Pop quiz, hotshot. You need to write copy for an article that must be handed over within 24 hours. It needs to be interesting, clever, and should resonate with others, but no ideas come to mind. What do you do? What do you do?
Enter writer’s block—to copywriters, not short of the cinematic drama and anxiety Jack Traven would feel while trying to keep a bus full of people alive against the clock in the movie Speed. Ok, maybe I’m being a little dramatic, but keeping the creativity alive and productivity going DOES seem next to impossible when all you can think of is that dreaded clock. The barrier feels even larger if you have the tendency to copyedit and tear away at any idea before it even hits a document. How do you bust through the block and keep the ideas flowing?
Like my colleague Semira tells it in her post, Learn how to find your writing flow, you need to start with an ideal writing atmosphere. Personally, I prefer someplace quiet so I can focus. Once you’re in that zone, here are a couple of tips to get the creative juices going —
- Light a spark. It’s true. You can’t force creativity. But knowing creativity doesn’t develop in a vacuum, you CAN create an environment that’s conducive to creative thought. Take a note from one of America’s great novelists Jack London, “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”
Generally, it’s good practice to keep a list of ideas on hand that you can populate when you’re feeling inspired for referencing later. If you can’t think of a good topic or angle to your story, you can search for examples online. Check out blogs or other forums and see what is (or is not) being said about a topic, and start to gather ideas and develop a stance.
- Find your North Star. Jotting down thoughts without a clear direction is like treading water without land in sight. You’re going to lose time, you’re going to get frustrated, and you’re not going to be very successful. Before putting pen to paper, so to speak, you need to hone in on a very specific question that addresses a verified pain point. A general topic like technology or digital marketing just won’t do. There are thousands of things you can say about those topics, and it’s hard to narrow down those ideas without a clear target. Once you narrow the topic you’d like to write about, it will act like your North Star and help you come up with some great ideas to support your point of view.
- Silence the voices inside your head. If you’re analytical like me, chances are it’s very easy for you to poke holes into ideas before they come to fruition. An excellent talent for perfecting something that already exists; not very helpful for getting ideas to flow. Ignore those impulses and dump your ideas onto paper. Even if they’re only bullets at first. You can elaborate on the ideas you like and cut or clean up what you don’t like later.
- Take a break. Once you’ve got some thoughts down or you happen to hit another roadblock, step away for a while. It may seem counterintuitive if you’ve got a tight timeline, but stepping away from your work will save you time. When you stare at something for too long, you get swept up in the details and can lose sight of something else that isn’t working. Ideas flow better with fresh eyes and a renewed perspective.
- Think outside the box. It’s very cliché, but creativity does get stifled when you approach a question or topic in a very conventional way. Shift your focus and you can pick up ideas that correlate to the point you want to get across from unexpected places. Writers get inspired by movies, books, situational experiences, walks, even kids. Give it a shot and see if it loosens you up and inspires your writing with a fresh outlook.