Curing Writer’s Block – How To Write When The White Screen Stares back

Reading Time: 7 minutes

We’ve all had it. As a professional writer, sometimes I’m asked to write about topics that may not be the most enthralling. Most times, I write about things Im’ passionate about – both hates and loves. That passion inspires me when I open up the MacBook. Curing writer’s block is not often a problem for me. I am lucky.

Sometimes though, it just isn’t there. The clock is ticking, I have an editor, a client or simply myself to answer to, so simply making yet another coffee and strolling over to the window isn’t going to cut it.

You need to break that blockage in your creativity and push some words out. And not merely words that get you checking the word count every sentence, we need words that actually are worth reading. And worth a client paying you to create.

Here’s how to cure writer’s block and avoid it starting at all

Begin by stacking the field in your favour. We all have times of the day when we are more alert, more creative and more likely to produce good work. Nick Littlehale’s book ’Sleep’ was a fascinating read for me, as not only does he write about sleep in a unique way, he also talks about our natural rhythms that we all have. I’m not an insomniac, but it was a useful read and it helped me work out my own natural active times.

Write when you are most likely to be alert, inspired and productive. I’m a Morning Person. I often wake at 5 or 6 am and can be busy just ten minutes later. By mid morning, I’m slowing and my Magic Mouse is wandering over to the check email icon.

Have tools to hand to record your thoughts as they appear. You know how you’re driving, or in a supermarket, or worst of all, just dozing off in bed. And that thought hits you. No, not, “I’ve left the oven on! That thought for a feature or blog post that you’d been trying to grasp. Stop whatever it is you are doing and make a note of it. I’ve written before about the top content creation tools I use and how Evernote is great for capturing thoughts anywhere. Use it. Driving? Make a voice note.

Set Your Workspace Out To Write. Above all, remove distractions. For me this involves shutting down my email software, turning the sound off on my iPhone for social media mentions and putting on the music that makes me write. Music that makes me write? Correct.

I’ve no idea why but classical music helps me to write. I’m not a fan of classics, have never been to a classic concert. Somehow it works. Put on Shakira, James Bay or Beyonce, all artists I like and it strangely doesn’t work.

Go Figure.

Find Your Perfect Writing Space. I’m quite fortunate that if I do the two things above, I can write most places. One other element I enjoy is a window with a view. Some writers prefer to work with a blank wall ahead of them. For me, I find that when I pause, having a window to gaze out of for a moment helps me fire up again. It also helps refocus my eyes, I make a distinct effort to find two points in parallax, one closer than the other, then cycle my eyesight focus between the two, back and forth.

Then I put my head back into the keyboard and write.

The above devices are all things you can do to stack the odds in your favour and optimise your chances of never having that fear in your chest as the blank screen stares back at you.

Curing writers block. Find your perfect writing space. I prefer a view, others a blank wall
Find your perfect writing space. I prefer a view, others a blank wall

So what if you’ve done all of that and it doesn’t work.

Well if you really, really struggle with writing but you know that it’s something you need, drop me a line to talk about your project.

But don’t be too disheartened, persevere.

Hopefully, it happens rarely, so if it does, try the following.

Hook back into and read over your Evernote notes and see what your original thoughts on the subject are. When I’m writing Porsche 911 features for example, I have my personal experiences to refer back to as a comparison to the car I’ve just driven, so often right afterwards, I grab those thoughts from my head and set them down in Evernote.

That thought may well be something that makes no sense and will never reach publication. It doesn’t matter. The notes will be what I felt, heard, smelled, thought at that moment. That note will be what breaks your silence.

Making notes to help prevent writers block
Everyone has a preferred way to make notes.

Look at the brief you were given. Chances are if you’re struggling with it, it’s because the story may not be your favourite subject. However, you will probably have an opinion on it, so start with that.

Stop thinking about what your editor may want. They gave you the gig because they like your stuff. So write that.

Don’t try and be particularly corporate, very ‘on message’ or other banal terms. Write what you think, what you feel on the subject. Even if you are writing for a brand and have guidelines to stay within, write with your personality, as that is the reason you were given the gig in the first place.

As soon as you’ve cracked it and the keyboard is clicking, DO NOT STOP. Keep writing writing.

Never mind typos, never mind paragraph breaks, never mind if it flows or makes sense. Write until you are no longer able to and you grind to a halt.

There that wasn’t to bad was it? Now, look up from that keyboard and only now are you allowed to click the word count.

If you’re in the zone, you should certainly have the makings of an article there. Now you have two choices. If you feel the urge and there are words in your head and fingertips, keep writing. Feel the need to pause? Stop and read what it is you’ve just written.

You’ll probably see that the thoughts in your head have poured out onto the page. Take a read, correct the obvious clangers, but leave the typos. You’re probably now inspired to go again at that keyboard.

A final thing. If you’re an aspiring motoring writer, read And The Revs Keep Rising by Mel Nichols. Quite simply, this is the best investment you will make. If you have a fraction of his talent, you will stop writing about the Look At Me, Me, Me style of car writing so prevalent today. Instead start talking about what it smelled like, how warm the sun was through the windscreen on your face and how the front tyres gripped all the way into the apex of the corner as you blipped that perfect heel toe….

See what I mean?

Now, all of the above was written in less than 30 minutes. Honestly.

When the emotion is there, don’t stop writing about your subject

How did I do it?

Simply because one of my sons, who’s a talented cameraman, hates writing and yet had an idea for a script. Talking to him, he was over thinking it and trying to look up resources online. And yet the chat we’d had on the phone showed that the story was right there in his head, I could tell he had enthusiasm for it. He simply needed to get it out.

So in between pinging him text messages on what to do, the idea for this article came into my head. It was an article I had been meaning to write for some time as it’s a subject I am often asked about, yet hadn’t thought it important enough. My son’s concern on the phone reminded me that there are a great many people out there who dread the thought of writing anything other than a shopping list or a happy birthday Facebook message.

“So what if I am not a natural writer?”

The above will help bring out your thoughts and you may discover that actually, you can write. It’s simply that you were so nervous at the prospect of starting that you never began. Try it.

However, there is a limit. Some people simply cannot and if that’s you, it doesn’t make you a bad person.

Acknowledging that you need someone to do this is a good thing.

You might like to contact me to discuss writing for your brand, publication or business.

Think of it like asking me to take on a job you’re not good at, such as fitting a heating boiler, or writing about football.

I detest DIY, especially plumbing and am fearful of water leaks and other issues. When I needed a new heating system, I hired a professional and turned my attentions to what I am good at, going deep on my skills and leaving them to do what they’re good at. A far more effective use of my time.

As for football. I could actually write about football, but you may not like it. The copy would be passionate, in the context of how much I dislike the genre and the people that are attracted to the laddish mentality it creates. I wouldn’t be writing about The Beautiful Game and for sure, it would be passionate.

I hope this helps you if you worry about writer’s block, if you are trying to find a way to create content regularly or if you think you cannot write. Most people find that they can actually get by once the floodgates open.

If that isn’t you and you need someone to write copy for you that actually hits the spot and says what you had in mind but struggled to articulate, then drop me a line.

Use the contact for here or simply pick up the phone. It’s surprising how much ground we could cover in a quick chat.

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Author: Neill Watson

Neill Watson is a professional writer, photographer and driver coach. He is the founder and editor of Historic Racer and the popular Car Photographer blog. Learn more about him and connect with him on the social media channel of your choice using the symbols below or sign up for Neill's regular email newsletter.

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