Tools to Beat Writer's Block
Sure, being a freelance writer has it’s perks - a flexible schedule, working from home, no commute. But there are times when creating original content isn’t so pretty, especially if you have come down with a dreaded case of [gasp]...writer’s block. Here’s a few ways I’ve learned to work around and even outsmart this pesky issue.
I love the freedom (and income) of being a freelance healthcare writer. When bedside nursing full time was no longer an option for me, writing healthcare content satisfied my desire to remain working while still using my hard earned knowledge of medicine. Best of all, I'm still able help to help others (patients, nurses, caregivers), just in a different way. But, all the sunshine and rainbows of being a freelance writer has a way of fading quickly if you feel overwhelmed or unable to start and can't complete the task at hand - create content. The irony of my current situation is not lost on me here. It's actually quite comical that I am experiencing a bit of writer's block (and even mild anxiety) for this very article - procrastination at an all time high in addition to a dwindling clock and a fast approaching deadline. Never fear! This article will be completed (eventually) and here's how:
Personally, I find making outlines to be one of the most helpful tools for writer's block. I've used many different types (and kind of shoot from the hip). Use what feels good and works for you. Here's a great website discussing several different outline options: youngwritersproject.org
Go Back to Your Pitch
When pitching a client via email, I usually include a few brief bullet points that describe major themes of the potential article. If I'm feeling particularly stuck (or even unable to start) writing an article, I like to have the email pulled up in a separate browser tab and use it to structure my piece into a list type - much like how this article is structured. Your original pitch can serve as a handy outline and contains your initial ideas surrounding the topic. Use it and expand out from there.
Change of Scenery
Some days I love working from my home office. I enjoy my own routine of lighting a scented candle, turning on the radio and tending to some fresh flowers in my personal workspace before starting my day. However, working from home can also be incredibly distracting. I should really organize that closet, clean those dishes, prep dinner, throw in some laundry. When my home becomes more of a hindrance than a help, I make my office mobile. I'm fortunate enough to live in a temperate climate year round, so heading outdoors is usually an option. On days when it's not (or the outdoors is also somehow a source of distraction) I like to work from a quiet, comfortable cafe that's not too far from home. I find switching up your scenery (even if it's just a different space in your home) can sometimes make all the difference in your overall productivity.
Take a Break!
When other methods fail, take a break. It's probably your brain's way of screaming for a breather anyway. Many recent studies have found multiple benefits from taking regular breaks from doing anything for too long, studying, sitting, working, etc. For example, this article from PsychCentral.com examines how taking a break can actually improve one's attention span; author Rick Nauert PhD writes, "even brief diversions from a task can dramatically improve one's ability to focus on that task for prolonged periods".
Expanding on the theme of taking breaks, try stretching your legs. Increasing the flow of blood and circulating oxygen, physical exercise has a way of refreshing the mind. I read several articles by fellow freelancers that discuss scheduling regular gym time into their daily routine. Awesome idea, but let me be honest here, I'm definitely not one of those people. However, whether it's a brisk walk, hike, bike ride, swim, weights or yoga - all are beneficial for both mind & body.
Read Something, Anything
When I can't seem to write, I like to read...anything. Reading has always been a favorite hobby of mine since I was young. The escapism a well-written novel can provide is something I consider to extremely therapeutic. I find reading a great work of fiction, an interesting online blog or in-print magazine frequently provides inspiration, direction, or a fresh perspective for a piece I'm currently working on.
Talk with a Colleague
Being a nurse, writing for other nurses...you are surrounded by potential future readers of your work. While at my bedside job I like to sometimes pick my coworker's brains. What are they interested to know on the topic? What clinical questions do they have? Use having unlimited access to your target audience to your advantage.
What tips/tricks help you beat writer's block?
Seven Types of Outlines
Taking Breaks Found to Improve AttentionLast edit by Joe V on Jun 15, '18
About Ashley Hay, BSN, RN
Freelance healthcare writer and owner of AHayWriting.com with over a decade of nursing experience in several areas of pediatric & adult oncology.
Joined: Aug '16; Posts: 88; Likes: 346
Freelance Healthcare Writer & Pediatric Oncology RN
Specialty: 10 year(s) of experience in Oncology