Writers talk a lot about “writer’s block” almost to the point of annoyance. The jury’s out on whether it’s a “real thing” or not. Many esteemed writers claim that the only antidote is discipline (i.e. writing even when you have nothing to say).
And while that’s good advice for authors and screenwriters, what about people who aren’t career-writers? People who, in today’s always-on digital-world, know they need to be publishing articles, but don’t have the time or energy? People, who just want to use writing as a vehicle to spread their ideas and impact?
Their problem is not (usually) writer’s block. That would be a gift. They are more likely to avoid writing altogether–letting it sit on the to-do list, day after day, perhaps because they feel uninspired or overwhelmed by the process.
Writing is this looming task that steals energy and creativity, but somehow never gets done.
If you are one of these people, who struggles to make the time to write, I want to help. That starts with building an understanding of why this blockage exists and then addressing it from the inside-out.
In personal experience, and in work with clients, the following 7 bullets, seem to serve as the core reasons for this blockage. One or two may resonate deeper than the others, but there is likely some element of each that has blocked you from sitting down to write or following through on a particular article:
- You’re chunking the process into too many steps. Part of the reason that you are struggling to find the time to write is that you’re building it up in your head. You have to come up with an idea, do the research, outline, write, edit, publish, and promote. And, what if you’re computer crashes? Or you can’t find the right source material? And how the heck are you going to promote writing on Instagram? But these “what if” stories you are telling yourself about how you should or need to do things a certain way have you cognitively exhausted before you even get started. Cut that out right now; don’t try to address problems that don’t even exist yet. Focus on the task at hand.
- You’re trying to be someone you aren’t. We all have a unique voice that’s easily silenced by all of the content we consume. Instead of cultivating who you (and your brand is), you may be lured into manipulating yourself to have the data-driven approach of Tim Ferriss, the energy of Gary Vee, and the empathetic foundation of Cheryl Strayed. But none of your content will hit if it doesn’t feel like a genuine expression of who you are. Any audience can easily recognize bullshit in your prose. If you want to be taken seriously as a thought leader, creative, or CEO, you need to be you.
- You’re saying something you aren’t qualified to say. If you’ve never built a business before, you probably shouldn’t be trying to assert your expertise in the area. Instead, you’re much better off sharing your struggles to scale a project or your insights researching on the topic. That’s far more interesting, and you’ll have an edge: authenticity. People want to read different, engaging, and empowering stories. You have one to tell; don’t let it be silenced by the compulsion to say more than you are ready to say.
- You aren’t writing about what matters to you. Why are you doing any of this anyways? Why are you building a company or trying to become a better writer? You want to build (and capture the value) of something that makes a massive contribution to the world around you. You can’t do that by building products that are useless or writing content to appease someone. What really matters at the end of the day is that you are building an empire with a foundation you are proud of. To do that, you have to write about what really matters (to you).
- You’re too focused on the logistics. You are writing what the experts say you should write about and at a frequency that they say you should. Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t listen to some extent, BUT if you aren’t producing any content because you are too tied up in the logistics of how it should be executed: stop right there and start producing content about what matters to you. The strategies, tips, and tricks are meant to help you get leverage once you’ve started doing the work. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
- You aren’t doing interesting things. Let’s take me for example here. Sometimes, I’m writing so much for clients and personal projects and doing so little else that I actually don’t have much to say. I fall short and start instinctively writing about writing (which is really boring to 99.9% of my audience). The solution for “writer’s block” or uninspired content a lot of the time is going out and doing something–reading a new book, trying a new sport, or taking a short trip outside.
- You haven’t done the hard work first. You have to deeply and truly understand what you are trying to accomplish with your work before committing yourself to a content production schedule or even to writing articles “every sometimes.” If you don’t know why you’re writing or why you’re building a business, you won’t be able to engage and inspire an audience. If you don’t know, take some time and figure it out. If this really matters to you, you’ll make the investment (time and money). You’ll find the energy within you to cultivate your voice and tell your story.
Now this list could go on and on. There are hundreds of potential reasons that you may be avoiding writing on a consistent (or semi-consistent) basis. These are just a few I have collected over the years.
The important takeaway is this: starting from a place of authenticity will NEVER fail you.
Spend time discovering who you and your brand are. Write from a place of honesty. And then, just then, you can focus on how to optimize your content for the masses.
If this message has connected with you, here are my suggestions, if you’d like to change course immediately.
- Stop waiting for the inspirational moments to come. Create one today by going out into the world and doing something. Break the damn pattern.
- Handwrite something that has nothing to do with your business ventures or personal brand. Be unfiltered. Be honest. Just (fucking) write. Here are some prompts if you don’t know where to start.
- Get outside and be present in nature for no reason at all.
- Use what you have. That thing that guy said in that meeting. That book you read that touched your life in your 20s. Your current stage of grief. Whatever it is, use it.
- Watch how much content you’re consuming. Your problem is likely not that you’re watching too few YouTube videos or listening to too few podcasts. Make sure you’re making space for your own voice to blossom.
- Infuse a little variety in the books you’re reading, the shows you’re watching, and the podcasts you’re listening to. Don’t stick with all white guy authors or one genre of television. Inspiration won’t appear in the homogeneity of ideas.
- Quit beating yourself up about what you should do or what you need to do. The expert opinions and strategies are only helpful if they empower you to act, not if they make you feel worthless because you missed posting on Twitter for one day.