 minutes at most, and only as an occasional tactic.

10. Research well, but don’t get sidetracked

It can be tempting to surf the web in the name of research for your article or blog post, but do make sure you really are researching it. A great practical tip is to ask yourself occasionally during the research process what you are trying to find out. If what’s on the screen matches, then you’re on track. Otherwise you may think you have writer’s block, instead of merely getting sidetracked.

Conclusion

This article has shown some practical, hands-on tips to break through writer’s block for those who are writing their own non-fiction articles or blog posts.

If all else fails: imagine you’re writing a forum post about the topic, and start like that. It’ll sound natural and you’ll move forward fast. Another option is to imagine you’re talking to a friend about the topic and write it from there.

Make this information work for you: pick and choose the tips here which best suit your work style and personality.


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