the dark knight of writer's blockThis post was sparked by a Twitter conversation with Andrew of Redtype, when we were chatting not too long ago about how we sometimes need to disconnect ourselves from the wonderful world of social media when we need to F-O-C-U-S and W-R-I-T-E.

Do you find you do? I find I do.

It’s not that I can’t write when I’m flitting between social networks, but when I really need to put my head down and get a ton of writing down, I do need to go offline.

Because delightful as chatting with everyone is, it doesn’t always help me focus on my writing, and then I start panicking about all the writing I’m not doing.

And then I lose all the ideas that I had and that dark knight of blogging – writer’s block – gallivants in.

“Curses, Sir Bloch,” I sputter. “I don’t need you to rescue me right now; in fact, you’re doing quite the opposite.”

Sir Writer’s Bloch, of course, couldn’t care less. But here are some ways I’ve found to combat that armor-ridden beast, and they might work for you too.

1. Cut your nails

I know, this sounds ridiculous. What I’ve seen, though, is that if my body is not prepped for optimal writing, er, typing, then I get distracted.

For me, this means cutting my nails regularly (they grow so quickly, you wouldn’t believe it). I had to keep them short as a kid, since I grew up playing the piano, and even when I was into changing my nail polish every few days (now I barely ever wear it), I could never keep long nails.

What you can do: identify your figurative nails (if they’re not literal ones). Are there any things about your physicality that help you write better? Taking your contacts off (or putting them in)? Sitting at a certain chair so that your posture is less strained? Whatever it is, do that.

2. Writing in Word

I’ve gotten very used to writing directly in WordPress. This is a good thing, but it also means that I’m in my browser, which means I have the potential to get distracted.

Recently, I’ve been asked to write a spate of guest posts. Since I typically send the posts in as Word documents, when I wrote them, I’d switch over to Word and get through them much more quickly than I thought I would.

What you can do: exactly what I did.

3. Prep your editorial calendars

Good grasshoppers will know that I love the WordPress Editorial Calendar plugin, no matter how much it might drive Howie Goldfarb crazy. Oh, sorry, that’s WordPress itself that drives him crazy.

At the risk of repeating myself, what I love about this plugin is:

  • I can move posts (or drafts) around by dragging and dropping; and
  • I can start a new draft from within the plugin interface.

I usually keep the WUL dashboard open throughout the day. So if I get a post idea on the fly – and you know that happens – I can quickly jot it down, along with a few key points of what I think I want to touch on, and then go back later to flesh out the post.

What you can do: install and use the plugin! Or else, figure out what mechanism to use so that when ideas come to you, you don’t lose them. Maybe this is creating voice notes on your phone. Maybe it’s always having a notebook and pen/pencil handy. Maybe it’s clipping ideas to Evernote.

Find your most-favored way of capturing post ideas, so that you’re not stuck for inspiration.

4. Get mad

From a health point of view, I don’t recommend this as something to aspire to. However, when I see something that makes me mad, it usually consumes me until I just have to write about it. Sometimes over and over again.

Sure, I end up writing so much that I spend almost as much time on editing … but sometimes I don’t. And these have been some of my most successful posts.

What to do: know what your trigger points are. But don’t get mad over everything, because then you just run the risk of being boring.

5. Sleep

A while back I contributed to a post on heretical productivity. I then ended up writing my own post on the subject which included a conversation with BYS (backyard squirrel), the gist of which was that when I was feeling really overwhelmed with things to do, instead of doing any of them, I took a nap in my hammock.

And when I woke up, I got them all done much more quickly than I had anticipated.

Now, please know that I am not advocating procrastination. However, I think part of what leads to writer’s block is that we have so much we’re trying to process during our waking hours, we end up not processing any of it. Taking a break can help.

What to do: take a break. Go for a walk, go to the gym, dance frenetically for 20 minutes … whatever it is that will break the monotony you’re enduring. It will refresh and re-energize you.

Image: tizzie via Flickr, CC 2.0

These are five ways I’ve been able to beat Sir Writer’s Bloch when I’ve been in danger of being overwhelmed by him.

What do you do? Do share, I’d love to know, and you know the comments are yours!

Shonali Burke
Founder and publisher of Waxing UnLyrical, Shonali Burke helps smart businesses make bank by taking their communications from corporate codswallop to community cool™. She is also the founder of The Social PR Virtuoso®, which provides online, on-demand training that helps you unleash your inner Social PR superhero. Shonali is mad about ABBA, bacon, cooking, dogs, and Elvis, though not necessarily in that order. Wouldn't you like to be in her kitchen?
Shonali Burke