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How do you deal with that nagging writer's block?

Discussion in 'Copywriting' started by Content Maestro, Dec 16, 2014.

  1. #1
    Sometimes words simply don't come out! You have this long copy to be delivered in the next 24 hours, the client is pressing you like hell to finish it off, you've all the reference material you need to complete the job but …. what the heck!? You're just not able to put anything down! :O The flow of your creative juices has totally dried up and you feel no inspiration whatsoever. You figure that taking some time off would set everything right and leave the work. Later, when back, you see things haven't changed much. Your brains are still not responding! As the deadline is approaching closer, you hurriedly start working and race through till it's done. You're not happy with the end product at all. However, you send the copy as it is and what's expected most probably happens - the client is back with a ton of complaints and wants the piece to be written again.:) You edit, edit, edit, edit …. this goes on till the client is pissed off and ultimately withdraws work!
    Well, this is something everyone of us has certainly experienced in some way or the other. Not exactly up to the point where one would lose work or clientele though, but it's surely not an uncommon event. For hours or even days together, you just don't feel like writing. That's exactly when the writer's block has swallowed you up and you can't write to save your life!

    Everyone must have their own way of dealing with this problem. I for one keep a diary of ideas and points always handy so that whenever my inspiration has withered, I've at least something that can keep me going about the work. I do, of course, delegate when it's possible, but most of the times, I'm not really happy with the copy I receive. I've to edit it heavily so that there's at least some resemblance to what the client expects. In the worst case, I outrightly tell my clients that I'll not be able to work for sometime. I know I'm laying myself on the line here but I try my best later to make up for the losses. Better not to deliver rather than delivering bad copy – that may be only me though.
    SEMrush
    So guys, how do you handle this situation? What works for you when you come across this nagging writer's block? Have you tried anything different? What do you feel is the best way out?
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2014
    Content Maestro, Dec 16, 2014 IP
    SEMrush
  2. dcristo

    dcristo Illustrious Member

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    #2
    Take a break or only take gigs that you are passionate about. Not always practical though.
     
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2014
    dcristo, Dec 16, 2014 IP
  3. ceenote100

    ceenote100 Active Member

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    #3
    I tend to think of some real life experiences I had with whatever I'm writing about and just tell stories. For ages people have been communicating ideas best through storytelling.
     
    ceenote100, Dec 16, 2014 IP
  4. Content Maestro

    Content Maestro Notable Member

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    #4
    Getting to write only for niches you're passionate about is not always easy unless you're a specialist. You have to go mostly with whatever the clients throw your way. Yes, but being passionate certainly helps to overcome this block to a sufficient degree. I, sometimes, try the other way around – developing a passion for the topic at hand but it usually takes a long time and isn't really a solution when strict adherence to deadlines is required.:)
     
    Content Maestro, Dec 16, 2014 IP
  5. Content Maestro

    Content Maestro Notable Member

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    #5
    Great suggestion.:) Real life experiences can prove to be a powerful asset for the writer esp. to give that personal touch to your copy. As for story-telling, I haven't though much about it as a way to grab ideas but on the whole, I feel it'll certainly help as your imaginative side is triggered esp. when coloring characters and building scenes.
     
    Content Maestro, Dec 17, 2014 IP
  6. T-Law

    T-Law Active Member

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    #6
    Taking time off helps me the most. Recharging batteries, having new experiences inspire me to write again. I also exercise regularly which also helps to clear out my head, what about yoga, running or gym?
     
    T-Law, Dec 17, 2014 IP
  7. Content Maestro

    Content Maestro Notable Member

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    #7
    What they say, I suppose, is right – 'Healthy mind in a healthy body'. Workouts do help me to stay focused.
     
    Content Maestro, Dec 17, 2014 IP
  8. benedictator

    benedictator Peon

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    #8
    Time off is a great idea that works for me too! After I recharge my batteries I work more effective and have more ideas. But some people just don't find it helpful at all. There is also this super-effective word that motivates me to work and it is a "deadline"! If I'm on a tight schedule I don't even think about writer's block. I just write, even the most stupid things, because they may lead to something brilliant!
     
    benedictator, Dec 17, 2014 IP
  9. jhmattern

    jhmattern Illustrious Member

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    #9
    I just switch gears and write something else. If I can't focus on a client project, I write a post for my blog. If I can't focus on my blogs, I might work on a client project earlier than planned. If I'm not "feeling" either, I'll work on a current manuscript or edit another. If you don't have several projects to pick from, write something unrelated to your work. Catch up on email. Write some short social media updates. Write in a journal. Or read something. You can never go wrong with reading. :)

    Taking a break can help, especially if you do something like take a walk. It gets the blood flowing, and it's a good environment for your mind to wander. Sometimes letting your subconscious take over leads to more creative work in the long run.

