So when writing doesn’t come naturally, quickly or easily, the term writer’s block is used. Incorrectly.
The best thing to do is to put the pen down, get away from the computer. Take a break and come back. If it’s a good piece it will come to you.
But writer’s block is a misnomer. Writer’s block is simply an inability to produce original written content. People who say they have writer’s block are really just not sure what to write.
Every author, blogger, columnist, reporter, or copy writer I know has a lot to say and to write. I can’t remember being in a newsroom where a reporter said, “I don’t know what to write.”
The words are there…formed from thoughts, opinions, dreams, emotions. The fear that what will be said is not interesting or intelligent or fascinating is usually the problem.
Most people who say they have writer’s block haven’t thought about what to write, how to write it or haven’t organized thoughts in words.
There is help for writer’s block and here are a few simple tips:
1. Just because you sing, doesn’t make you a singer.
Writing is like basketball: Lots of people play basketball, but few play well, or professionally. Just because somebody can pass a ball, run down court, or take a pass doesn’t mean they’re a basketball player. I shoot around once, maybe, twice a year. I am not a basketball player.
Writing is a skill, a trade and a profession honed over many years in college and as a full-time career. The next time you want to tell someone you’re a professional writer and you’ve got writer’s block, tell LeBron you play basketball, too.
2. Read a newspaper.
Reading an online newspaper will absolutely improve writing skills. Read any section and pop through the stories. You’ll see a pattern, hopefully. Newspapers use proper grammar and punctuation. Spelling, sentence structure and style are predetermined to mandate uniformity.
Well-written newspaper stories tell readers in the first sentence what a story is about. Who, what, where, when, why and how should be explained, told to the reader within the first paragraph. The headline abbreviates the story.
Read a newspaper once a day for 15 minutes and your writing skills and reading comprehension will improve.
3. Hire a professional if you want professional results.
Everybody isn’t good at everything. That’s why we hire doctors and lawyers because they went to school to become qualified and trained in their fields. They studied. They were taught by experts. Plumbers, electricians, builders are certified in knowledge.
Writers are professionals with expertise that extends beyond the average person’s ability.
Doubt it? Go ahead. Write your own content. The first time a typo pops up or a grammatical error appears, incorrect or improper language is used, you could lose a client. Better yet, embarrass yourself and your team with a great headline with a double entendre you never intended. Worse yet, write a headline that no one reads.
You would never consider putting your reputation on the line in a courtroom in front of a judge and jury. So don’t leave the success and image of your company to chance or turn it over to a neophyte.
Sales, appearance, e-commerce, revenue, repeat clients are looking at what your business appearance online. Hire a professional writer to position, brand and advertise your company.
4. “I can’t write.” You’re probably right.
Everybody can write and at some point has to write. Unfortunately, many very bad writers are sorely mistaken about their ability. But, they write anyway. Rule of thumb: If you think you’re bad, you are.
Back to basketball: If you shoot around with friends once a week, you’ll be better at the end of the year. Write every once in a while. Work at it little by little. Keep notes to organize thoughts and ideas and use them as an outline as you write.
Keep what you’ve written and look at it after a month. You could really suck at it when you start, but if you put something into words regularly, use a dictionary, spell check, and practice, like anything else you work at it, you’ll improve.
But you will have only mastered a basic writing ability. Just because you can write, doesn’t mean you should write.
5. Writing should be like talking.
Writing=words. You either put them together well, or you don’t. Writing is like talking but on paper or on a computer. Writing should be as simple as talking. Thankfully, for many, it’s not. But it can be.
People should write the way they speak. But if you babble, curse, hem, uh, well, and, then, umm, like, when you talk, chances are good that you’ll be a horrible writer. But that just means you don’t think before you talk. A common occurrence that goes hand in hand with those who lack the edit mode.
Think about what to write, how to write it and organize thoughts–then, put them into words. Say it out loud and write it down as you say it. If it’s still awful. Stop, now. Push away from the computer and hire a writer.
6. It is that simple.
Write what you want to say and get it out there. OK, so it’s not great. And after further review by friends and family (who aren’t pros either) it’s not good, at all.
If you’re truly a writer, writing is never done. It can always be improved, rewritten, edited. But keep it simple. Say what you mean, use short sentences and for Pete’s sake, please don’t use big words. If you have to use a dictionary to understand what a word means, don’t stick it in a sentence.
But do use spell check, please. If after you write something and you don’t like what you wrote after reading it, put it aside or start over. It doesn’t get better with time.
Worst case, at least let a pro proofread your website when you finish writing content. You can’t catch everything.
6. Writing can’t be forced.
Writing takes concentration. It also requires an above average understanding and mastery of language and knowledge of proper English usage. Mood, attention span and energy level absolutely affect writers the same as any other professional.
Dog walkers may not feel perky in the morning, so they take evening gigs. Engineers may put out their best work before lunch. Florists or chefs may need quiet while creating masterpieces. Coffee consumption or time of day affect attention and the ability to concentrate.
If you’ve suffered a loss or had a bad day, or you’re sick, writing won’t happen–unless you’re a professional. It’s job and it has to be done. Good writers can offer command performances.
If writing comes easily and it’s a first attempt, be worried. Be very, very worried.
7. That’s right, writing won’t come easily.
If you want to write well, you have to work at it, study it, practice it. You need to learn grammar, punctuation, spelling, study writer’s and style guides, write for years, receive formal instruction and regular critiques to fine tune writing skills.
So, you have writer’s block while writing content for your website? It’s OK, you’re not a writer. Let a professional handle it. Everybody isn’t good at everything. Those who believe they are, need only ask someone who is an expert.
“An expert is someone who knows some of the worst mistakes that can be made in his subject and how to avoid them.”
–Werner Heisenberg, Physics and Beyond–
(German theoretical physicist who made foundational contributions to quantum mechanics, nuclear physics and is best known for asserting the uncertainty principle of quantum theory.)