If you’re reading this, you probably already have a good idea as to why content writing is so important. We use content to share news, stories, ideas and information, to build credibility, to persuade, to bring attention to something important — the list goes on.

But there’s no denying that writing can be hard. The feared writer’s block can rear its ugly head at any time. It doesn’t care about deadlines, or how important a piece might be. No, it will do everything in its power to keep you from putting words on paper (or on a computer screen).

Luckily, there are ways to defeat it — or if not defeat it, at least work around it. Here are five strategies to take on writer’s block and come out the other side with good content.

1. Brainstorm

Having trouble figuring out what you want to write? Take fifteen minutes to put down as many ideas as you can — the more, the better. As you go on, you’ll find that your ideas often become more creative or interesting. Don’t worry about whether the ideas are good or not; even a bad idea can inspire a good one. Once you have a list of options in front of you, it’s easier to figure out which direction(s) to pursue.

2. Outline

If you have a general idea of what to write, but don’t know how to organize it, outlining is the best starting place. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or formal — a bare-bones bulleted list works just as well as the tiered outline with roman numerals you learned in school. The important thing is to put down all the information you wish to cover in your piece. Once you have everything in front of you, you can group together concepts that make sense, and move pieces around until you have a compelling narrative. And voila! You have a roadmap from which to work.

3. Start with the easy parts first

Starting can be the hardest part of a project. Sometimes, just looking at a blank page and knowing how much work is ahead is enough to make a writer balk — or want to just go back to sleep. For this reason, starting from the easy parts can help a lot. There’s no rule that says you have to write your first draft in sequential order, starting at the beginning. With any project, there will naturally be parts that are more intuitive or interesting to you as a writer. Take advantage of that, and you can build momentum towards tackling the sections that are more challenging later on. Once you have a piece partially written, it becomes less intimidating — after all, you’re not starting from scratch anymore!

And as a related tip, don’t get hung up on words or sentences that are giving you trouble. Agonizing over exact phrasing in the moment can derail your writing momentum. Put the gist of what you’re trying to say [in brackets] to denote that it’s a placeholder, and keep going. You can come back to it later to fine tune it. Just make sure you’ve addressed all of your brackets when you’re done, or you may get some awkward questions from your editor.

4. Write a bad draft

When the words just aren’t coming, give yourself permission to write a bad draft. Don’t just turn off your inner critic. Actively subvert it. Make jokes. Use internet slang. Write it how you would explain it to a good friend over drinks. No one is going to see this draft but you. So, go ahead and write something totally casual that you would never want to see published. 

The key here is that once you have the basic ideas written down, you can go back and polish the piece so that it’s fit for publication. After all, it’s easier to fix something (even something bad) than nothing (the blank document you would otherwise have). And you just might find that somewhere in the process, you stopped writing badly and started just writing.

5. Talk it over

When all else fails, talk over your project with someone else. This helps on a number of levels. Trying to explain your project out loud can help you see something that you missed when it was just in your head. Alternatively, another person can ask helpful questions, or provide a different perspective that you hadn’t considered. You don’t need to have all the answers — if you’re struggling with something, see if someone you know has ideas. At the very least, you can brainstorm solutions together. Frequently, your work will be stronger for it.

Topics: HDMZ