What do you do when you have writer's block? - Charity Savant

A big part of my job is writing. Direct mail appeals. Web copy. Blog posts. Stewardship reports. Email appeals. And so much more.

But there are times when I just can’t do it.

No matter how hard I try, there it is. That ever-daunting blank page.

This week was one of those times. Faced with writing a series of emails for a campaign, I looked at my empty Word document, let out a long sigh, and reached for my office-buddy’s stash of mini Mars bars.  

Fortunately, writer’s block doesn’t usually last that long. Over the years I’ve tried a bunch of different strategies to help my writing along when I’m just not feeling it. So in the spirit of breaking my current writers block, I thought I’d share some of my favourite ways to get the words flowing.

Take a break

Sometimes you just need to go for a walk and clear your head. If I’m at home, I take a break by going for a run or grabbing my groceries. Something to take my mind off of what I’m trying to write so that I can come back to it with fresh eyes.

Read something unrelated

Reading something that has absolutely nothing to do with what I’m trying to write has helped me tremendously. Often I find that whatever I’m reading might have a nugget of a phrase or a theme that prompts me to write the piece I’m working on.

Write something unrelated

Have other things you need to write? Get cracking on those pieces to get yourself warmed up. If you don’t have other things that need to be written, warm up with some creative writing exercises. Do a quick Google search for some writing prompts and get started.

Consider time of day

What time are you at your peak? Somehow I write best first thing in the morning, when I haven’t quite woken up yet and am still in a hazy fog that reduces my filter. Pay attention to when you do your best writing, and try to block your calendar to work during those timeframes.

Try stream of consciousness writing

When I’m on a deadline I just write. I just let whatever comes out of my fingertips come out. You might write the same sentence over and over with a different word here and there, but just let it flow. Once you’ve had enough, take a quick break and then use your masterful editing skills to turn your stream of consciousness writing into the copy you need.

Write by hand

Writing by hand forces you to slow down and sometimes that’s what you need to get an idea down. Grab your favourite pen and notebook, and try writing your piece the old-fashioned way.

Just get to 80%

Perfectionism. It gets me every time. But as much as I don’t want to admit that I can’t reach perfection, there’s really no such thing as perfect. Reminding myself that I just need to get to 80% helps me refocus on my priorities.

Don’t fall in love with your words

Because I’m also a creative writer, I can easily get stuck on a great phrase I’ve written. I’m guilty of bringing on writer’s block by forcing myself to work the phrase in at all costs. It’s hard to learn not to commit to your words and to trust the writing process, but not falling in love with your words is a valuable lesson to learn.

Ashleigh Saith

Co-Founder, Charity Savant

Ashleigh Saith is a fundraiser and nonprofit leader with years of experience working in small- and mid-sized nonprofits. She’s passionate about nonprofit marketing and leadership, and found herself with a shocking knack for finance. While out running, Ashleigh thinks about new ways that Charity Campus can help nonprofit staff and volunteers grow, learn, and connect with each other.