You’ve created the time and space to write, you sit down, and… nothing.
You can’t think of what to say or how to say it. You don’t know how to start. You can’t focus, you feel uncreative, and your mind goes blank.
You’ve got writer’s block. Or to put it more plainly, you’re afraid.
Writer’s block is nothing more than fear rearing its ugly head.
By nature, the creative process requires us to be vulnerable. To create something new or reshape something old into something new, we have to unravel layers of ourselves into our work. When we write — even copywriting — we are still being creative.
We’re tapping into what we know as well as our imagination. That’s scary.
What if I fail?
What if I’m not creative enough?
What if I’m not a good writer?
What if my writing is no good?
What if it actually is good and I can’t follow it up with anything else?
The fear takes over our brain, and we can’t tap into our imagination or vulnerability without dealing with it directly.
The best way to get rid of writer’s block
The only way to truly get rid of writer’s block is to identify and attack the fear behind it. Without doing this work, you’ll continuously experience writer’s block and it won’t get any easier.
1 | Name the fear
Naming the fear is a really powerful first stuff. Once you identify and acknowledge what you’re afraid of, you’re taking control of that fear. Fear manifests in so many ways that sometimes it masquerades as something that doesn’t appear, on the surface, to be fear. Here are some common ones:
Not being good enough
Not having enough time
Not knowing where to start
Not being perfect
2 | Identify the core fear
Naming a fear helps us get to the superficial worry or concern, but more often than not, there’s another layer of fear in there. A deeper, more core fear.
Try using the 5 WHYs strategy to get to the core of your fear. Ask yourself what you’re afraid of, and once you have the answer, ask yourself one of the following questions
Why do I feel that way?
Why is that important to me?
What will that mean if it’s true?
Try to go at least 5 levels deep, or ask yourself a WHY question five times. This will help ensure that you’re actually tackling the real fear.
3 | Work through the fear
Getting rid of writer’s block, once you’ve identified the fear that’s holding you back, is a two-pronged approach. Working through fear is something you can start right away, but it generally takes time to see progress. If you’ve got a writing deadline or goal, you can’t wait around forever, hence the two steps.
Do something immediately, while you’re in the middle of feeling blocked. Ideally, you want to choose an action that is oppositional to your fear.
Feeling uncreative? Go for a walk.
Not sure where to start? Create an outline.
Doing something triggers your brain to stop obsessing over your fear.
If you do something oppositional to your fear, you’re essentially retraining your subconscious on that topic. If your subconscious is consistently thinking that you aren’t creative, doing creative things will change that internal story you’re telling yourself, which brings us to step two.
Rewrite your fear
There are so many ways to do this, so it may take some trial and error to find the approach that works for you. Whatever your fear around writing is, it’s a story that you’re telling yourself. Think of it as your inner critic or negative self-talk. Writer’s block is a clue that you’re letting it run the show.
Rewriting your fear is about rewiring how you think about yourself and your writing. The only requirement you need to have is a desire to actually change the way you think. It sounds small, but it’s a big one.
With that prerequisite, here are a few ideas to try:
Write down the new story you want to tell yourself.
If you’ve been subconsciously telling yourself that you’re not a good writer, then your story will be about how you’re a talented writer with so much to say and a great way with words.
If you’re afraid that your work will mocked, then your story will be about how you’re unconcerned with the opinions of others and you write for yourself because you love it so much. This strategy helps to refocus your subconscious on what is true or what you want to make true for yourself.
Play the worst-case scenario game.
Write down the fears that are plaguing you with writer’s block. Go through each one and ask yourself What’s the worst thing that could happen?
If you publish a blog post and no one reads it, what’s the worst that could happen? If you write a sales landing page, but it doesn’t convert anyone, what’s the worst that could happen? This strategy helps turn a big, scary fear into the reality that it is. We over exaggerate most of our fear, so this approach helps us reality-check them.
Be realistic with your answers; if you find that you’re responding emotionally, try using a different tactic to work through your fears.
Use exposure therapy to face your fear.
Exposure therapy is all about gradual, repeated exposure to whatever you’re afraid until you can minimize or altogether eliminate the anxiety you fear, or in this case, the writer’s block that arises.
Are you afraid of publishing content before it’s perfect? Start publishing your work-in-progress or first drafts on the internet. Are you afraid your writing will be rejected? Start submitting your work to online publications, local newsletters, and anything else you can think of.
This strategy creates a habit out of what you fear most to help you desensitize and face your fear.
Just need a starting point to slay your writer’s block? Create a word bank, so you’ll always have the right words.
What do you do when you get writer’s block? How do you get back to writing?