Public relations people spend much of their time writing.
That’s why dreaded writer’s block is especially troubling for them. It can strike when PR pros have to draft a press release, blog post, client email or social media campaign—usually on deadline.
PR pros and writing consultants recommend these effective tactics for overcoming writer’s block:
1. Employ the Pomodoro technique. The time management technique breaks work into intervals, giving your brain time to rest and refresh. Write for 25 minutes without interruption, take a break for five minutes, write for another 25 minutes, then continue the pattern. A free Pomodoro timer app can help. “After 25 minutes, I take a break and reward myself. I might walk down the hall and talk with one of my co-workers about another project or get a glass of water,” writes Jennifer Gehrt for Communique PR.
2. Get organized. Before you start writing, decide what you want to address. Make a skeleton outline or flowchart if needed. “Taking the time to flesh out an overall structure creates a road map to follow, so essentially what you’re writing is filling in the blanks,” says Rafael Sangiovanni at PR firm rbb.
3. Work in a different spot. Moving to a new environment can spark creativity. Instead of your office, try writing in a bookstore, coffee shop or library. Try taking your laptop to a public park. Even moving to a different room can help. One former colleague usurped his boss’s office; he even used the boss’s yellow pad and left a thank-you note.
4. Change the order. Following chronological order, the conventional method, sometimes leads to an impasse. Try starting from the middle or the end. You’ll eventually fill in the missing parts and reorganize the piece into a coherent structure.
5. Take a break. Take a walk and get some fresh air, read a few pages of a book, or try some stretching exercises. Research has found that breaks, especially those that are regularly scheduled, increase productivity and focus.
6. Write by hand. Writing by hand can spark creativity and improve concentration by eliminating distractions inherent in digital devices. “No one likes having a cursor blinking accusingly at them,” says Katie Harrington, a PR pro and blogger. “Getting your ideas down on paper lets you think them through before you get started. Your thoughts become more structured and coherent, and you’ll find you’re able to link themes more fluidly.”
7. Try a different tool or look. Switch from Word to Google Docs. Increase the point size. Switch from a serif to a non-serif font. Or try a script font and change your text color. “It seems silly, but it’s amazing how those small changes can cure writer’s block and make writing interesting again,” offers Henneke Duistermaat for SmartBlogger.
8. Write at a different time. Routines can boost creativity and reduce writer’s block, but they sometimes become associated with lack of inspiration and procrastination. If that’s the case, try writing at different times of the day.
9. Write poorly. Don’t set stakes too high. Telling yourself that the article will make or break your career or that the account depends on the press release—even if it’s true—can cause you to freeze up. Set those thoughts aside, and just keep writing. Once you get it all down, edit relentlessly.
10. Do more research. Complete more research. People sometimes write before they’ve gathered the raw materials. Also, curate stories and anecdotes in addition to facts and figures. Complete enough research to answer the main questions on the topic. At the same time, beware of paralysis by analysis—continuing to conduct research when you already have enough information. Start with what you have, and fill in details later.
11. Speak your writing. Most of us have no difficulty talking. Dictate your words into a digital recorder, your smartphone’s voice memo app or your voicemail. You might even ask a friend to interview you. Use voice-to-text software to record it—and, as mentioned previously, edit ruthlessly.
12. Explore mind mapping.This can be an effective way to get information out of your brain and onto paper. Write your main topic in the center of the paper, then connect it to subtopics that branch out from the center. Continue adding subtopics, augmented with images, to those subtopics that branch out like a tree. People who prefer thinking visually especially appreciate this vivid approach to brainstorming.
A version of this post first appeared on the Glean.info blog.