Day 3 – Why Two Paracetamol Won’t Resolve Writer’s Block
Many people encounter writer’s block. It’s almost like a sickness. You sit at the computer to write but nothing happens. But unlike other sicknesses, you can’t take a few painkillers and make it go away.
The Danger of the Hollywood Effect
Don’t you love Hollywood ? You watch a film and agonise with the main character who is almost torn apart because he can’t write. Then he up-sticks and moves to an idyllic location, far removed from reality. Inspired by the sea view or the movement of the trees in the forest, the writer begins to write and all is well with the world.
Well guess what? You live in the real world and you more than likely can’t jet off to the South of France whenever you’ve a website to write or a customer ezine. You need a prescription to your writer’s block that doesn’t involve scenic views!
Throw away your excuses
Someone once said to me, the worst thing about travelling is the travelling. However, the worst thing about writing isn’t writing, it’s getting started. If I had a euro for everytime I heard an excuse, I’d be a very wealthy women.
Here are some excuses that I’ve encountered. If there are one or two that you can relate to, I’ve written you a prescription to get over your sickness.
Condition No. 1: Procrastination
Is this you:
You want to write and you sit down to write. However, you decide that a coffee will help the creative process so you head to the coffee maker. While making your coffee, you realise that the coffeepot really needs a good clean. You’ll do it now because it won’t take long. Two hours, a few phone calls later and it’s time to meet a client. You’ll do the website later.
- Let go of the guilt. Understand that procrastination is natural. It really is. Everyone does it. Even the top gurus in your field do it. It takes time to warm up to a topic.
- When you’re using a particular task to avoid writing (e.g. cleaning the coffee pot), allow your subconscious to think about your subject. Have a little chat to yourself.
- Give yourself a strict deadline. The article or website needs to be written by X day.
Condition No. 2: Not Knowing What to Write
Fail to plan and plan to fail. We discussed this in Day 1 and Day 2 of the ’31 Days to Write Better Copy’ series. If you don’t know your audience, or what they want to read, then it’s so hard to sit down and write.
1. Do research to understand what your customers want to read.
2. Find out as much information as you can.
3. When you see an idea for an article, write it down straightaway on your phone, a piece of paper, a notebook. Inspiration comes when you’re least expecting it.
Condition No. 3: Fear of Failure
When you write, do you think that you put yourself out there to be judged and criticised? Previous experience has shown you that people will argue over your choice of wording, let alone choice of concept. With a recent client, I had a conversation and it went like this:
“You used ‘slim’, did you?”
“I think ‘svelte’ should be used.”
“It sounds, more, more, sophisticated.”
- Learn to appreciate that people WILL criticise your copy.
- Research your audience. This will help you write confidently.
- Remember the 80/20 rule. 80% of the people will relate to your copy, 20% will take it apart. And that’s totally fine.
Condition No. 4: Don’t Know Where to Start
Sometimes people feel overwhelmed about where to start. Do you often find yourself talking to yourself and asking whether you should write the heading first and follow a sequential process? Or should I write features and benefits and build from there? If you’re constantly asking questions, you tend not to write.
- Learn to love editing. Writing the first draft is just that – the first draft. The key to successful writing is editing.
- Just write. Start anywhere.
- Get yourself a writing system and follow it.
On a final note, recognise that writing good copy is hard work. The hard part is getting started. Take the prescriptions that I’ve offered – they are writer’s equivalent to two paracetamol. Then start writing.
Day 3 Homework
Ask yourself honestly
- What stops you from writing?
- What stops you from writing well?
- Draw your own list and give yourself your own prescription
- Follow my prescription for your particular condition