By Ann Gynn published June 23, 2020 Est Read Time: 10 min

18 Ideas to Overcome Your Writer’s Block

Editor’s note: Since cursors continue to mock writers, we updated this 2018 article.

“When are you going to start?” Blink.

“Are your fingers frozen?” Blink. Blink.

“Why aren’t you typing?” Blink. Blink. Blink.

“Don’t you know what to create?” Blink. Blink. Blink. Blink.

The cursor is a silent but pesky critic.

Do you ever want to curse the cursor when you’re in a slump?

Do you ever want to curse the cursor when you’re in a #writing slump, asks @AnnGynn via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

You can’t write that lead. You feel like you’re crafting the same content you did yesterday. Wait, or was that last week? You can’t imagine how to find another way to talk about your core topic.

Well, instead of watching a mocking cursor, take a tip or 18 from your fellow marketers on how they get out of a creative content marketing slump.

Grab some toys

LEGO blocks are great. The same blocks used to build a house can be used to make a Death Star. Get a bucket of blocks (use DUPLO if you want bigger ones). On each block, write one word or phrase that relates to your products and services: attributes, content themes, personas, customer challenges, stage in the buyer journey – anything that relates to your marketing. Color code them if you wish and start playing.

Bring together random blocks, then look at the connections. Write them down. See if they can be brought together to create new content angles or ideas. Pull apart those blocks and start again. You can apply some rules too. For example, put together one persona-related block, one block about the customer journey stage, two challenge blocks, and one product block.

The idea is to get away from the linear thinking and play around with different ideas and connections that you might not have ever thought of. All the combinations – and resulting ideas – can be examined and expanded to see if they can be viable.

André Rampat, director and co-founder, CorporateLeaders Communications

Grab blocks. Label each one w/ a relevant word. Build & look at combinations. @AndreRampat via @CMIContent #Writersblock Click To Tweet

Grab a pen

Physically writing may be a little old school, but there is something empowering and motivating about it. Simply put pen to paper and let the ideas flow.

Katie Derrick, senior content writer, It Works Media

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT: You Can Write Faster With This Guide

Find the one thing

When I feel unmotivated about a project or task, I try to find one element of it that is unique and interesting. This can be tough, but typically one piece relates to my life or catches my attention. Once I’ve found that element, I research the heck out of it and focus on that concept. Even if this concept is only loosely related, it will generally pull my brain out of a rut.

Tyler Tassinari, digital marketing director, Three29 Web Design and Digital Marketing 

Find 1 interesting element in a #content project & focus the heck out of it. @TylerTassinari via @CMIContent #Writersblock Click To Tweet

Stay in the lines (or not)

Coloring is probably one of my favorite ways to combat a work slump. Not only does it reduce anxiety, relieve stress, and increase my focus, it’s also fun and fosters a creative mindset. I have a few adult coloring books and a good set of colored pencils.

Coloring brings you back to childhood, and we all know how imaginative and creative children are. Picking colors that bring the pages to vibrant life is therapeutic. After coloring for just 15 to 20 minutes, I feel re-energized, and I’m ready to start working again.

Angela Reina, creator, The Bloggers Buzz

Walk out

Get out of your everyday environment. Take yourself and a colleague (or your team) offsite for a brainstorming session. Make sure there’s no access to work emails or any of the other distractions that tend to dominate proceedings in the office. Even taking just an hour out of your day can fuel the fire and ignite ideas.

Jason Scott, digital marketing freelancer and blogger 

Be on alert

I set up Google alerts around the topics I am actively writing about. Every morning, I read through the articles to find relevant news pieces to associate with the content I am writing. I find pieces that inspire a competing opinion or provide insight into mundane topics.

Brittany J. Maroney, owner, Cheers Marketing and PR

Write (yes, write)

It sounds stupid, but I’ll force myself to write whatever comes into my head – even if that means that I’m writing about not knowing what to write about. Most of what I write is pure stream-of-consciousness nonsense, but more complex and concentrated thoughts start to appear that can be developed further. After a while, without even realizing it, the writing mojo is back.

Jordan Harling, former lead copywriter, Wooden Blinds Direct

Meditate

One thing I do to help keep my mind from reaching a creativity block is daily meditation. I use various apps, such as Headspace. They make meditation simple and effectively help me clear my mind from unnecessary noise, reduce stress levels, stay focused, and boost my creative thinking.

