Write … to the Point

– writing tips and tricks

Archive for the tag “writer’s block”

How to get down to the business of writing…when you really can’t be bothered

Lacking motivation to write

Let’s face it, every now and then, despite the deadlines looming we really struggle to find the motivation to write.

It’s not exactly writer’s block — it’s just that motivation has disappeared as quickly as our morning coffee, and we just can’t be bothered.

So, what do you do to get out of the funk and back into business?

Write a List

Sometimes I can’t quite get into my writing  because I have other things buzzing about my head — things to do, things to remember, phone calls to make, etc. Writing them down is a bit like a brain dump; you get them out of your head, but you put them in a place where you know you can attend to them later.

Get rid of distractions

Do you have your email open in the background? What about Twitter? Facebook? Other social media platforms? While it’s tempting to run them in the background, they will only make it worse for you, if you’re not in the writing zone. Shut them down. And while you’re at it, turn off your phone.

Grab a cuppa

Chances are, before you struck out on your own as a freelance writer, you worked a 9 to 5 job, right? What was one of the first things you did before you sat down to work? Grabbed a cuppa. Tea, coffee, hot chocolate, it really doesn’t matter. But the very act of starting your writing session the same way you used to start your regular work day, will help your brain to switch on to ‘work mode’.

Write anything

Just start writing. Anything. It doesn’t matter what it is. You could write about how you don’t want to be writing. You could write about what you plan to do on the weekend. The content isn’t important, but the act of beginning the writing process is. Most of what you’ll come up with will be unrelated to the task at hand, or totally rubbish. But the process of just writing, will do something in your brain, and soon enough, your writing will become focused.

Apply some ‘bum glue’

Renowned author, Bryce Courtenay used to talk about a substance called ‘bum glue’ when it came to writing his books. While it sounds like a magical substance, there’s nothing magical about it, and it’s not something you can buy at the local store. ‘Bum glue’ is simply the discipline involved in sitting in your seat and getting your writing done. And it’s not just reserved for novelists. It can be applied to any kind of writing. So why not give it a try. I often find that bum glue is only necessary for around 10 minutes of solid writing. After that, my head is in the zone, and my fingers are happily tapping away.

Take a break

If after trying some of the strategies above you still can’t bring yourself to write, take a break. It may be for an hour, half a day, a whole day, or a couple of days — only you will know how much time you need. Time away from the keyboard and your computer screen, doing something totally unrelated, will free up your mind. You’ll probably find that when you come back, you are eager to get started, and you’ll have one of your most productive sessions.

So, the next time you can’t be bothered to write (and you know you really need to), try some of the above strategies. And if you have any of your own that work, let me know. I would love to hear them.

In the meantime, if you have writing that needs to be done, and you just can’t bring yourself to do it, why not contact me and see if I can help.




The one thing you can do to make you a better writer

Become a better writer

Most writers struggle with their writing sometimes. Whether it be writer’s block, or working out the best angle your article should take, some days this writing business is hard work.

Have you ever noticed though, that once you get away from your desk and go for a walk, or engage in some exercise, the floodgates open, and all of a sudden, you know exactly how to tackle your story?

That’s because regular exercise has proven benefits for brain function.

The reason you often come up with ideas for your story while walking is because walking can boost creativity by up to 60 per cent. [i] If you engage in an aerobic workout, your creativity levels are boosted for up to two hours! [ii]


All exercise benefits your brain

But don’t worry: You don’t have to don the lycra and head out the door to your local aerobics class prior to every writing session. Just incorporating regular exercise into your routine will help those brain cells function better. Numerous studies have proven it.

For example:

  • regular exercise increases memory and the ability to learn new things [iii]great if you are tackling new subject matter!
  • regular aerobic exercise changes the brain to improve memory and thinking skills [iv]definitely handy if you have to interview someone and think of really cool questions to ask.
  • just 20 minutes of exercise, facilitates information processing and memory functions [v]even writers can find 20 minutes to spare!
  • exercise increases levels of brain-derived proteins (known as BDNF) which are believed to help with decision making, higher thinking and learning [vi]definitely things that help with writing.
  • cardiovascular exercise improves overall brain performance by creating new brain cells [vii]who doesn’t want new brain cells?
  • people who exercise on a regular basis are more productive than those who do not engage in regular activity [viii]that means less time behind the keyboard, and more time for other fun stuff. Not that writing isn’t fun…


Tips for more exercise….and better writing

Now you know that exercising regularly will help your writing, how do you go about fitting it in? Well, there are many ways to go about it. If you are a freelancer or work from home, you have even more flexibility when it comes to physical activity.

