Updated on February 4, 2016
Writing for business: 10 ways to beat writer’s block
There’s nothing worse than staring at a blank screen
when you need to get some writing done. Here are
10 ways to beat writer’s block and get your words to flow
Photograph by Milada Vigerova
Social media requires many of us to write more intensely and extensively than we have since our college days – and at times it can feel like that 2am essay crisis all over again. But step away from the Pro Plus my friend, because there are better ways to get those pages filled than with a caffeine-fuelled stream of consciousness two hours before your deadline.
Whether you’re writing a blog, updating your website pages or coming up with 1,001 product descriptions, here are 10 tips for pushing through that wall of jumbled thoughts to find the flow of words beyond.
10 ways to beat writer’s block
1. Find your own voice
Of course it’s important to sound professional, and your business materials should reinforce your trustworthiness, reliability and expertise (take care with spelling, grammar and punctuation, write in simple, clear language and strike the right balance between seriousness and warmth). But you also need to write in a voice that feels comfortable and right – there’s no point trying to be someone you’re not or your copy will sound forced and unnatural. If you write as yourself – albeit the most grown-up and professional version of yourself – your words will flow far more easily. This is particularly true of blog posts; the whole point of a business blog is to let your audience see a bit more of the personality behind the brand, so it’s crucial to write in a way that feels natural to you – and it should help beat writer’s block, too.
2. Tell a story
A classic writing tip is “show, don’t tell”, and sometimes using a story or case study to make a point is the easiest way to get your message across. If you want to explain why your latest product works so well, then tell a story about a customer whose life it has improved, or who uses it every day and couldn’t live without it. Tell the story of how and why the product was made, or what inspired it. Explain what it means to you, and how it’s moving your company forward. Building stories around your business gives it personality and allows your customers to feel that they are buying into something bigger – a dream, a lifestyle or a new outlook. And if you’re trying to beat writer’s block, telling a story is an easy way to fill your page with words.
3. Write every day
Boring but true – the more you write, the easier it gets. If you can, divide your writing tasks into daily assignments so that writing becomes a habit, rather than an insurmountable challenge that you face a few times a month. The fact is that one of the best ways to beat writer’s block is… to write. Something, anything – just make it part of your daily routine.
4. Share your passion
Could you talk about your business for hours? Does the question, “So, what do you do?” elicit a 30-minute explanation of the services or products you offer, and how and why they’re different and better from everyone else’s, and how much the company has grown over the past few years, and what plans you have for the future? If you think about your business all the time, then you tend to talk about it a lot. And if you talk about it a lot, you can write about it. A lot. Remember that this is an opportunity to reach out to your customers and let them know what’s happening, what’s new, what’s coming up and why you’re excited about it. Your enthusiasm will be infectious, which will help to strengthen your customer relationships and inspire your readers’ loyalty.
5. Ignore your doubts
Are you the best writer in the world? Are you an international expert on your subject matter? Probably no and no, but it just doesn’t matter. You still have something unique to say and you have every right to say it. You’re not going for a Pulitzer here, you’re just trying to communicate with an audience. It’s your message and your audience and no one else tells it like you do – so go right ahead and get it out there.
6. Brainstorm ideas in note form
Sometimes – usually – coming up with good ideas and writing them down in a fluent and articulate style are not processes that happen simultaneously. If your mind’s feeling a bit foggy and you’re not at your most sparkling and witty then jot your ideas down as rough notes to begin with. Your aim here is to get something down on paper, however incomprehensible it might look. You can work on the exact wording later when you’ve maybe had a nap, a shower, a cup of tea, a brisk walk or whatever else you need to blow the cobwebs away. When a piece is complicated or requires a lot of thought or research, it can help to write in stages – take it one step at a time and you’ll get there in the end.
7. Try saying it out loud
If you’re trying to articulate a thought or explain an idea and you just can’t find the right words or phrasing, it can really help to imagine that you’re explaining it verbally to someone sitting beside you. Try saying it out loud and see what comes out – sometimes our mind works faster when we’re talking. (I’ve just realised that when I do this, I actually turn round as if there really is someone next to me. So, moving on…)
8. Set a (realistic) deadline
It’s amazing what effect a deadline can have (see the 2am essay crisis above), but I’m not a fan of working under pressure. Some people thrive on that kind of stress, but I’m just not in that camp. When I’m talking to clients I try to be honest about how long something will take because the last thing I want is to deliver work that’s rushed and full of mistakes. That said, I still try to complete every project as quickly as possible and set a target date accordingly, because open-ended deadlines are no help to anyone. Even if you’re writing for your own website, you need to have an endpoint to work towards or you’ll just end up staring into space. If there’s a massive slab of Dairy Milk just beyond that endpoint, then so much the better.
9. Avoid internet distractions
Boring but true #2. You’ll never get anything written if you check Facebook and Twitter every 10 minutes. Plus, Facebook and Twitter are more or less the antithesis of fluent and eloquent writing. If you really need a break, read something that matches the tone of your own writing, so you don’t stray too far out of the “zone”. Avoiding internet distractions is hard, but once you’re in full flow you’ll be amazed how long you can survive without them.
10. Do your research – but know when to stop
Doing plenty of research before you start writing is an excellent idea, obviously, but there comes a point at which it’s less about research and more about procrastination. If you’ve got enough material to flesh out your article then it’s time to start writing. Start by putting your research into some kind of order, which should help to structure your piece – that way, you’ll start writing without even knowing it.
How do you beat writer’s block? I’d love to hear some more ideas.