Matt Edstrom, vice president of marketing – gifting, Mrs. Fields Famous Brands

Be human

We encourage our team to experience art, exhibits, events, store openings, concerts, etc. Good creative content is built out of the collective human experience and translating that via content that resonates with your audience.

Daniel K. Lobring, vice president, marketing communications, rEvolution 

Mix it up

I like to switch up the format of my content. If I’ve been doing a lot of storytelling content, I’ll try an informative article instead. Even moving mediums can help inspire new ideas – try working on a video instead of a blog post. It could open up a whole slew of ideas.

Jessica Califano, head of marketing and communications, Temboo 

Set up folders

What works for me is to have work in progress (WIP) files on my desktop. There are folders that have pages with only single sentences or a few paragraphs. I have screenshots of things that have worked for other people. There are unpublished articles and cut-and-paste text from engaging emails and Skype conversations.

In these WIP folders, I have hundreds of ideas, all in different stages of development. If I ever get stuck, I start to dig through them and find idea gems that would normally be long forgotten.

Jason Lavis, managing director, Out of the Box Innovations Ltd. 

Make a pre-emptive strike

Do your legwork upfront and you can make tweaks as you go. A researched editorial calendar built six to 12 months in advance will serve as a foundation for the long term, particularly when you’re extremely busy and have less time to think. I go as far as to incorporate target keywords and long-tail phrases into a column on my calendar so that some of the framework for a blog is built for use later.

Ellen Hoffman, director of digital marketing, Solis Mammography

Create a list of something else

Make a list of something that isn’t to do with what you’re working on. Making a list is a great way to keep your brain engaged, while taking time away from the task at hand. The list can be anything, from your 20 favorite music albums to the worst films of all time, to a list of things you need to pick up on the way home. Creating the list actively stimulates your brain.

James Nuttall, freelance writer

Take a side job

Find a side project at work. Someone always needs help for a project that’s been put on the back burner or an impending issue. Tackling a different problem than your typical work projects was just the ticket.

As a favor, I took on data visualization projects for a separate team and it transformed how I looked at my core projects. It gave me a new point of view, which spurred the creativity I needed.

Ashley Plack, founder, Strategist Marketing

Get out of a creative slump. Tackle a problem different from your typical projects. @AshleyPlack via @CMIContent. #Writersblock Click To Tweet

Have a gab fest

Whether you interview clients, vendors, or staff members, real conversations are an easy way to energize a lackluster campaign. Interviews often reveal new topic ideas, a different point of view, and, if you keep the interview format, even a new voice.

Lisa Hirst Carnes, co-founder and chief operating officer, ArcStone

Think externally

Too many content marketers prefer to go it alone. When they run into a creative roadblock, they struggle to get around it because they aren’t willing to look beyond themselves. I find that looking at what other successful content marketing professionals are doing can really re-energize me and kick my creativity back into high gear.

Anthony Gaenzle, founder, AnthonyGaenzle.com 

Look at what successful #content marketers are doing to kick creativity back into high gear. @AnthonyGaenzle via @CMIContent. #Writersblock Click To Tweet

Separate your mind

I find that much of writer’s block or creator’s block can be avoided by scheduling time to ideate. I like to create one to two months of ideas at a time. It might be 50 ideas cut to 25, but the process is finished and the ideas are put on a calendar so when it’s time to create I’m off and running.

Dayne Shuda, founder, Ghost Blog Writers 

Buy dish soap

When I feel like I don’t have a creative bone in my body and I need an idea for content or a new product, I do the one thing that has helped almost every time.

I hand-wash my dishes. I purposely do not own a dishwasher because I’m a creative publicity expert, internet marketer, digital product creator, and writer who always needs new ideas for products, articles, promotions, etc.

Joan Stewart, publicity expert, The Publicity Hound

Go forth

Even if getting rid of your dishwasher is too big a commitment for you, at least one of these tips will help you break out of your creative rut. And, more likely, you’ll want to mix and match to find the best idea to fix each writing slump you encounter.

And, above all, you’ll have a great comeback the next time that cursor mocks you.

Improve your writing and other content marketing skills with CMI’s free weekday newsletter. Subscribe today. 

Please note: All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team. No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used). 

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Ann Gynn

Ann Gynn edits the CMI blog. She also serves as the Tech Tools editor for Chief Content Officer magazine. Ann regularly combines words and strategy for B2B, B2C, and nonprofits, continuing to live up to her high school nickname, Editor Ann. Former college adjunct faculty, Ann also helps train professionals in content so they can do it themselves. Follow Ann on Twitter @anngynn or connect on LinkedIn.

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