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Creativity

11 Tips on How To Overcome Your Writer’s Block

Picture this. You sit down at your computer, knowing you have to produce a 1,500 word blog for your marketing team. A blank page stares back at you with the blinking cursor taunting you. Nothing. 

The time ticks by… It feels like it’s been at least 20 minutes. 

Nope, only 30 seconds. 

Writer’s block is a real thing that destroys productivity and confidence. When we experience this, we start to believe that we are not the experts in our field, we don’t have anything valuable to say, or our story is not worth hearing. 

No, no, and no. 

The #2 reason why people come to us is because they love to write, but it takes them an entire day to write that same 1,500 word blog post. Or sometimes, it just never gets done. They are plagued with imposter syndrome and don’t believe that others will see them as the experts they really are. 

The main reason for this is… Writer’s block. 

What is Writer’s Block?

Cambridge Dictionary defines it as “the condition of being unable to create a piece of written work because something in your mind prevents you from doing it”.

Writer’s block occurs when you have this overwhelming amount of work to do but the motivation or inspiration isn’t there. Nothing happens when you sit down to write. It’s largely defeating and can destroy the momentum you once had for a project, a goal, or to complete a given task. 

It’s a creative slowdown. 

Why We Get Writer’s Block

So, why do we get writer’s block? There are many reasons why we get writer’s block.

Often, the biggest reason for writer’s block is the lack of inspiration or distractions in other areas of your life. When a person is experiencing a life-altering event (i.e. marriage and wedding planning, death of a loved one, physical illness, lawsuit, etc.), it can stunt our ability to process and be creative. We are in the fight or flight mode – just trying to get through the day. If that’s you, give yourself grace. Try some of the tips below to help you overcome your writer’s block and improve your overall headspace. 

In addition, the pressure to produce content or copy can often result in writer’s block. We get fearful that we’ll never accomplish it, so we submit to that fear and give up. 

Mental illness, such as anxiety or depression, makes it difficult to form complete thoughts in writing. Producing written material – even as short as a blog – is stressful to some. When that stress reaches a particular level, the brain goes back into that fight or flight mode. 

Sometimes, we experience physical damage (i.e. a stroke, brain injury) that results in writer’s block. This extreme version of writer’s block – agraphia – makes it almost impossible for the brain to translate thoughts into writing. 

11 Tips on How To Overcome Your Writer’s Block

When I get writer’s block (even a writer gets this), here are a few things that I do to move past it and overcome writer’s block.

1. Sit Down When You’re Most Creative

Sit down at your desk (or wherever you type) at your most creative time – for me, it’s in the morning (preferably before 8am). I love love love to write even before the sun comes up because everything is still, and my productivity is at its highest. 

If I have a big writing day, I’ll try to wake up between 4-5am to start writing. When you know you’re going to write early in the morning, your brain actually prepares to write. 

In addition, I even block off hours or days where I do not allow any phone calls, other tasks, or meetings to enter that time. But, I’m too busy Lauren, and people demand my response all the time. Me too! But if you are writing a blog, a book, or an online program, it needs to get done. You need to prioritize your schedule – not let others dictate what it’s going to be.

2. Put Pen To Paper

If the keyboard isn’t inspiring you, get a notepad and sit in a comfy chair. Then write on that notepad. 

You can refine your ideas when you type them back into the computer. There’s something magical about putting a pen to paper. Plus, you get away from that blue light emitted by your computer screen, phone, or tablet for just a little while. Again, it helps to break up your regular pattern – and consequently, improves your creativity. 

3. Get Outside

Overcome Your Writer's Block

Get outside and in nature – even in a city environment. There are so many benefits to getting outside, including the following:

  • It boosts your energy
  • You are more likely to move your body – increasing blood flow to your brain
  • The sun gives you Vitamin D which is essential for your bones, immune system, and blood cells
  • It reduces any anxiety that you may have over the writing process
  • It improves your sleep, helping you to wake up early easier
  • You focus more easily as greenness is proven to help improve your concentration on any given task

We could go on and on… But if you’ve been locked up in a room for days trying to write, get outside. 

4. Change The Scenery

Change the scenery that you’ve been surrounding yourself as you’ve built up your writer’s block. For me, coffee shops give my spirit so much energy, and I’ll type up several blogs in a few hours. Additionally, I’ll change what I’m sitting on and what I’m writing on (see tip #2 on putting pen to paper). 

Can’t change actual locations? Then it’s time to change up the mood. 

At a marketing internship, we often would pour a glass of red wine before writing the weekly blog. That was our creativity session!

When I am writing a lot of deliverables for clients later in the day, I’ll even light a candle, put on some cool jazz music, and put on my favorite sweater (as long as it isn’t a 100 degrees outside). 

