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man with writer's block

Overcoming Writer’s Block

By necessity or personal choice, many lawyers take matters into their own hands when writing their blog or other marketing text. But splitting time between representing clients and marketing a law firm can be trying, especially if you experience writer’s block.

This post examines some of the reasons for writer’s block and the acknowledged best practices for overcoming it, along with a few tips I’ve cultivated during the past 30 years as a writer and editor.

What causes writer’s block?

We’ve all experienced writer’s block at some point, whether we were attempting to write a paper for a college class, our own résumé, or an important client alert.

It can be caused by a variety of factors, from simply being distracted to having personal problems seemingly unrelated writing. Here are a few of the common reasons for writer’s block:

  • Pressing deadlines
  • Lack of inspiration surrounding the topic
  • Insecurity about quality of final product
  • Illness
  • Career worries
  • Financial problems
  • Personal relationship issues
  • Depression

Writer’s block can happen to anyone. History is littered with notable authors who at some point found themselves unable to put their words on a page. Herman Melville notably stopped writing novels altogether only a few years after penning the epic Moby Dick. Charles M. Schulz, creator of the iconic Peanuts cartoon strip, also acknowledged bouts of writer’s block during his long career.

Even Herman Melville and Charles Schulz suffered from #WritersBlock. Here are some tips for coming un-blocked. #Blogging Click To TweetRecognizing the reasons behind writer’s block and realizing it isn’t just you is the first step to moving on and making progress.

Fixing Writer’s Block

The methods for overcoming writer’s block are by their nature personal to each writer and the tactics vary widely. I worked with an editor at my college paper who cured his writer’s block by standing under a shower fully clothed. We all thought it was ridiculous, but he always came back to the newsroom ready to get back to work.

Here are just a few of the many recommended ways for breaking through writer’s block:

Don’t start at the start – No one says you must write in the order that it will eventually be read. If you know where you want your piece to conclude, start there and think about what you need to say before the end to make it work. I rarely start writing with the introduction for this very reason.

Go somewhere else – Getting out from behind your desk for a lunch hour or a couple of hours can do wonders for stopping writer’s block. Sitting in the same spot where the problem started can prolong writer’s block for a lot of people. Shake things up by going to a park or restaurant you’ve never visited and think about anything but writing for a while. The results may surprise you.

To overcome writer's block, put yourself in the audience’s shoes and ask yourself what they should know. Click To Tweet

Exercise – Recommending exercise and exercising are two things I rarely do, but getting your blood flowing is a great way to stop writer’s block for a lot of us. Increasing your breathing and heart rate can be almost meditative, which positively impacts your creative process.

Try a new time – If you confine your writing to a specific time of day, think about changing your schedule if you’re experiencing writer’s block. A lot of lawyers put off their substantive writing, for marketing and otherwise, until the end of the day, but studies show that most people are more creative and motivated during the hours shortly after they wake up. On the flip side, writing at night has also been shown to help those whose writer’s block comes in the morning hours.

Write about something new – If your writer’s block has caused you to put off a blog post for too long, it may be best to move on to a new topic and come back to the piece that has been causing you trouble. Sitting behind the keyboard for an extended period while facing an unfinished project is a recipe for more of the same. Try writing something completely different to help get the gears moving again.

Remember you can always do a rewrite – According to Ernest Hemingway, “The only kind of writing is rewriting.” Few first drafts are gold, so don’t stress about dropping pearls of wisdom on a blank screen. Start writing, even if what you initially put down is unreadable. Get it out of your head; you can come back and fix it later.

Got #WritersBlock? Take a cue from Ernest Hemingway, who said 'The only kind of writing is rewriting.' Just start writing. Even if what you write is unreadable, you can fix it later. Click To Tweet

These are just of the few of the many ways you can overcome writer’s block and get back to the important work of representing clients and making sure the right people know about your good work. In addition to my own experiences, I relied on a few of my favorite writing websites for inspiration when putting together this post, including the excellent Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University, Writer’s Digest and other informative sites you can find with a simple Google search.

Remember, writer’s block doesn’t have to be a permanent condition. Knowing the causes and a few ways to work around the problem are what you need to make a writing breakthrough.

Bruce Vincent is a writer and editor who has been helping himself and his clients fight writer’s block for decades. Most days, Bruce can be found writing and editing law firm websites, white papers, advertisements, brochures and other marketing content. Contact bruce.vincent@musecommunicationsllc.com for more information on overcoming writer’s block and promoting your practice.

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