This is a guest post from Brad Shorr. Brad is Director of Content Strategy at Straight North, one of the leading Internet marketing services providers in Chicago specializing in SEO, PPC and web design services. With more than 25 years of sales and marketing experience, Brad has been featured in leading online publications including Forbes, American Marketing Association and Entrepreneur.
There are two maladies that make life miserable for a writer:
- Writer’s block, when you want to write but can’t.
- Writer’s blah, when you can write but don’t want to.
This article will look at remedies to writer’s blah. But first, let’s review the symptoms.
Do You Have Writer’s Blah?
These are the sorts of things that go through your mind when afflicted with writer’s blah.
- I’ve written this a thousand times. I can’t write it 1,001 times.
- There’s really nothing original I can say about this topic.
- It’s glorious outside. I’ll write later, after I go for a run.
- I’ll skip my 2,000 words today and write 4,000 tomorrow.
The mindset of writer’s blah is one of procrastination, burnout, loss of focus, absence of intensity.
What Causes Writer’s Blah?
A number of things cause writers to develop a serious case of the blahs. Common ones include:
- Too much writing. If you’ve been overdoing it, burning the midnight oil night after night, you may have burned yourself clear out. Whether you’ve been working too hard because of passion for writing or pressure to pay bills, when your writing energy is gone, it’s gone.
- Too much of the same writing. Copywriters working with the same clients or within the same industry may reach a point where they feel like they’re just rehashing everything they’ve said before (or what others have said before). The point has come where writing is all mechanics, and no imagination.
- Life is getting in the way. Distractions are the bane of every writer — good or bad, distractions divert creative energy away from the keyboard. When writer’s blah sets in, anything and everything becomes a distraction, from your child’s first day at school to dealing with a termite infestation to re-caulking a window.
How to Write Through the Blahs
Unfortunately, if you are a professional writer, you don’t have the luxury of turning down assignments or taking a one-month break instead of a one-hour break. You’ve got to write through the blahs … but how? Have you tried these methods?
- Brainstorm with a friend or colleague. A good way out of a creative rut is to change the creative chemistry. When I’m looking for fresh ideas I really want to write about, there are a few people I can talk to for an hour and come away with 10 ideas I never would have thought of in isolation.
- Change the scenery. If you work at home, get out of the house and write at a coffee shop. If you work at an office, set up shop at home. A change in external stimuli may give you an internal boost of energy and focus. At the very least, it will physically remove you from certain distractions that have been getting in your way.
- Try a new creative approach. Here’s an article I ran across the other day, about a former SNL writer’s creative method. His approach is basically a form of wordplay that is systematically random. Very interesting! Forcing your brain to rewire is energizing.
- Subject yourself to an information dump. If you’re out of ideas, maybe you’ve been working too long in isolation. Go to a conference. Sit down with your boss for an hour and ask him/her to tell you everything that’s going on, every new challenge that’s presented itself. Talk to clients and ask them the same things. Attend a webinar. Go through your Twitter stream and actually, critically read the articles your friends share. Write notes on everything. A day or two later, look at your notes and see if you can convert them into story angles or entirely new topics.
- Read something different. One way I’ve always been able to beat the blahs is by getting into a new author. When an author’s style interests you or even excites you, it rekindles my interest and excitement in writing. The trick, of course, is to find an author who has that affect on you. But even the search for that special author is re-energizing.
Over to You
How do you beat the blahs? What ideas can you share to help writers get excited about their work again?