5. Play Some Music

Put some music on in the background. You can search for writing or coffee shop playlists. Those are usually chiller playlists that don’t distract you with fun lyrics. Instead, they’ll inspire you and keep a rhythm for your writing pace. 

Often, I’ll listen to movie scores as they have an ebb and flow – allowing for my brain to breathe during slower sections then speed up during the quicker sections. In college, I learned this practice very well; I listened to the Interstellar film soundtrack on repeat for hours and hours. 

6. Walk Around And Talk

Walk around and talk into a voice memo. You’ve got the content in your head; it just needs to come out. 

When I used to ghostwrite for an entrepreneur, the “author” used to get in his most creative moments after lunch when he was sucking on a Starburst. He’d walk around the office talking, while I madly wrote down notes. I also recorded his 5-minute brain dumps – many of which you can hear the smacking of the Starburst.

The act of walking helps improve blood flow to your brain, gets the oxygen where it needs to be, and often lets you essentially walk through and overcome your writer’s block.

7. Skip and Keep Writing

If you get stuck on a section, make a note of it then move on. It’s better to keep the flow going then get stuck on a particular section. When you’re out of the writing flow, that’s when you can come back to work on that section.

Most of the time, the reason you are stuck is because you’re missing a fact or point. Be sure to read tip #9 to solve that issue.

8. Drink That Water

Be sure to drink that water. This seems so simple, but I’ve learned that when I’m hydrated, and my body has the things it needs to operate, I write more efficiently and effectively.

Did you know you should be drinking half your bodyweight in ounces? It sounds like a lot, but your body needs that amount of water to operate effectively. Sure, you may have to visit the restroom a couple of extra times a day, but that too gives you much needed time away from “the screen”.

9. Do Your Research Before You Write

To overcome your writer’s block, you must do your research before you write. If you research while you write, it’s so easy to get distracted. Eventually, you’ll end up on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram, and you’ll have no clue why or how you even got there. 

Do the research beforehand. 

Like planning your day or for a big client meeting, you need to have a game plan with everything you need before you start the day or meeting. Likewise, you must have your research completed and organized before you start writing. 

10. Put The Phone Away

Simply put, put the dang phone away. Phones, to say the least, are largely distracting.

Put on the Do Not Disturb setting on your phone and your computer. You don’t need to hear the dinging or vibrating of your phone while you work. Your spouse or kids need to reach you? You can allow them to reach you even with the Do Not Disturb setting on.

Employees need to reach you? Send automated emails and/or texts that let them know you’re in a writing session. They will only have to wait for a couple hours (if that) for you to return their message. 

11. Ask Questions

Finally, one of the best ways to overcome your writer’s block is to flip the script. Instead, ask questions about what your intended audience is asking. What do they want to know most? What are their big questions? Write a whole list of questions, then start answering them. 

How did we come up with this blog? A client had a bad case of writer’s block, so I answered them with my biggest tips. 

Overcoming Writer’s Block Is More About Unblocking Your Brain

Listen closely. Writer’s block isn’t a physical block; your brain unconsciously applied the brakes to your creative thinking. Often, it’s because you are not creating an environment that will facilitate creativity and productivity. Your brain needs you to take care of it well so it can release the brakes for you – that’s why much of this blog wasn’t about writing; it was about taking care of your body. 

We have to do what’s best for our brains for it to produce our most creative and inspiring work. 


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Content Splintering to Maximize Content ROI

Over the last couple weeks on the FocusCopy blog, we’ve talked a lot about this one fact… There is an obscene amount of information and competition out there fighting for your prospective customer’s attention. It’s tough. We get it. We see it. 

So how do you make your content stand out and become the authority for that topic? The strategy all comes down to content splintering.

What is Content Splintering?

So what is content splintering? 

Often when we talk about blogging, the intended author says something along the lines of “there is too much to unpack in just 1000 words” or “there’s no way I can write all about this topic in one blog.”  

The answer is similar to that given for the question,

“How do you eat an elephant?” 

One bite at a time.

It’s too large to eat in one mouthful!

Cue content splintering.

This is when you take a big topic and splinter it into smaller, bite-sized topics that you can actually tackle. It also helps you get super specific on your post and create solutions that your readers can implement. 

For example, you own a coworking space where you lease offices to companies. Coworking space is a really big topic to cover… So break it down into the following:

  • Benefits of coworking
  • When to move into coworking
  • Warning signs to look out for when signing for an office
  • Difference between coworking and office space

Then take those big topics and either write in a series (i.e. 5 benefits for non-profits, 5 benefits for SMB, etc.) OR splinter it even more (i.e. moving from a remote work environment to coworking, moving from an office to coworking space, etc.).

