When a new writer first finds out that I freelance as a writer, they often ask, “Don’t you just hate writer’s block?” I would then reply with, “There’s no such thing as writer’s block. I don’t believe in it”. But since they’re asking, I guess maybe it happens—I just don’t allow it to happen to me because it’s not a luxury I can afford! I also can’t summon a muse, so I need to motivate myself to write.
Then OK, I get it. Maybe you find yourself hitting a wall from time to time and lacking the motivation to write. Maybe you take forever to finish a piece, or even give up and don’t hand it in. And maybe sometimes you do keep to your deadline, but do you ever write your next piece faster than the last one? Probably not. So, what do you do when writer’s block strikes? How do you motivate yourself?
Just take a break from writing
No point forcing yourself to think. If you’re blocked, then you’re blocked. I mainly follow the cues from my stomach as a sign that I need a break. I make something to eat, and this gives me at least 15 minutes from my draft. I might also put the washing on right before I start writing. This way, I’m forced to leave my desk to hang the washing. At other times, I might go shopping. When I return, it’s like I’m a new person with new ideas. Of course, not everyone writes from home. If you’re on campus, there are many places to go to do something different. Like the library. Or just watch an episode on Netflix. Watching Netflix has become a quick fix for me. I promise it’s a good way to reboot your brain.
Keep a folder of swipe files
Experienced writers usually collect samples from other experienced writers. We call this our ‘swipe files’. When we come across a piece that we enjoy, we grab it and save it to our folder. Haven’t found anything you like, yet? Google the keywords “freelance writer + my portfolio” (the exact phrase, quotation marks included) and see what comes up. When you need inspiration, try your swipe files.
Create a Swipe Files folder that inspires your writing
Find a different angle
If the reason you’re struggling to write is that the story’s been covered to death, then change the angle. Say an expert launched a service to help 50,000 young people develop social skills. Now say other writers have only written about how the new service will operate. I’d focus on why so many young people need help with social skills and why it’s important that they seek professional help. What I’m saying is re-read the press release or original story and see what other stories you can pull from it.
Use online forums for research
When I want to know what topics people want to read, I draw inspiration from what people are saying in forums such as Facebook Groups and Yahoo! Answers. I join niche groups and other groups where people discuss all sorts of topics. If a post is trending, then that’s a great topic to use as a guide for an article. However, I don’t recommend writing clickbait articles where you’re basically copying and pasting conversations and adding “she said” and “he complained” tags. That’s not my style! I also like to use AnswerThePublic, a website where you type in your topic and see what people are asking about it.
Online forums are great for when you’re stuck for story ideas
Follow high-quality niche websites
Nothing frustrates a writer more than not knowing what to write about. That’s why I keep a list of niche websites to visit for story ideas. I don’t copy their articles; I simply go there to find out what’s trending and how I can ride that wave. I also follow these websites on social media, sign up to their email lists or create Google Alerts that send new stories in my inbox.
Create Google Alerts to send you stories when Google discovers them
Only write what you love
No article about self-motivation for writers can be complete without some consideration of the topic you’re writing about. The best way to ensure that I’m always excited to write is to choose to only write about the things that interest me, and then stay away from the ones that bore me to bits or that are against my values. Plus, unless I’m ghostwriting for someone, I usually only accept assignments that allow me to use my own style and voice.
Don’t let writer’s block cripple you. Just imagine where your writing could take you if you always manage to push through, write great stories and deliver on time.