Anyone facing the dreaded blank page can use these tips for overcoming writer's block.
In PR, everything starts and finishes with a written document. From brainstorm to idea to proposal to approval to campaign to analysis, every phase of every activity is underpinned by a written narrative outlining the what, the why, and the how.
We are all copywriters in this business. It’s a well-known fact that if you want to break into PR, you must work on your writing skills. If you want to climb the ladder, keep working on them. “In PR, writing is everything,” says industry bible PR Week.
But writing is not always easy. In particular, getting started on a piece of writing is not always easy. Whether it’s a one-page press release or a 30-page business plan, even experienced PR professionals can have difficulty finding their way onto a blank page.
But, there’s always a way! The words are there, you just haven’t found them yet. So if you find yourself struggling to get started, here are our top 5 tips for overcoming writer’s block.
Put on your coat and take a 40-minute walk
The great romantic poet William Wordsworth loved to walk. His poetry is filled with references to hikes and walks in the English countryside, and his friend Thomas DeQuincey once estimated that Wordsworth walked as many as 180,000 miles during his lifetime.
Of course, every great poet knows that walking helps us to think. This is a matter of simple biology – when we walk, our hearts beat faster, pumping more blood around our bodies and into our brains. As you walk, you find your mind ‘lighting up’ with new thoughts and ideas. (Don’t forget to jot the good ones down on a notepad, or record them on your phone.)
Forget the big picture, just think about an opening
The ‘bigger’ the writing job facing you, the easier it can be to get overwhelmed by the scale of your task. You can overload your brain with all the things you must say and have to include; urgent thoughts piling one on top of the next until your mind is scrambled. Not ideal writing conditions.
To help you get started, forget the big picture. It will come. Concentrate instead on your opening – how are you going to catch your reader’s eye? Maybe there’s a scene from your favourite TV series that can introduce your topic. Or a line from a movie. Or a funny quote. Or something you saw on holidays. Drawing the reader in is half the battle, so for now think only about those first few paragraphs. The rest will follow.
Change your scenery
Desk. Phone. Cup. Notebook. Pen. Glasses. Broken headphones. Window. View. Work. When you spend eight or nine hours a day in the same place, it’s virtually impossible not to slip into a routine. Routine helps in some jobs, but it’s absolutely no good for writing, especially if you are struggling to make headway.
So, break your routine. Grab a pen and paper and go someplace else like a café, library, hotel or local park. Unfamiliar surroundings, different background noise, fresh scenery – these will all stimulate your mind and get you into a more creative mode.
Do something other than writing
Sometimes the only way to find a breakthrough is to step away from the page altogether. Go and do something else that you love. Read a book or doodle a picture, play a video game or cook a meal, just to get the top part of your mind off the writing and onto something else.
While you’re distracting yourself with spaghetti bolognaise, under the surface your brain will bubble away in problem-solving mode. When you get back in front of your computer, very often you’ll find that the break has given you fresh impetus, or a new angle, to go again.
Sleep on it
Putting something off until tomorrow is the copywriter’s best friend – but it’s not mere procrastination. A good night’s sleep makes everything better, and that includes a case of writer’s block. Sleep re-energizes your body’s cells, clears waste from the brain and processes information, so when you wake up after a solid eight hours, you stand a much better chance of finding the words you’re looking for.
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