Even the most successful writers have minds that go blank occasionally. These writing tips will help you overcome the paralysis that stops you from getting your words on paper.
Writing when you feel like you have nothing to say is about training your mind to think like a writer. What does this mean? I don’t know, but author Sage Cohen does. She wrote The Productive Writer: Tips & Tools to Help You Write More, Stress Less & Create Success. These writing tips will help you write an essay for school, a post for your blog, or an article for your community newsletter. Cohen’s tips will help you write a book.
One of my coworkers told me she freezes when she has to write a report or even an email. She has a Master’s of Counseling, and had to write dozens of reflection papers and essays to get her degrees – and she has wasted hundreds of hours in front of blank pieces of paper.
5 Writing Tips for When Your Mind is Blank
1. Dig into the back story
I’m working on my Master’s of Social Work at UBC, and my next paper is to “describe a business practice for which you think Donaldson’s algorithm points in the wrong direction.” I have no idea what this means. My mind is a total blank when I read that sentence because I haven’t read the chapters and business case studies that explain Donaldson’s algorithm. The most basic writing tip for blank minds is to do your research. What are you writing about, who is your audience, what do you want them to know?
2. Say out loud what you want your readers to know
I’m writing these tips for when your mind is blank because I want you to stop wasting time and start being more productive. I rarely struggle with a blank mind because I reframe the assignment or my purpose for writing in my own words. Out loud. This alleviates the pressure of a blank paper.
3. Write the introduction
Writing essays for school – even graduate school – is SO boring. But they can also be the easiest things to write because the professors and teachers just want to ensure you’ve learned something. When I’m stuck on a paper – like I no doubt will be when I tackle Donaldson’s algorithm – I write the introduction. In graduate school it’s super boring because all papers start with the words, “In this paper, I will blah blah blah.” The blah blah blah is essentially the assignment I’ve been given. I always write the intro first, because it helps me focus my mind on the upcoming paragraphs.
If you get stuck on writing introductions, read 7 Ways to Write Effective Leads and Hook Readers.
4. Forget about writing good
Don’t worry about what your editor will think of the article, what grade your teacher will give you on your essay, or how your readers will respond to your blog post.
Instead, focus on the topic. Are you writing about Robertson’s algorithm? Learn something about it, then write what you think about it. Forget about sentence structure, grammar, word count – just focus on your key point, your thesis topic, or the main point of your article or post.
5. Pay yourself to write
When I wrote 73 Ways to Fire Up (or Just Fire!) the Muse, I interviewed dozens of writers, journalists, novelists, bloggers, and even journalism professors for their writing tips. One of the most interesting strategies in that ebook is to give someone $100, and have them “pay” you $5 every time you write a pre-ordained number of pages, or if you write for a pre-ordained set of time. If you’re motivated by external rewards, you won’t have time to wrestle with your blank mind.
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What has worked for you in the past, to overcome the blank mind? I welcome your writing tips!
If you’re a discouraged blogger, read How to Stay Motivated When You’re Starting a Blog.