There are a number of reasons why you may feel you can’t write. Maybe you have an idea but you don’t know where to start, you don’t know how to communicate it. Perhaps you have no ideas whatsoever (and then starts the inevitable self-loathing “If I don’t have any ideas, maybe I shouldn’t be doing this at all.”)
On the other hand, sometimes you can have too many ideas. A thousand thoughts all flying round your head at one time, refusing to be pinned down, no one thought allowing itself to grow.
It may be that you’re simply not interested enough in the subject you’re writing about. You don’t see the point, you can’t bring yourself to care, and so you don’t, and you don’t write.
Worry not, help is at hand (in the form of my own opinions, few of which are new or original, but all are worth considering).
I know, I know. I think I’ve said this for every how-to post I’ve written so far. But honestly, exercise is one of the best methods of clearing your mind, getting the blood flowing, and doing the human equivalent of “have you tried turning if off and then turning it back on again?” You don’t have to run a marathon. A quick walk around the block, some yoga, maybe a run if you fancy it. Get your heart rate up, think of nothing but the act of exercising, and then get back to work and start again.
Read a book
I know a lot of experts would disagree with me on this. They would postulate that if you read something else, someone else’s words will cloud your mind and somehow sully the work you need to do. Poppycock. I find reading great words written by someone else gives me inspiration. It reminds me how gratifying it is to get a message across succinctly, smartly, well.
Or, if you, like me, are reading Middlemarch for your book club, the sheer boredom of trying to plough through 795 pages of archaic “Will she? Won’t she?” will have you running back to your writing in a vain effort to do anything but read!
Do something else
Some of my best ideas come to me when I’m showering or, worse, when I’m lying in bed at night, trying to fall asleep. In these cases, words race ’round and ’round and will not cease until I’ve scribbled down some (mainly illegible) notes ready to deal with later. This isn’t just something that happens to me. After all, there’s a whole subreddit dedicated to such musings (occasionally NSFW). If you find you’ve come to a stop, then stop. Go and do something else for a while and come back to it. Inspiration may strike as you’re organising your plastic shopping bags (just me?)
Just write anything
Oh my goodness I can’t believe I have to write this report assessing how that event went. I mean, what can I say? It went well, people were happy. In fact, I think about 89% of people surveyed said that…
A stream of consciousness. Whatever you write may start out as rubbish but eventually, sense will prevail. When you look back at the ramblings on the page, you may find a sliver of hope there. Just the act of getting words on the page should unblock whatever is blocked – get started and see where it takes you.
Change it up
Do you normally write at home on a computer? Why not go out to a local park or coffee shop with a pen and paper (as I did this afternoon)? If you’re a laptop and bed type of person, try sitting at a table. Take the time to sketch out what is it you need to write about, draw mind maps, sit with nothing in front of you and just think. Taking the time and changing small things in your routine may be the key.
Remember though, writing is hard. Philip Pullman puts it perfectly when he says:
“Writer’s block…a lot of howling nonsense would be avoided if, in every sentence containing the word WRITER, that word was taken out and the word PLUMBER substituted; and the result examined for the sense it makes. Do plumbers get plumber’s block? What would you think of a plumber who used that as an excuse not to do any work that day?
The fact is that writing is hard work, and sometimes you don’t want to do it, and you can’t think of what to write next, and you’re fed up with the whole damn business. Do you think plumbers don’t feel like that about their work from time to time? Of course there will be days when the stuff is not flowing freely. What you do then is MAKE IT UP. I like the reply of the composer Shostakovich to a student who complained that he couldn’t find a theme for his second movement. “Never mind the theme! Just write the movement!” he said.”
Is putting words down on the page getting you down? Writing happens to be one of our specialities! Maybe a quick conversation with us could help? Get in touch and let’s talk about your communications requirements and how we may be able to help.
Beaumont is a communications agency based in Lausanne, Switzerland. We work with clients all around the world to change the way they talk about themselves – helping them create engaging stories that motivate action.