09 Oct 2017
8 ways to overcome the dreaded writer’s block
Writer’s block – all copywriters have, at some stage in their careers, stumbled into the big, black void of nothingness.
“Neurotic inhibitions of productivity” - as psychiatrist Edmund Bergler dubbed it - writer’s block is a wordsmith’s greatest affliction.
Whether it drives you to psychosis, means not making rent, or more likely – and less despairingly – means missing a deadline, there’s good news.
It can be overcome.
Even the greatest writers of our time have experienced it, dealt with it and figured out ways to avoid it.
Here are 8 tips for getting over the hump straight from the horses’ mouths:
Write now. Think later.
Put your pen to paper, fingers to keyboard and start writing. Worry about quality later. What’s important is that you’re getting your creative juices flowing. Catherine Clifford writes: “Don’t wait for perfect words. If every sentence has to be a flawless work of art, then you will sit in fear. The sweat might pour, but the words won’t come. Just start writing words on the page. Know that once you have started, you can go back and revise what you have.”
Don’t follow the rules
As Andy Maslen will tell you, writing is “fenced in by rules like thorny brambles around a castle housing a slumbering princess.”
Don’t let the rules get in the way of expressing a message effectively, or at all, for that matter.
“If a rule prevents me from writing the line I think will achieve the client’s stated commercial goal, do I shrug my shoulders and say, ‘Oh well, rules is rules’ and write something else? No. I ignore it and carry on regardless.”
Stop while you’re ahead
“The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day … you will never be stuck. Always stop while you are going good and don’t think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start.”
Ernest Hemingway said that, natch.
Write like no one’s watching
As Erica Jong writes in The New Writer’s Handbook, “Blocks usually stem from the fear of being judged. If you imagine the world listening, you'll never write a line. That's why privacy is so important. You should write first drafts as if they will never be shown to anyone.”
Write the truth
“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”
Okay, also Hemingway. Once that first sentence is down, go on from there and keep writing.
Don’t stop the beat
Go with the flow, even if there’s a noticeable lack of inspiration.
“Never stop writing because you have run out of ideas. Fill the lacunae of inspiration by tidily copying out what is already written.”
And that's from Walter Benjamin.
Go for a walk
If writing is putting you through your paces, Jeff Goins says a change of scenery will get you back to where you need to be to produce inspired copy.
Last resort - the bottle
If all else fails, do as Ogilvy does and “drink half a bottle of rum and play a Handel oratorio on the gramophone. This generally produces an uncontrollable gush of copy."