You know how they always show writers in Hollywood movies?
Crumpling up sheet after sheet of paper, and tossing them at a trash can?
It just doesn’t happen like that in real life.
At least it shouldn’t, when you’re writing white papers.
Maybe novelists, poets or screenwriters can suffer from writer’s block.
Copywriters are more like engineers or construction workers.
We’re not “artistes” who need our muse to inspire us before we can get started writing.
No excuse for writer’s block
I have trouble accepting that any white paper writer needs to suffer from writer’s block. That’s because there are well-defined steps you can follow to complete any white paper.
(I’ve even codified these into steps in chapters 11 through 13 of my book, White Papers For Dummies.)
If you go through this process properly—and don’t cut corners—I pretty much guarantee you will come up with a first draft you can polish.
So if writer’s block does hit, I recommend you go back through these steps, and make sure you did each one thoroughly.
If you still feel blocked, here are nine more things you can try to blast your way through.
Writer’s block-busting tip #1: Pick the right flavor
To start, review the purpose of your paper. Are you writing the right flavor to achieve that goal?
Make sure everyone involved has reached a consensus about what you are trying to accomplish. You can’t please both sides of some contentious issue at once.
And you can’t easily address prospects at the top, the middle, and the bottom of the funnel all at once.
Writer’s block-busting tip #2: Don’t skip the incubation period
One of the worst things you can do is to start writing before all your planning and research is done.
After you’ve done your research, let it sink in for a day or two. Your unconscious mind will start put the material together… without you doing anything.
Writer’s block-busting tip #3: Move on
Skip any section you’re struggling with. Leave it TBD (To Be Done) and move on to the next. You can go back and fill in the missing sections later.
This is how I often work. I don’t write every white paper from start to finish. Sometimes I skip around and fill in whatever I can, just to get started. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Writer’s block-busting tip #4: Do something differently
Change anything: your location, your method, or your mindset.
For example, go to a coffee shop to write. If you’re working on a laptop, move to a different room in your home or office.
Or try the Pomodoro method and give it your best for a set period of time like 40 minutes. Like millions of other people, you’ll be amazed how much you can get done that way.
Writer’s block-busting tip #5: Try mindmapping or fish-boning
These are other ways to switch things up and use some different mental muscles.
Try doodling or mindmapping out your argument’s main points. Drawing an informal visual instead of using words just might get you over the hump.
Writer’s block-busting tip #6: Write a quick e-mail instead
Ask yourself a basic question like, “What am I really trying to say in this section?”
Then write the answer in a less formal way, as though you’re just jotting down an e-mail to send to a friend.
Writer’s block-busting tip #7: Write bullets
Try going into PowerPoint for a while and writing some bullets points.
- Just jot down your essential points
- That may break the jam
Writing slides can be a big relief from trying to craft complete sentences.
Writer’s block-busting tip #8: Use speech-recognition software
Again, you’re changing something in your work process, by speaking instead of typing. That may be all the change you need.
Free speech-to-text utilities are built into recent operating systems and smartphones, although you might have to search to activate it.
DragonDictate is the most popular commercial program, available for Windows, Mac OSX, iPad, iPhone, and Android. You can read my notes on using speech recognition software here.
Writer’s block-busting tip #9: Refill the well
No one can squeeze out well-argued white papers for weeks on end without a pause to refresh.
Seek out some inspiration from art. From music. From your favorite escapist TV show. Or from colleagues.
There are plenty of articles about how to write a white paper available free on this site.
Or try another site like Daphne Gray-Grant’s excellent Publication Coach, which is packed with useful help on how to write faster and better.
As I suggest in my book, White Papers for Dummies, when you need to write a white paper, make sure you get enough sleep, write when you’re fresh, and don’t let your inner editor out too soon.
Follow the tips listed here, and I’m pretty sure you’ll realize there is no such thing as writers’ block.
Not for a white paper writer, anyway.
For some excellent advice about beating writer’s block, check out this article from accomplished author Jerry Jenkins. One radical suggestion: Actually schedule Procrastination into your calendar to tame it?!
Do you have any more tips or advice about writer’s block? Please leave your comments below.