How to Abolish Writer’s Block

You sit at the computer, fingers twitching over the keyboard. You’re ready to start writing. But, no matter how hard you squeeze your gray matter, nothing comes out.

Absolutely nothing.

You’ve been hit with dreaded writer’s block, the bane of all writers everywhere.

Here’s what science fiction writer and Carnegie Medal recipient Terry Pratchett said about writer’s block …

“There’s no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write.”

— Terry Pratchett

I don’t agree with Pratchett’s snide comments about Californians. (After all, I am one!) But, I do agree about writer’s block.

I do not believe in writer’s block. You shouldn’t either. As freelancers, we can’t afford to. Writing is our livelihood, and we can’t indulge ourselves like that.

More importantly, this phrase carries a hidden danger having more to do with imagery and belief than with the act of writing.

The word “block” conjures an image of a huge concrete cube. Can’t get over it. Can’t go ‘round it. Can’t get under it.

If you give into the idea of writer’s block, you accept the image of an insurmountable barrier to your writing, your livelihood, your success.

There is a solution. Successful copywriters have developed strategies for blasting the “challenge of the blank page.” (I like that term better. Don’t you?)

Here are five Blank Page Blasters for overcoming this challenge that will get you writing quickly when faced with a blank page or computer screen.

Blank Page Blaster #1: Determine where you are …

Your first step in overcoming the challenge of the blank page is a quick one: Figure out where you are in the process.

Let’s say you’re at the very beginning of your writing. You have no idea how to begin or even what approach to take. Your ideas are all jumbled up.

When faced with these challenges at the beginning of writing, I know one thing is for certain. You don’t have a strong enough compelling idea. You don’t have enough details.

Solution: As eager as you might be to get on with your writing, you must do more research. Even if a deadline looms large, the time you spend expanding your knowledge and understanding of your product, the prospect, and the prospect’s core emotions, the easier and faster your writing will go.

Blank Page Blaster #2: Let “chunks” get half your copy written …

So, let’s say you’ve done tons of research. You have a compelling idea, and you have a good outline. You may even have written a bunch of headlines. But, you’re stuck. Your lead is nowhere to be found.

Now what?

Jen Stevens, John Forde, and I talked at Bootcamp a couple of weeks ago about a strategy that can get you writing with confidence.

All promotional copy has standard components that are easier to write than “hard stuff up front.” These chunks of copy include testimonials, false close, price reveal, guarantee, call to action, guru bio information, and order device.

These chunks don’t change in concept much from one promo to another. So, you can lift ones you’ve already used in an earlier promo and drop them into your current one.

When you do that, your letter is already a third to half written before you start writing the harder stuff like your lead.

The confidence of having that much written relieves stress and gives you confidence. And, that’s often enough to get you rolling right through the harder stuff.

And, if you’re writing your first promotion and don’t have your own copy to lift from?

Get inspiration from other copy for similar products. In other words, dip into your swipe files.

Blank Page Blaster #3: Change the scenery …

The challenge of the blank page doesn’t always hit when you’re faced with a blank page. Sometimes you get stuck getting the next paragraph started. Frustration sets in. Nothing comes.

Give yourself a change of scenery. Get away from wherever you write.

Exercise. (The increased oxygen flow works wonders.) Take a shower. (The negative ions stimulate feelings of well-being and increase creativity.) Go for a walk. Take a nap.

But, when you’re doing these change-of-scenery activities, do not try to find a solution to your writing challenge. Good ideas arise on the edges of consciousness … not when you’re searching for them.

(An example from my life: I was struggling to find a way to transition to this section. So, I went to feed our cat Mr. Skitters and get a cup of coffee. Five minutes later, I have 102 words written!)

Blank Page Blaster #4: Give yourself some time …

When you’re really stuck, sometimes the only solution is to “sleep on it.” During sleep, your subconscious mind creates ways around your problem. When you waken, the answer to your challenge is often right in front of you.

But, your mind can be a tricky fellow. That solution can fade quickly. So, be prepared to trap it. Keep pen and paper or a small voice recorder next to your bed.

Blank Page Blaster #5: Give yourself permission to be imperfect …

My final Blank Page Blaster is the easiest to imagine but the hardest for any writer to accept.

We want our words to be perfect as they appear on the page. This mindset is a recipe for inaction. Instead, take the advice of American historian Jacques Barzun …

“Convince yourself that you are working in clay, not marble, on paper not eternal bronze: Let that first sentence be as stupid as it wishes.”

I’d love to hear what Blank Page Blasters you’ve found effective. Tell us in the comment section. Our readers and I are eager to hear them.

Next week, we’ll be talking about an idea I learned from Mike Palmer at Bootcamp this year. It’s one I never heard before, and I’m sure it will help you write more confidently.

Until then …

 … Keep writing!

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Published: October 26, 2015

7 Responses to “How to Abolish Writer’s Block”

  1. I always have a chat with my prospect - often over a cup of coffee. I start every project by creating an "imaginary friend" (a skill I honed growing up an only child) of my prospect. By the end of our first conversation I know her (or his) name, age, marital status, kind of car, hobbies, political beliefs, extended family ... and on and on. Whether at the beginning, middle or end of the project, my "friend" helps me along the way. She confesses her innermost thoughts and I respond .... on that blank page.

    Guest (Cheryl Ewing)

  2. Writer's block? What a crock...

    Forget self-serving success for a moment. Focus instead on striving to serve others when even the remnants OF success can't be enjoyed by those less moved TO succeed.

    Heed sweet surrender to burdening local particulars w/o which our mind's momentum can't be anathematized by the benevolent throes from our universal waves. The stuff in which stars are born.

    Guest (Chris Morris)

  3. My comment is in-between blasters 3 & 4. It is always best to wait a day or two to proof-read your work as you will see it in a new light and often get great ideas for improving what you've already written. This applies to those parts you haven't yet written. Further, if you have a writing partner or group, running ideas past them can help get you going again if you are blank.

    Guest (Sue Coulson)

  4. Your solution Go THROUGH when around over and under don't work. I agree. I look at the block by enhancing the sleeping on it aspect. Then at 4AM the pantsing Aha moment can free your writers' block paralysis


  5. Great ideas Will! I use them all the time!

    I hope to write a guest article for AWAI soon about how I "captured the subconscious input" (including writing notes in the dark after I awakened in the middle of the night)--as I found that was very important to me as a writer.

    Christine Hoeflich

    Guest (Christine Hoeflich)

  6. By the time I fear a block's coming on, I've always learned quite a few things about my topic. I remind myself of that as soon as I feel dry or panicked. Then I write down the things I've learned that seem most compelling. I may even slow down to polish those nuggets. As soon as I have a few pieces of the good stuff written down, I start getting ideas about what order these bits and pieces should go in. And suddenly -- whee! -- I'm writing.


  7. I turn my brain off. I stare at the screen without seeing it, just being... An image of some sort pops up inside my mind. (To paraphrase an old description from Richard Bach) The image grabs me by the throat and does not let go until I agree to paint its picture with words. It is one pivotal moment of... the life story of that image.

    Guest (Valerie)

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