    And yes, being passionate about your work helps. If you don't enjoy your work, why not change something? If you're not a specialist, become one. The work is often more enjoyable if you specialize in something you love. You get paid significantly more. And you often have to take on fewer projects as a result (more money, fewer projects -- what's not to love about that?). But even with a specialty you love, you can sometimes burn out. If that happens because you're working too many hours to get by financially, it's time to re-think your rates. You're not targeting the right markets in that case, and either you'll find a way to fix that and target better clients, or you'll really burn out and end up quitting. It happens all the time. So sometimes writers' block is a symptom of a larger problem.
     
    jhmattern, Dec 17, 2014 IP
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  10. usemyteam

    usemyteam Member

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    #10
    Take a break. Refresh your eyes by looking at something green. Have a short walk around the house. Drink some water. Rest for 15-30 minutes.
     
    usemyteam, Dec 17, 2014 IP
  11. TextServices

    TextServices Active Member

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    #11
    Things that work for me:
    Go horseback riding, take our rent-a-pup for a walk, or pet my cat who recently decided to claim my lap as hers. (I find being around animals good for the soul.)
    Arts & crafts - Whether it is coloring, painting, little craft projects etc with my 2½ yr old daughter. If the block hits after she's gone to bed, I'll start Photoshop and start creating a cover image for a social media account, edit images, create a header for one of my sites, etc.
    Shoveling snow or just simply being outside. Fresh air and an activity do wonders to reboot your brain.
    Take a nap or go to bed early. Soak in a hot tub until I'm wrinkled like an old person. Forces the mind to shut down all non-essential functions.

    I used to think that if I write for one of my own sites, something completely unrelated to a client project, the block would start to crumble or dissolve completely. Sure, I can write, but when I reviewed what I wrote the next day, what I wrote wasn't as good as I know I'm capable of writing. So... I simply avoid writing completely until my mind is ready to write again.

    I do not schedule projects back to back. I'll write for one, either completely finish it or pause, get up and walk away from the computer and do something other than writing or researching, then come back and resume the first project or start the second project. My schedule used to be tight where I'd give myself time to use the restroom or eat quickly. I'd stress myself out. I just had to get everything done in the time I allowed for. I was on the mindset that the more projects completed in a week, the more money I earned that week. The problem was, the writing became forced and the end result suffered. When I loosened up on the schedule, I was more relaxed, more focused, and my writing was at the level I wanted it to be. Higher paying clients actually wanted me to write for them. I also experienced "writers block" less frequently then I did when I forced myself to write to satisfy some crazy schedule. It's been almost a year since my last block. Even then, I was "down" for not even 48hrs and I was back to full speed.


    I have bad days like everyone else. I can be my own worst enemy. It's not a "writers block" because I can write, I just completely hate the finished project or I want to say the "hell with it" and start a new career. Took awhile to recognize the triggers, but when I notice I'm slipping into the dark, negative thinking, I simply unplug from the computer, do something I enjoy (even something simple like taking a nap) and when I come back, I'm good to go.
     
    TextServices, Dec 17, 2014 IP
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  12. jrbiz

    jrbiz Illustrious Member

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    #12
    I am not a professional copywriter, but as a sales/marketing executive for small start-ups, I end up writing a lot. Sometimes it may be a marketing slick; other times it may be a thoughtful email that closes the six-figure deal. Many times (most times?) I do not feel like doing the writing as I would prefer to do something else. However, there are always deadlines and when it comes down to the last day, the writing has to be done, whether I am up for it or not. So, I guess I go through the various stages of grieving about having to spend the next few hours writing: anger, denial, etc. :)

    Then, my trick is to give myself a light at the end of the tunnel: I always promise myself some sort of reward for when I have finished the task. It might be doing a different project that I enjoy or it might be taking the family out to dinner that night. But I then force myself to sit down and start typing (acceptance stage of grief) and keep reminding myself of the good stuff to come when I am finished. It turns out that as I make progress with the writing, I get happier and happier because I know that I am closer and closer to my reward. Sometimes, when I have finished, I discover that I actually enjoyed most of the process. ;)
     
    jrbiz, Dec 17, 2014 IP
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  13. Content Maestro

    Content Maestro Notable Member

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    #13
    Thanks everyone for your replies.:)

    Deadlines certainly help if you don't allow yourself to be stressed out. Writer's block is not something you deliberately think of; I believe it comes to you on its own. Yes, making a fuss over it aggravates the situation, so I would agree that you should try to ignore it as much as you can. However, when nothing works, I try writing stupid things I figure will be appreciated by my client as a work of brilliance, but in my case, 99% of the time it backfires.:)
    There's a park studded with scenic flowers and greenery near my place where I usually drift when on a break and it does have a wonderful effect on me. When I'm back to work, the refreshment keeps me going for at least the next 3-4 hours.

    @jhmattern, I think it's a good idea to keep yourself busy with different types of projects. Switching can help you to take your mind off the boredom that usually comes when working for long on a single task. Work doesn't stop and time is managed better.
    @TextServices, you seem to have your own 'outside the box' ways of dealing with this issue. Good thing!:)
    @jrbiz, never though of rewarding myself till now, but next time I surely will.:) I guess I'm used to others doing it for me. When I was a full-time employee at a sales firm (before I started working as a freelancer), our employer used to arrange casual weekend outings for us whenever we met our targets before the deadline or exceeded them. That was one thing that sure enough motivated me to perform better.
     