You could:

  • commit to a regular exercise class at a time of day that suits you
  • go for a quick walk when writer’s block sets in (or check out these tips to beat writer’s block)
  • take regular breaks from your workstation, even if it is just to use the bathroom or make a coffee
  • perform regular stretches
  • walk around while you are on the phone
  • suggest a ‘walking meeting’ rather than one behind desks
  • walk to the café for your morning coffee….and your afternoon one!
  • incorporate more movement into your day (e.g. physically get up to talk to a colleague instead of emailing them, or take the stairs instead of the lift)
  • cycle on the weekends
  • take up a team sport.

If you’re the kind of writer who likes to sit at your computer for hours on end, drinking bottomless cups of coffee, getting into the habit of exercise may be tricky. But the benefits are worth it. You’ll increase your creativity, your productivity and may even improve your career prospects as a writer.

Why wouldn’t you want that?

Until next time.



PS. Here are the references if you’re keen to read further.

[i] Journal of Experimental Psychology: Give your ideas some legs: The positive effect of walking on creative thinking, Oppezzo, Marily, Scwartz, L Daniel, July 2014 Vol 40. No 4, pp1142-52,  http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/2014-14435-001/

[ii] British Journal of Sports Medicine, Exercise enhances creativity independently of mood, H Steinberg, EA Sykes, T Moss, S Lowery, N LeBoutillier, A Dewey. September 1997, Volume 31 no. 3 pp240-45, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1332529/

[iii] Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Exercise training increases size of hippocampus and improves memory, KI Erickson, MW Voss, RS Prakash, C Basak, A Szabo, L Chaddock, JS Kim, S Heo, H Alves, SM White, TR Wojcicki, E Mailey. VJ Vieira, SA Martin, BD Pence, JA Woods, E McAuley, AF Kramer. 15 February 2011; Vol 108 no. 7; pp-3017-22 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21282661

[iv] British Journal of Sports Medicine, Aerobic exercise increases hippocampal volume in older women with probably mild cognitive impaiarment: a 6-month randomised controlled trial, L F  en Brinke, N Bolandzadeh, LS Nagamatsu, CL Hsu, JC Davis, K Miran-Khan, T Liu-Ambrose, 7 April, 2014 (online) http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/early/2014/03/04/bjsports-2013-093184.abstract?sid=ecff0a48-d4fd-4a9d-b34a-156ca915a79e

Brain HQ, Physical Exercise for Brain Health, http://www.brainhq.com/brain-resources/everyday-brain-fitness/physical-exercise

New York Times, Want to be More Creative? Take a Walk.; published 30 April 2014, http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/04/30/want-to-be-more-creative-take-a-walk/?_r=0

Harvard Medical School, Regular exercise changes the brain to improve memory, thinking skills; published 9 April, 2014, http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/regular-exercise-changes-brain-improve-memory-thinking-skills-201404097110

[v] Science Direct, Effects of acute bouts of exercise on cognition, Phillip D. Tomoporowski, published 4 December 2002;  http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0001691802001348

[vi] Physiology and Behaviour, Aerobic exercise improves hippocampal function and increases BDNF in the serum of young adult males, EW Griffin, S Mullally, C Foley, SA WArmington, SM O’Mara, AM Kelly, 24 October 2011; 104 (5) pp934-41 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S003193841100308

[vii] Neuroscience, Aerobic exercise is the critical variable in an enriched environment that increases hippocampa neurogenesis and water maze learning in male C57BL/6J mice, ML Mustroph, S Chen, SC Desai, EB Cay, EK De Young, JS Rhodes, 6 September, 2012, 219: pp62-71 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22698691

[viii] Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Employee self-rated productivity and objective organizational production levels: effects of worksite health interventions involving reduced work hours and physical exercise, U von Thiele Schwartz, U Hasson, August 1011, Volume 52 no. 8 pp 838-44 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21785369


12 ways to beat writer’s block

12 ways to beat writer's blockYou know the feeling. You have an article due, time is ticking and you’re coming up blank.

