Some writers wait for inspiration to strike before they take pen to paper – or keyboard to word processor. Must be nice. As content marketers, we don’t have the luxury of waiting around for the magic to happen; and we definitely cannot let writer’s block – the dreaded ailment/productivity-killer – stop us from meeting the never-ending deadlines that blog posts, whitepapers, newsletters, and all of the other formats demand from us on a daily basis. So what’s a content marketer to do to squash writer’s block?
Adopt Preventative Methods
Prioritize Writing > Everything Else (During Regularly Scheduled Writing Days + Times)
There are many J.K. Rowling quotes to fangirl (or fanboy) over – but my favorite isn’t one about lightning bolt scars or Patronus Charms. It’s about writing:
“Be ruthless about protecting writing days, i.e., do not cave in to endless requests to have “essential” and “long overdue” meetings on those days. The funny thing is that, although writing has been my actual job for several years now, I still seem to have to fight for time in which to do it. Some people do not seem to grasp that I still have to sit down in peace and write the books, apparently believing that they pop up like mushrooms without my connivance. I must therefore guard the time allotted to writing as a Hungarian Horntail guards its firstborn egg.”
Turning writing into a habit, one that pulls rank over all other distractions, is really the only “inspiration” you need to write effectively. This is how you do it:
- First, set specific days for writing that make the most sense for your schedule – it’s Monday to Friday for me
- Then, pick your recurring time slot(s) for writing during these days – treat them as you would a meeting with an actual person (book the time off in your calendar and don’t be late!)
- Find a routine that will, in time, evolve into a stimulus that sparks creativity – this can be things like making a cup of coffee before sitting down to write, setting up in a specific room or pressing play on your favorite playlist
- Lastly, as Rowling stated, “be ruthless about protecting writing days” to ensure that your habit sticks – don’t schedule any meetings during this time, turn off email notifications, close Slack and hide your phone
Creating a writing habit is essential to keep up with your marketing team’s content needs. Once writing becomes a habit, and you can train your brain to write during regularly scheduled intervals, writer’s block becomes a smaller and smaller threat to your productivity.
Prepare Tomorrow’s Content Today
The day before you need to write a heavier piece of content, get as much of the preparation done the day before.
This mainly includes picking topics and any research you need to complete before writing can begin, but also includes smaller tasks like:
- Crafting title/headlines
- Writing any taglines, meta descriptions, excerpts, etc.
- Sourcing and creating graphics
Getting the small stuff out of the way will allow you to focus on your creativity and get your words out.
What to do When Writer’s Block Sneaks up on You
Ditch the Keyboard
My personal favorite block-buster is a notebook and pen. I start by jotting down the main points I want to get across in my content and then flesh out each idea.
I find this to be an effective technique because it a.) forces me to write in a more natural tone of voice and less precious with words (backspacing is not so easy) and b.) provides a great editing opportunity once I bring the keyboard back to start typing out what I’ve written out.
Make New Connections on Slack
Slack is great for connecting with colleagues, but it’s also great for meeting new people and sourcing content ideas, especially if you are a B2B marketer.
There are tons of professional communities dedicated to different topics of interests (I’ve personally joined a few marketing communities like #CreativeTribes.)
Do a quick Google search to find out if there are any Slack channels for your target audience (please note that some communities do have application processes) and start asking questions. Slack-ers are generally very responsive and like helping other professionals. You can ask questions regarding the relevance of the content you’re creating, what direction you should take and you can even ask for direct quotes to include in the final product.
Edit Somebody Else’s Work
When you’re struggling with your content, ask a colleague if they have any content that needs to be reviewed and proofread. Editing someone else’s content allows you to still be productive and flex the muscles you would be using to write. It gets your brain back it in writing mode and may even spark new ideas and creativity.
So, now that you know how to beat writer’s block – happy writing!