    Content Maestro, Dec 17, 2014 IP
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  14. Alex Toll

    Alex Toll Active Member

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    #14
    I think, in the end, it's all purely individual.

    I play video games for 30 minutes whenever I'm out of ideas and don't feel like writing. It helps a lot and I even figured that different games help me with different types of copy:)

    Anything that can saturate your brain with oxygen and make it work faster - also helps: running, push ups, a short walk, etc. This is a small physiological tip that should help you out.

    Some people like to eat (not when they hungry, but simply because they're bored and can't keep working), but that's a death sentence for my writing - I get sleepy and lazy. Would not recommend:)
     
    Alex Toll, Dec 22, 2014 IP
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  15. Page3

    Page3 Member

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    #15
    I walk away from it and go do something else. In my experience, if it doesn't flow right out, then it's not going to. One thing that does help me is to turn some music on. Also, any writing projects I have, I start (and finish) them well in advance to avoid stressful situations.
     
    Page3, Dec 28, 2014 IP
  16. bradmc

    bradmc Active Member

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    #16
    I hate writers block…
    Here are a few things that work for me:
    • Drink lots of water. I'm a coffee guy, but i have to admit that water helps
    • Divide your writing time into 10 minute intervals. Use a stopwatch. Decide what you need to write now, work 10 minutes at it, then spend 5 minutes on something irrelevant such as the internet. Being adamant about doing something specific makes these 10 minutes more productive than 4 hours of blocked write-rewrite-delete.
    • Set deadlines and rewards. "If I finish X today, I'll reward myself with Y" etc.
    Good luck
     
    bradmc, Dec 28, 2014 IP
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  17. JEET

    JEET Notable Member

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    #17
    I sometimes use a sound recorder and instead of writing, I just talk to the recorder as if I'm talking to a human being (about the same topic).

    Once I'm done, there are a lot of ideas and raw material in the recording which I just need to rearrange and transcript.

    This works because while talking my hands are free and I need not concentrate on typing, rectifying grammer and typos etc.
    Then while writing I need not concentrate on thinking about the material etc. Its already in the recording.
     
    JEET, Dec 29, 2014 IP
  18. bradmc

    bradmc Active Member

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    #18
    I just noticed your profile pic. Try taking a few of the needles out- chances are they're causing the block :p

    Seriously, I just remembered two other things that help me.

    Petting my cat Pizza definitely helps. Also reading out loud to my cat what I already wrote, and actively asking her various questions regarding what I should do now. Sometimes hearing what you already wrote and phrasing specific questions helps organize the thoughts and get new insights.
    Pizza's listening skills are for hire at the very low price of a can of tuna or cat treats.

    The other thing is actually my most powerful secret. Think about one or two of your favorite writers, try imagining what he or she would write. Sure, you can do this with your favorite IM scribe, but what works best for me is to bring up outstanding musicians (Beatles, Morrison, Bowie, Reed, Laurie Anderson, Cobain, Leonard Cohen, even Kanye West - all depending on my mood at the time and how different I want the writing to be) and try thinking like them. Same thing with outstanding poets or novelists.
    Several times this method produced real gems, phrases that really stand out.
    Funny how trying to mimic a non-IM writer's writing can in-fact produce your own signature style.
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2014
    bradmc, Dec 29, 2014 IP
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  19. Content Maestro

    Content Maestro Notable Member

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    #19
    Thanks @Alex Toll, @Page3, @bradmc and @JEET for your inputs.:)
    That would be like defeating my own purpose. Those are actually acupuncture needles my doc has asked me to place on and around my head as a remedy for writer's block. :D :p
     
    Content Maestro, Dec 29, 2014 IP
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  20. YMC

    YMC Well-Known Member

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    #20
    The two things that often help me the most...

    ...explain the project to someone else, preferably someone who will ask questions like, "wait, so what exactly is a left-handed flammix?"

    ...go old school. Drag out pencil and paper or bright pink marker and paper. Something about the feel of the writing or even the frustrated doodles or scratch-outs can get the juices going. For me, it often isn't until I start moving the handwritten piece to the computer that the piece really starts to gel.

    On one really frustrating project, I pulled out a white board and a bunch of markers. I just wrote whatever words and phrases came to mind. Led to a great slogan that the entire marketing campaign was built upon.

    I'll also go back and look harder at competing sites. I look for what's missing more-so than what they've done.

    Ack, I said I'd give two ideas. I think honestly, the answer varies from person to person and project to project. I knew someone who would fill a page with scribbles - as in no more blank page to be afraid of. I do a smaller version of that sometimes too.

    I think the real trick is figuring out a way to let your brain come out and play without worrying about stupid ideas or the deadline.
     
    YMC, Jan 3, 2015 IP
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