Writer’s block. It happens to the best of us, where at some stage in the creative process of producing original work we meet at a crossroad, and it becomes hard to define where to go next. Other times, the problem appears much sooner – simply getting those starting words out can be the biggest challenge. Starring down the barrel of a blank page can be so intimidating that it has the ability to actually inhibit not only productivity, but creativity – this is known as ‘blank page syndrome’.

The issue stems from the overwhelming expectation to produce perfect writing within the first attempt, which deters writers from even starting their work. But the truth is, once you have a start, you are halfway there. All your writing needs to do in the early stages is exist, and the only way of overcoming the barrier of the blank page and writer’s block is to get something – anything – out, in any way you can. To help you, we have created a list of five strategies and steps to assist you on your start to writing no matter the nature, so you can eliminate the expectations, pick up the pen, and produce something extraordinary.

1. Take a Break

Despite sounding counterintuitive, taking a step away from your work, even in the case that you haven’t made a start yet, can sometimes be all that is needed to get back on track, as it allows you to focus on the bigger picture of what it is you truly want to say. Go for a run, have a shower, bake a cake, or meditate – no matter the activity, use this time to open your mind and escape the expectations and logistics of your writing for a while. The most important thing to remember in this step, however, is to avoid filling your break with any mind-numbing media, like movies, Netflix, television, computer games, apps etc. While consuming media is a great source of inspiration at the beginning of production, if you already have an idea and are simply trying to get started, any outside ideas pose the risk of becoming more of a hindrance than a help, taking away from the originality of your own. At this stage, you will want to opt for more engaging activities that stimulate your brain, providing the perfect state of mind to explore and expand on your ideas with a renewed perspective.

2. Find a Space

Our environment influences our writing, and so a simple change of scenery can be a quick and easy solution to writer’s block. We take inspiration in from all objects and happenings that surround us, and when we find ourselves in an environment that does not stimulate our creativity, the work we subsequently produce is often a reflection of that. Try find the perfect place for you that is conducive to your individual writing – not everyone’s ideal environment will be the same. This could be in a public place or private space, in the office, or somewhere you have never visited before. You could even go a step further and seek out a location that is related to the content you are writing: if you are discussing the beach, why not go there? If you are talking politics, take a journey to your nearest government building to get in the zone.

3. Map Your Ideas

Go back to basics and enlist the help of the old-school pen and paper to get your ideas out of your head, and onto the page. Jot down any thought in whichever way makes sense to you: these could be dot points, notes, brainstorms, or drawings. They do not have to be fully developed notions or theories, just simple little tangents of your train of thought that only you can understand. These notes are vital to the creative process, as you are producing a database of all your floating ideas, materialising them without the pressure of making them make sense to the public eye. From your original scribbles, you can then create a mind map, connecting any concept or idea that seems related or could potentially be intertwined to make a sequential flow and strategy of how your story or essay will be structured. This visual approach to planning creates the foundation of your draft: you number your thoughts in order, then split up the numbers into paragraphs. Just by taking 10 minutes to jot down ideas, half the hard work is already complete, and you can focus your energy into finally writing a first copy.

4. Start at the End

If you can’t start writing, then don’t start – take an alternative approach and finish, writing one of the end or middle segments first. Working backwards is a classic method to cure the blank page syndrome used by experienced authors everywhere, who know the pressures of delivering a bold opening line to capture audience’s attention. By eliminating that stress to make your first five words shine, you are much more likely to write your essay, media release or story the way you initially set out to. You can simply start writing coherent sentences that can be worked into where they fit best in your sequence as outlined in the mind map. In addition, the closing sentence acts as a summary to your piece, so chances are, by figuring out what exactly it is that you are summarising in the first place, you will be able to introduce it with more clarity and direction than if you had jumped right into the opening line.

5. Draft First, Revise Later

Despite the many useful tips and tricks at your disposal that help bring you back to your writing, in all cases, there is one consistency: eventually, you just have to write – one way or another. As aforementioned, you may be under the impression that your writing has to be perfect your first run through, but that is simply not the case, as explained by acclaimed writer, Neil Gaiman:

“One way you get through the wall is by convincing yourself that it doesn’t matter. No one is ever going to see your first draft. Nobody cares about your first draft. And that’s the thing that you may be agonizing over, but honestly, whatever you’re doing can be fixed… For now, just get the words out. Get the story down however you can get it down, then fix it.”

Don’t think about the end product, revising or editing at this stage – just pick up the pen or fire up the keyboard, and get that first draft done. Refer to your mind map, and write down the continuous flow of thought that each sequential point or idea inspires. Majority of it will be completely revised and refined later, but the main point is that for now, you have produced something tangible: all great writing has to start somewhere.

By following these steps, you should be well on your way to writing your next masterpiece, besting the blank page once and for all.

If your writer’s block is impacting your ability to come up with innovative content, stay tuned for our upcoming blog detailing how you can generate your own original ideas, using tried and tested strategies that will guide you to success.