If you’re having trouble with a writing project, the first thing to do is figure out why. Below are four common scenarios and possible solutions:
1. You’re Having Trouble Figuring Out What to Say
Pretend that you’re writing a letter or email to a friend about the product, service or issue, explaining why it’s beneficial or important. If the problem is that you have to write about an unfamiliar topic, take a look at what others have done. I’m not advising you to steal their work, but seeing how other people handled the topic can inspire you with ideas about how to approach your own project. E.g., notice what other writers place in their lead sentence and initial paragraphs, how they transition into the main body of the piece and what type of conclusion they use. Again, don’t copy the words, copy the technique that appeals to you the most.
Sometimes you may have difficulty understanding the project. If things are just not working, try writing the purpose of this piece of communication and the elements that would make up the message. In other words, write an outline.
If your outline turns out to also be vague or incoherent, you probably need to do more research or re-read your notes in order to find the appropriate slant for your topic.
2. Everything You Write Seems Horrible
You may just need to warm up.
Look for warming up exercises, writing prompts or rituals on the web. Another option is to keep your focus on the project but turn off your internal editor and just write for a while. One writing acquaintance of mine says that it may take up to 45 minutes for him to really get into the “writing zone.” I’ve experienced the same thing: if you keep going, sometimes the block comes loose and the words flow. If they don’t, you will have something to edit later.
If you’re still frustrated after an hour or so, stop writing and consider scenario #3.
3. You’re Burnt Out
You may be burnt out on that specific project, that type of assignment or work in general. Try doing other projects for a short while and then returning to the one that’s giving you trouble. Or break the project down into small, specific tasks and reward yourself when you complete a task.
You might also consider incorporating exercise or some other invigorating activity into your routine. And if you’ve been putting off your vacation, remember that rest can positively affect productivity. Here are a few other ideas for battling burnout from the writers at Writing-World.
4. You’re Having Trouble Finding an Idea
Read one of your favorite industry-related magazines or visit to an online forum to see what’s on people’s minds. You may be able to find another angle to a story or issue, or you may think of a solution to a common problem. Also, keep an idea file where you list ideas or topics that can fuel your creativity in the future.