What's the single biggest impediment to creating great business content? Most people will say "writer's block." But they're wrong. Forget the image of the tortured artist throwing pages of wadded up type in the trash. Professional writers will tell you there is no such thing as a literal "block." Furthermore, the deeper you get in the writing profession, the less you can afford to lose productivity by getting hung up in angst.
But regardless of what the barrier is, if you're feeling blocked, it's an issue. This week I spoke with Dr. Angela Lauria, founder and CEO of The Author Incubator, who has worked with hundreds of authors, helping them to write and publish best-selling books and has written numerous books of her own. From that experience, she offers the following recommendations on the best ways to get unstuck and to use the energy that's been holding you back to start propelling you forward.
1. Call it what it is.
The first step in embracing writers block is to acknowledge what it is and drop the story to themselves that it shouldn't be happening. People are often in denial about the fact that they're struggling to write, which is natural. So they knuckle their way through another hundred words as they fight against the negative traction. Instead, let it go. Admission is the first step to a cure.
2. Give yourself a prompt and a time.
Consider giving yourself a writing prompt by asking, "Why did I start writing this book/blog/column etc. in the first place?" Then set a timer for 30 minutes. Use that time to put down a private stream of consciousness note about the reasons you write in the first place and the readers you are hoping to reach. Identify how many words you wrote, such as 250 words, and double it. The doubled sum is your words per minute rate, (i.e. 500 words per hour). According to Lauria, you should be writing at least 80 percent of that rate. So in this example if you're not writing 400 words per hour, it's a sign you are blocked.
3. Acknowledge "I have writer's block because I'm writing at less than my optimal rate."
A big part of overcoming writer's block is understanding what your maximum abilities are and acknowledging that you're not working at your maximum potential. Once you recognize this, you can take steps to determine what the issue may be (Burnout? Lack of creative inspiration? Lack of movement to keep your blood and brain activity flowing well?) Move forward accordingly. (Remember, too, that knowing your natural pace will help you to identify what your hourly billable rate needs to be).
4. Ask yourself, "What is the message I am trying to convey?"
Lauria recommends opening a new document on your desktop. In the way you regularly type (with your dominant hand), ask your "inner author" the message it has for you. Then, using only your non-dominant hand, type the answer. Writer's block may occur when you're not writing from the truest motive of service for your readers. Envision his or her interests and hopes, worries and pain. When you can tap into that conduit, you will probably know what is missing.
5. Step away from your computer.
Many people tell themselves they should be doing something else (such as folding laundry or walking the dog) and are preoccupied with the things they think they should be doing. In this case, Lauria suggests you listen to that voice and step away from your computer, as doing so will make your "inner author" feel safe. Set a timer (10-15 minutes). It is extremely important, she stresses, to do whatever you're doing with the intention of going back to work. When you come back to your computer, open the document and see how the message from your inner author has changed. With your head now clear from distraction, you will get a more concrete vision of what needs to be done.
6. Visualize the result.
Finally, envisioning the end result of your project is an extremely useful exercise when experiencing a block. Imagine the flow, the enlightenment for your readers. Bask in the glow of your delighted editor and the meaningful conversations that emerge from your readers' response.
If you'd like to examine these ideas further you can go to this link to hear Dr. Lauria's full podcast in detail. Clearly her ideas hold merit. In addition to supporting hundreds of writers and coaches on the process of developing and publishing books, she has authored more than two dozen books of her own since 1994.