Overcome writer’s block with this worksheet
Anyone who runs their own business writes every day. Emails to clients, suppliers and colleagues. Proposals and reminders for invoices overdue. Tweets, blog posts, leaflets and posters. Maybe product descriptions for your online store.
Most business owners aren’t professional writers. We can get nervous about writing the wrong thing, and end up staring at a blank page in total paralysis. I've found the way to get over the fear is to do a bit of planning before you start to write.
I used to be a communications manager in a big company. It was my job to write emails and send newsletters to thousands of colleagues every week. I didn’t have time to stare at the screen for ages, waiting for inspiration to strike. This is how I learned to jumpstart any piece of writing.
Plan before you write
First off, grab a piece of paper and draw the boxes and headings below. Then start jotting ideas under each heading, using the prompts underneath the picture. (I've included them in the worksheet you can download at the end of the article.)
At the end of this exercise, you will have loads of words on the page. All you have to do is arrange them in the right order, and do a bit of editing. (I'm going to share my top tips for easy editing in an upcoming post, so stay tuned...)
Working like this, I find when I come to write, the words have already started forming phrases in my head, ready to be written down. The resulting email or post is also more likely to do what I want it to do, rather than veering off at a tangent.
- Who am I writing to?
- Who am I writing as - myself, my company, orextra someone completely different? (You may be an assistant writing for your boss, for instance.)
- Who should review or approve what I write? (If you’re writing on behalf of a group they might want to see what you’ve written. And feedback is always useful, even if you end up ignoring it.)
- Why am I writing?
- Why will the person I am writing to be interested?
- How should I deliver this message? (Email, blog post, poster, leaflet, handwritten letter, video…)
- How can I make the message appealing to the reader?
- How will my reader act on what I’ve said? (Like, did I remember the link to the survey that I just asked them to fill in?)
- What do I want them to think, feel or do as a result of what I’m writing?
- What information MUST go into the message?
- What extra information, links or resources would be helpful to my reader?
- What else is important?
Now you can start writing
There will still be sticky parts, where the words just won’t come. Don’t stew over them. Put the draft to one side, go and do something else before you try again. Even if you get it all out in one go, you should still put it to one side before editing it.
I usually just grab a piece of paper to do this, or I use headings set up in an Evernote template. You can also download a printable worksheet here.
More ideas to help you tackle writer's block
- Ready to write, but too distracted? Try a different writing tool. Markdown editors remove most formatting options and just let you write. IA Writer (Mac, iOS and Android) and Texts (Windows, Mac) both have distraction free focus modes to blank out the rest of your screen. Or you could try the Focus view in Word .
- Lacking inspiration? Manage Your Day to Day is a book of essays on building a routine that helps you find your focus and be creative day in, day out.
- Seriously stuck? As in, something more serious than writer’s block? Try unstuck.com , a free app to coach you through sticky moments in your business.
What tips do you have for overcoming writer's block?
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