The more you try, the more blank you become (if that’s even a thing?!).

Then you start to feel stressed, overwhelmed — the article you thought would come together relatively well, now seems more complex than ever.


Writing can be a tricky business. You need to be creative, coherent, and concise. Most of the time, you have to be ‘in the zone’ to get the job done. The zone is where the magic happens. It’s when your fingers can barely move across the keyboard quick enough, as the thoughts tumble out of your head. Adrenalin flows through your veins and words appear on your computer screen with little effort. What’s even better is that when you go back to edit them, you marvel at how well everything flows and fits together.

Yet ‘the zone’ doesn’t always happen. It can come and go — usually disappearing when the pressure is on and you MUST meet your deadline.

So what do you do, when writer’s block sets in?

12 tips to beat writer’s block

I have suffered from writer’s block numerous times. I will probably continue to as long as I write. However, I have found the following tips have helped me. They are in no particular order, and some days, I need to engage in more than one of them, before my brain kicks into ‘writing gear’ again.

  1. Relax — It’s important to remember that writer’s block happens to everyone — even the most experienced and proficient writers. So chill out, and don’t get upset about it. The more you can relax about it, the quicker you will return to your ‘creative self’.
  1. Just write — “But I’ve got nothing!”, I hear you say. It doesn’t matter. Just start writing. Anything. It doesn’t matter what it is. It can be as simple as: “The cat sat on the mat.” But set yourself a goal to just write whatever comes into your head for 10 minutes non-stop. Most of it will be rubbish of course, but the simple act of writing, will help your head get back into the game and beat that writer’s block.
  1. Write a plan — If you are stuck on how to start your article, plan it out. Write simple bullet points of the key things you want to cover. Then start to flesh those out with one or two sentences. Come up with a working title (you can change that to something more snappy later), and you are on your way.
  1. Read other articles — Research other articles online that are similar in topic to the one you need to write. Sometimes seeing the way someone else has approached the topic can get you thinking differently, unlocking your creativity.
  1. Listen to music — Sometimes you just need to do something totally different, but something that will make you feel good. Put on your favourite song and sing along or dance. It will relieve stress and anxiety, and may unblock your writer’s block. Just make sure you put a time limit on your dancing, otherwise your writing time may turn into a dance party for one!
  1. Write down some goals — Forget about your article and do some goal setting. Think about what else you want to achieve in your life and make a plan, using the SMART acronym (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely). Write down action steps. The simple act of goal setting can stir up a fire of motivation and excitement. All of a sudden, you will feel ready to take action — and you may be ready to put that form of action into writing your article.
  1. Research — Leave your current article for 30 to 60 minutes and conduct some research for another piece you need to write. A page of links to information you require for other articles gives you a good starting base for them, and it leaves you feeling like you have actually accomplished something, other than banging your head against the keyboard in frustration.
  1. Rest your brain —Fatigue can lead to writer’s block. If you have been doing a lot of writing of late, or if you have just come out of a particularly productive ‘zone’, your brain may get tired. Give it a break and do something else that doesn’t take much brain power. Tidying your desk, folding the washing (if you work from home), or cleaning out your filing cabinet are pretty mindless tasks.
  1. De-clutter your desk — Our environment often influences our productivity. If you workspace is cluttered, your mind is likely to be as well. Take 30 minutes to clean your desk and declutter. You may be surprised at just how motivated you are to work once you have a clear space in front of you.
  1. 12 ways to beat writer's blockRead something — Pick up your novel or that magazine you’ve been itching to read. Give yourself 30 minutes to get lost in another world. Reading someone else’s work sometimes motivates you to write your own!
  1. Go for walk — Research has shown that going for a walk can boost your creativity by up to 60 per cent [i], so don those runners to get over your block.
  1. Grab a coffee — A cup (or two or three) of good, strong coffee can help you focus, and get your brain into gear.

All of us think differently and work differently. So try a few strategies and see what works for you. And if you come up with any more ideas on how to beat writer’s block, I’d love to hear from you.




[i] Journal of Experimental Psychology: Give your ideas some legs: The positive effect of walking on creative thinking, Oppezzo, Marily, Scwartz, L Daniel, July 2014 Vol 40. No 4, pp1142-52,  http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/2014-14435-001/

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