Typing words onto a page isn’t a terrible way to earn a living.
It does come with occupational hazards, however. If you don’t take time to rejuvenate yourself, that drive to be creative every single working day of your life can drain you faster than a vampire on a bender.
There are other obstacles, too. Namely, “writer’s block,” which takes many forms. Perhaps the most pernicious and difficult version to defeat is the dreaded “writing funk.” You’ve likely experienced this condition at some point during the pandemic. Symptoms include:
- Dread at the thought of writing anything longer than 50 words.
- Willingness to do literally any terrible house chore to avoid starting the assignment you’re behind on.
- General malaise and lack of motivation.
- Reading career websites to see how hard it is to become an underwater welder, ice sculptor, zebra trainer or anything that doesn’t require typing words onto a screen.
If you’ve experienced any or all of these symptoms, don’t fret. There is hope! Try these tips to reignite your creative spark and snap out of that writing funk:
1. Get permission to pursue a passion project.
Writing funks are often cumulative. The days, weeks, months and years of ticking boxes and completing mundane assignments for other people can build up like sediment, smothering your creativity.
When was the last time you pursued and prioritized something you were legitimately passionate about? It doesn’t have to be a story, per se. There are multitudes of benefits to be had from working on anything that floats your boat.
If you need to convince your boss, there’s good reason why more and more companies are encouraging employees to pursue passion projects. For employers, it’s an easy way to boost engagement and creative energy. For you, it could ignite the spark that fuels a productivity inferno. It just might help advance your career, too.
You might not get that Google “20% rule,” but hopefully you can get some time during the week to work on something that bring you joy.
2. Interview someone you genuinely like, admire or find fascinating.
Communicators are often asked to interview execs and other high-ranking “subject matter experts.” Now, I’m sure some of these folks are delightful. But a not insignificant portion of top corporate honchos are either guarded, aloof, risk-averse or otherwise profoundly boring.
These are the interviews that will only intensify your funk. Instead, to escape a slump, set up a time to chat with someone more outside the box. Seek out characters who are colorful, compelling and perhaps even a bit zany. Find folks who are known to spin a good yarn or who have an interesting hobby or backstory.
Or, just interview someone you like. Even if don’t uncover a groundbreaking story, chatting with a pal is always a good reset—and time well spent.
3. Take out the trash.
Whatever else you do in 2o22, take great pains to scrape as many ancillary jobs and mundane tasks off your plate as possible. This might be the single best thing you can do to prevent and/or escape a writing funk.
The great Jim Ylisela, co-founder of Ragan Consulting Group, has been pounding this drum for years. His guidance takes on new urgency in light of what’s taken place during the pandemic—namely that other, more urgent tasks have replaced the busywork. He exhorts comms pros to “not let the crap come back.”
Are you letting those sneaky tasks creep back into your workflow? Swat them away with vigor. “Delegate” is a nicer term, probably.
Whatever you call it, take out all the time-draining trash jobs you possibly can. That’s a smart way to protect and bolster your writing habit and prevent the descent into funk-town.
4. Try a different medium.
Not everything has to be a text-laden article.
How about a photo essay? Or maybe an interview? A podcast? A quiz, perhaps?
Open up the playbook and try something new. M&T Bank has had success with short-form video, which they call “M & Tok.”
What ideas can you come up with? What storytelling medium excites or intrigues you? Mix it up!
5. Take some time off.
Sometimes, the best remedy is rest and relaxation. Don’t feel compelled to power through your funk. You’re a person, not a machine, and everyone needs a break.
Use that PTO early and often, and take all the time you need to feel rejuvenated. You’ll come back stronger, livelier and more able to roll with the many punches writers face every day.
Go ahead and book that time off you so richly deserve and show that writing funk who’s really in control.