by Anastasia Parsons
I’m in a staring contest with my cursor. I’m waiting on it to blink first.
Okay, so it’s a lame joke, and it’s definitely a writer’s humor, but as jabs go, it is a pretty honest swipe at what it’s like to work day in and day out as a content creator. Some days you’re so prolific, the sentences just fly from your fingertips as you type away, and other days, well, it’s just not there.
Welcome to every content creator’s nightmare – writer’s block. Working in communications, it is something to be both feared and expected. We have all panicked over deadlines that inch closer and closer while your computer screen remains blank. In a business that puts a premium on content as well as speed – you’ve got to scoop the competition whenever you can – the pressure to produce can be paralyzing at times.
Personally, I’ve encountered writer’s block more times than I care to admit over the course of nearly two decades working as a writer. I’ve even had it in those moments where you’re not supposed to freeze, like when a crisis communication needs to be crafted and sent out the door ASAP. Inspiration is a fickle thing and, unfortunately, it is not always going to come when you need it to. So what do you do? What do you need to know about dislodging the logjam in your brain that is keeping you from producing the content you need to make deadline?
Get On Up
Given that Americans sit an average of 13 hours a day – according to a survey from Ergotron – it’s little wonder that once bright ideas lose their luster and dim from time to time. When I get stuck, I’ve found the most effective technique for chipping away at writer’s block is to simply get up and move around. Getting away from my screen for a short walk has been known to produce miracles when the creativity simply isn’t flowing. And, science confirms this advice. A recent Stanford University study found that walking boosts creative inspiration:
Across the board, creativity levels were consistently and significantly higher for those walking compared to those sitting.
Distractions are Good
That saying about the definition of insanity and doing the same thing over and over again is pretty spot on when you’re attempting to create content. When I find myself spinning in circles with a piece, sometimes my only recourse is to stop and work on something else for a while. The something else can be anything from answering emails to organizing files. It can be mundane and mindless or involved and engaging, the “what” doesn’t so much matter, it’s the problem solving that goes along with doing something different that is the key. Thinking critically about something separate has a tendency to open up those uncooperative neural pathways keeping your creativity at bay.
It’s Not That Complicated
Most often I find that when I am truly and profoundly blocked, it’s usually because I’m overcomplicating the process. I am looking at an idea from too many angles or trying to incorporate more information than is necessary to convey the point. Unless what you are writing is an involved dissertation on the inner workings of a rocket engine or a specific, life-saving surgery technique, it is likely that your content is not that complicated. Narrowing down an idea to the simplest possible terms and explanation isn’t always easy, but it is likely the information your audience is most interested in. So, simplify.
Invariably, at some point in your communications career you will encounter your own O.K. Corral of sorts as you try to outstare your cursor. Getting beyond the block is not always easy, but it’s also not impossible. Just remember to keep a pair of walking shoes close by, and you should be able to beat that cursor every time.
Have another way that helps you deal with writer’s block? Make sure to note it in the comments below.
Anastasia Parsons is a seasoned communications specialist based in Reston, VA, who currently works as part of an internal marketing agency for a software solutions organization. For nearly 15 years, Anastasia has provided content creation and management strategies for a variety of organizations in both the non-profit and corporate sectors. She has been highly involved – and in some cases the mastermind behind – award-winning marketing and communications concepts and campaigns. In her free time, Anastasia enjoys reading, spending time with her friends and family, and writing about making life bigger for her blog, LivingWide.net. She is also actively in the process of completing her first novel. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of Georgia and will earn her Masters of Arts in Communication through The Johns Hopkins University in Spring 2015. You can find Anastasia on LinkedIn.