If you were the sixth grader who wrote creative mysteries that dazzled teachers and won high positioning on your family's home refrigerator (like me), congratulations.
Fast forward to today where you’ve been asked to write a press release or op-ed and you struggle to find the words to begin. Your writing abilities have now come into question as your mind goes blank. UGH. You grab the side of your head hoping the brilliant computer inside will spit out something beautiful, anything ... but nothing. I've been here before, believe me.
Take heart because you are among the best and rest of us. You are experiencing the common, frustrating symptom of writer's block. How do you improve? Answer: Relax and prepare in advance if your project is approaching deadline. You can also select from these 21 tips offered by Heidi Cohen in this April 30 PR Daily article, "21 Ways to Keep Your Writing Sharp:"
1. Create a list of articles you want to write but don't have time. It's easy to get inspired about other topics when the pressure's on to write about something else. There's nothing like a deadline to make anything else seem exciting.
2. Feed your mind. Read a book, blogs or news sites to get ideas. This isn't an excuse to get a snack or other indulgence.
3. Develop a story around a trending topic, even if it's not your area of focus. The objective is to find a way to write about the hot topic. This can be useful when you need to keep your content relevant.
4. Keep a swipe file. Sign up for a range of newsletters that focus on your beat to see what other writers and bloggers cover. Save articles that provide new insights or formats for inspiration. This doesn't mean you should copy someone else's ideas or articles.
5. Collect relevant questions about your topic. Think like you're writing an endless FAQ. A list of questions gives you a hook to build your content around. This is particularly useful for blogs and company content.
6. Get a head start. Before you quit a writing session, write down the ideas you have for the next one. Form them into an outline and add it to your current document to make it easy for you to pick up where you left off.
7. Remove distractions. Close your social media sites, chat and email. It's useful to have a dedicated space for writing.
8. Make an appointment to write. Set your timer or alarm for a specific time. That's when you have to start writing.
9. Change writing environments. If you always write at your kitchen table, try writing at a coffee shop or local library.
10. Seek inspiration. Do something that provides you with a muse. Go to a play or museum.
11. Write a piece using someone else's title. The goal isn't to steal another writer's work, but to force yourself to write with someone else's framework. You can also do this with one of your own articles. Force yourself to write a second piece that's completely different from the first but has the same title.
12. Tell a story. One way to make your writing memorable is to turn it into a story. Include a beginning, middle and end. Even if you're writing about research, you need to make it memorable. Here are some storytelling tips and inspiration for 29 types of corporate stories.
13. Break complex topics into smaller chunks. Sometimes you need to have more manageable goals. A complicated topic might work well if you divide it into multiple targeted topics.
14. Start where the energy is. You don't have to write everything in order or start at the beginning. Begin where you're inspired.
15. Leave room for discussion. You don't need to say everything there is to say about your topic.
16. Use a human voice. When you read your writing, does it sound like something a real person would say or did you let it devolve into corporate gibberish? If your writing is boring, people won't read it no matter how important your points are.
17. Write in an active voice. The goal is to make your writing as strong as possible. Your article will lose a lot of vitality if you overuse the passive voice.
18. Skip the four letter words. While it's good to use a human voice, it's poor form to fill your writing with a lot of slang and curses. Although they attract attention, it's not always the type you want.
19. Let it rest. If you've been pounding away on a piece for a while, take a break. This doesn't mean you should abandon your work. Get the main points down and wait a bit before you edit.
20. Read your article out loud. It's amazing how many errors you'll find.
21. Check your spelling and usage. While most people write on a computer, it's critical to make sure you used the correct words. Spell checkers can't tell the difference between they're, their or there since all three are spelled correctly.
We hope these suggestions give you more hope and less frustration in the journey of writing. Is there another tip you find helpful in relieving writer’s block? Let us know with your comments!
By Nicole Hayes
Nicole brings a strong background in consumer outreach, partnership development and media relations to McKinney & Associates. Many of her communications strategies were cultivated during her work with international public relations agency Fleishman Hillard Inc., where she developed and implemented strategies and media relations outreach for large consumer and government clients.
With her skilled foundation, Nicole sought a career to support her core belief that people make the best investments and launched her own D.C.-based media relations consultancy, Pieces of Life, to serve small businesses and non-profit organizations. She is committed to the mission that drives McKinney and its clients.