You sit, ready to craft an important memo, but find yourself struggling to begin. Staring at the blinking cursor doesn’t help, so you do the next best thing — go for coffee.
Overcoming writer’s block can be difficult. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up over the years:
Just write it
Early in my career, I was working with a veteran PR person on an important memo. As I noodled what to say for the opening, he interrupted, “Type something … Just start writing.”
He was right. If I’m struggling with a lead sentence, I’ll skip it and start with the second paragraph. It helps establish a rhythm and prevents me from over thinking.
Make a list
If I’m stuck, or have a lot to cover, I’ll jump to the end of the document and list key points. It substitutes as a primitive outline of sorts, and lets me focus on how I want to say something, rather than what I should include.
For example, if I’m working on a flu vaccine story for a newsletter, my list might include:
- Free for employees
- Protect yourself and your family
- Evergreen Conference Room
- M-F, 8 – 9 a.m.
- Nov 1 – 15
- Employee Health, ext. 1234
- Remember hand hygiene too
Once I’ve made the list above, I’ll pick a point or two and write a sentence or paragraph. For example:
“Public health experts say a vaccine, combined with good hand hygiene, is the best way to protect you and your loved ones from catching the flu. Best of all, flu vaccines are free for employees.”
You can order the segments later, and once you start writing, you’ll likely see things falling into place.
Talk it out
Good writing is conversational, so think of how you’d tell the news to someone who knows nothing about the situation. For example, work is being done on the plumbing in your office building, and during that time, the facility will be close due to lack of water. So what do you want to tell staff?
“The office will be closed next Friday while crews work to repair a damaged pipe.”
You’ve got your start, now fill in the details.
Walk away (but not far away)
It’s a bit counterintuitive, but when struggling to come up with something, try walking away for a couple of minutes. Grab a drink of water, pop a letter in the mail, anything to clear your head.
Your turn. What do you do to overcome writer’s block?