writers block

Writing for the Blocked, Bored & Balky

I don't get to work at 6:00 in the morning so I don't get to leave around 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon. If I'm not out at meetings, my late afternoons are a struggle between "I CANNOT begin a new writing project at 3:37!" and "I CANNOT putz around and waste time just because I don't have it in me to start something new right now."

What ta do, what ta do?

Submitted here in all their practical glory, are some of my late afternoon go to's for when you have to get stuff done, but can't BEGIN to get big stuff done...

Block. Outline. Plan. Maybe you can't plunge into your copy and get it all done in one fell swoop as you might at the beginning of your day, but you can certainly draft an outline and get a little good concepting time in. And when you're not forcing yourself to work a project from start to finish, this actually frees you up to explore some new ideas and get a little freakier than you might otherwise.

(SIDEBAR: "concepting" is a word, Word. Quit autocorrecting me.)

Headlines. Subheads. Callouts. You know that brochure that's due this week will need them. Consider this your copywriting amuse bouche. They are small, manageable and you'll be that much farther along when you come in tomorrow morning and start on that 16-page behemoth all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. See also, "get a little freakier …" from above.

Reach Out & Touch Someone. Not literally. At least not where I work, but I don't know how you roll where you are, so … maybe? What I'm talking about in my 1970s, AT&T metaphorical way, is tending to that correspondence you're always putting off. Set up some coffees and lunches with contacts and friends you haven't seen in a while. Get on LinkedIn and Twitter and comment. "Engage" as the marketers like to say. It's writing/work that needs to get done and if you can't be billable, you may as well be sociable and get yourself and your company out there.

What do you do when you start getting pouty and still have several hours left in the day, friends?

Sharpen Up Your Writer's Block!

Some amateurs think writer’s block comes naturally. 

Fact is, you can – consciously or unconsciously – make almost any project more difficult. (And anything worthwhile reflects the effort that goes into it, right?)

Here are some surefire ways I’ve found to make those special projects even more worthwhile.

1. Start with lots of research. The less focus, the better. Google your topic. Save up articles. Request competitive literature. To be considered a Subject Matter Expert, you can never know too much.

2. Keep an open mind. Find as many different perspectives as you can find. Feint. Misdirection. A new approach. No need to jump to conclusions.

3. Psyche yourself out. Only think of this project in insurmountable terms. Complicated. Complex. Herculean, even. After all, if it was easy, anyone could do it.

4. Whine a bit to colleagues. Professionally, not pitiably, of course. Just a hint to let them know you’re well-respected enough to earn the tough assignment.

5. Wait for your muse. That spark of inspiration. The proverbial light bulb. Your flash of brilliance.

6.  Take a stab at it. In short, sporadic bursts. Most productive if sandwiched between less important activities. Like checking email. Freshening coffee. Trimming your nails.

7. Let it linger. You only start cold once, but a few weeks on the back burner can bring on a good chill. It’s like the thrill of a new assignment, but without the thrill.

8. Make it right. Every word. Every phrase. Every pause. Remember, your final product will be a sum of these parts.

9. Get an extension. You’re creative, right? Surely you can come up with a credible excuse for not meeting the deadline. 

10. Social media. It’s all the rage. Especially among communications types. In fact, I’d better go check Facebook now …

If I come up with other tips, I’ll tweet about it.