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How to Overcome Writer’s Block… Let’s Face it, Creativity Can’t Be Rushed!

How to Overcome Writer’s Block… Let’s Face it, Creativity Can’t Be Rushed!

Written by Rustin Hamilton – Illumina Filmworks

(Reason #1: You have to write in an unfamiliar style.)

Here’s the scenario: You’ve been given the task to write something important. Maybe it’s a blog (like this one), or an electronic press release, or an article. You fill in the blank. The problem is, you have to deliver, you’re on a deadline … and, you have writer’s block.

As a script writer, I’ve been there. I’ll just stare at a blank screen, or a piece of paper, waiting for something to happen. (Yep, I still like to write things out by hand). I commonly say “I just don’t feel inspired to write today” … especially if that project requires a great deal of creativity. Because let’s face it, creativity can’t be rushed! Unless it’s due tonight.

We are all aware of the problem. Now, how do you get over it? How do you push through when the energy just isn’t there? (For instance, it’s 2:00 p.m. as I write this blog, and I really just want to take a nap.) There are a number of ways but first, you need to identify “why” the juices aren’t flowing. Here are three examples:

          I’m not sure how to write in a specific format, therefore I’m not sure how to get started.

          Where’s my muse! I need to be inspired! Or…

         I’m just not in the mood to write. (Or, and this is big, I don’t like writing but, dang it, I have to.)

Today, we’ll address the first bullet point – not being able to write because you’re not comfortable with a particular style of writing.

I’ll tell you right now that my method for getting over this type of writer’s block is pretty basic, yet is often overlooked.

When I was in my second year of journalism school all of us students started writing for the daily university newspaper. It was something we all looked forward to … writing with the real possibility that your article would actually be read! Can it be?

My first assignment was not what I wanted or expected. I had to attend a city council meeting and write an article about how the city was going to pay for needed improvements in the sewage system. Yippee! Writing about the 0-10 women’s tennis team would have been a step up in my book. 

After attending the meeting, and taking copious notes, I sit down at my computer in the news room … and didn’t know where to start. I rarely read about these kinds of civic topics growing up on a farm. I was a creative writer and I knew this was pure, straight forward news. This was supposed to be easy. But I still went blank. I couldn’t even come up with a first sentence that sounded decent, let alone intelligent.

My editor finally came around, and looking over my shoulder, realized that I was stuck. “What’s the problem,” she said.

Before I could even tell her how pathetic I was she tossed a slightly older newspaper in front of me and pointed to an article written about a different, but similar, city topic. “Read this, and then write your story.”

Then she walked away.

But it was all I needed. It wasn’t plagiarism. The topics were different. The wording was different. It wasn’t even inspiration. Trust me, there was nothing “inspired” by my story or the one I had just read. I just needed a sample, or a template, if you will. Something to get me started stylistically. I wrote my story, it was fine, and best of all, it made into the newspaper, with my first byline!

Let me ask you a question. If you want to write a country song, what kind of music are you going to listen to? If you’re working in unfamiliar territory with your writing, go find good examples that will help propel you in the right direction. We always think this is a good concept with creative works, but it also works with mundane, or less inspired, but perhaps more important, projects.

And one final thought about content. if you’re unsure of the subject matter to the point that you can’t write about it, don’t give up –  get educated. With the internet, there are no excuses. But even then you may be having to go to the client’s experts for clarification, especially on more technical subjects. I’ve discovered that the experts desire one thing above all: get the details right. In other words, better to ask than get it wrong.

Look for my next article on overcoming writer’s block sometime soon. Cheers, Rustin.