Hopefully, you get the picture. If not, comment on this blog, and we’ll answer you right here.

How Does Content Splintering Maximize Content ROI?

Content splintering maximizes content ROI because… 

  1. It’s simply taking a bigger piece of content, slicing it up into smaller chunks,  refreshing it, then republishing it. When companies create a cornerstone post (i.e. a massive piece of content that everything else derives from), it becomes so easy to take any topic discussed and blow that up into a standalone piece. 
  2. You are also stretching the amount of times you can discuss any given topic. There’s so many angles that you could take to produce a brand new piece of content – making your time go that much further. 

One company that I worked with was in the financial consulting space. One of the topics we wanted to write about was accounts receivable. Whoa! That’s a mighty big topic. 2/10 net 30, collections, reconciling, etc. Obviously, you can’t cover everything about accounts receivable in one blog or even in one book (unless it’s going to be 1000 pages long). But did you see what I did a sentence ago? 

Yep, that’s right. I splintered a massive topic into small topics. I would even argue that those topics were too big for a blog or piece of content, so I continued to  break it down even further to – you guessed it – bite-sized pieces.

More variations or angles on a given topic allows your company to grasp a larger share of the market. 

Content Splintering Methodologies

One of the books in our current stack is Rest by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang. We love it because it talks about getting more done in less time AND how to use your brain to its full potential. Hello creativity! In this book Pang claims that “new ideas are created in a two-step process: first, the brain generates lots of ideas, and second, it evaluates them” (page 44). So how does your brain, creativity, and rest relate to content splintering methodologies?

Glad you asked! All the methodologies that we mention follow this 2-prong approach. Brain dumping first then sorting through the chaos later. This is by far the most effective way to find the best content for your readers. They need what you have to say. You need to get access that creative zone to answer their request

Splintering Methodology #1: Mind Maps

I’ll start with this content splintering methodology first because it is my FAVORITE! You see I wasn’t the best student… I studied all the time and worked into all hours of the night; however, when it came to take the test, I wouldn’t be successful. 

My co-founder, Stuart Broderick, introduced me to mind mapping (invented by the late Professor Tony Buzan in the 1960’s) when nothing else was working. Whether you are a visual person or an analytical person, this simply works.

Start by putting your big topic in the middle of a blank page. It can be anything – vague, specific, etc. Whatever. Just write it down.

Hint: This works for more than just content splintering. If fact, we used a mind map when founding this company, FocusCopy, to gain clarity on what we wanted to accomplish. Oh, there I go again. Clarity, Focus, Execution – our company mantra.

Then write down topics that are related. Again, it doesn’t need to be super specific, but it needs to be big enough to “splinter”.

content splintering

For example, if my topic is content marketing… I’ll write publishing, types of content, scheduling, splintering, etc. Those are all related to content marketing. You may offer executive coaching, so some of your branches may be: how to reach your audience, what makes your audience tick, who is your audience, what times you should send topics… The key is to just start writing subtopics.

After you have those big topics, start breaking apart those topics. This is where the real magic happens. Do not worry about if it’s a good idea or a bad idea. Just write it down! You can make that decision later. This is your brain dump!

Once you’ve finished mind mapping, it’s time to filter it and create valuable content around those splinters. I promise you there is enough content for each of those subtopics.

Now, on to the next content splintering methodology!

Splintering Methodology #2: Excel Spreadsheets OR Word Documents

content splintering

Beyond mind maps, we love lists and organizing lists. We’re weird, but those frameworks (like our CFE Framework) help us maintain quality, pump out high-quality content/copy quicker, and please our clients. So it’s a no-brainer than our second content splintering methodology uses excel spreadsheets or word documents.

First, write a list of topics in one column. Keep writing until you cannot write anymore.

Then start writing specific segments of that big topic. For example, writing a landing page has multiple angles… Unique selling position, writing a hook, creating a golden thread, and design. Write it down.

Finally, you need to identify what you’re actually going to talk about in that piece of content. So write those subtopics!

Now here is where this methodology may be better than #1…

You can schedule out the blogs or pieces of content. In the same spreadsheet, literally put dates in. This will help you to create series (i.e. a month of landing page copy) or create variety. 

On the other hand, sometimes working with technology can mean more work than good. It’ll slow down your creative thought process.

Improving Your Content ROI

The key to improving your content ROI is to make it super specific and highly valuable. If you are writing about a big topic (i.e. water consumption), you aren’t going to be able to reveal secrets, how-tos, or specifics in a blog post. But if you write about a splinter of that big topic (i.e. how increased water consumption helps your gut), then you are more likely to see a return on that piece. 

Remember, specificity is key to improving your content’s ROI.

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