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Struggling for Inspiration: When Writer’s Block Happens to Non-Writers

If you’ve ever stared at a computer as you waited for inspiration to strike, you likely know the frustration of having a mind as blank as the screen in front of you. It happens to the best of us. Within the writing world, this has been given the now common term of writer’s block. Ask any writer what writer’s block is like and they’re bound to tell you about the headaches that accompany it. Even more stressful are those times when writer’s block strikes while a deadline looms ever so close.

“How time flies; another ten days and I have achieved nothing.”

But writer’s block doesn’t just afflict writers. Anyone involved in a creative pursuit may suddenly find themselves in a situation where inspiration is slow in coming. As far as I can tell, there doesn’t seem to be a proper term for this type of creative block other than calling it “writer’s block but for [fill in the occupation or hobby].” But it still happens. Call it an “inspiration barrier,” “creative bottleneck,” or “innovation drought,” the result remains the same: nothing gets done while you wonder what’s wrong with you.

In the marketing world, inspiration barriers can hit marketers, designers, and writers alike. It’s time to find ways around it so that inspiration can flow more freely.

Fresh Air

Walking down the street

Chances are, your creative process involves sitting in a chair and staring at a computer screen, all within an office building. Even if you work from home, most likely you’ll be confined to an isolated room free from distractions. Staying at your desk while you struggle with inspiration barriers is a recipe for continued frustration. The solution? Step out of that environment.

As writer Hilary Mantel describes, “If you get stuck, get away from your desk.” That’s only the first step, though. Once you’re away from your desk, get outside. Breathe in the fresh air. You’ll be surprised at how putting some literal distance between you and your work can encourage more creative inspiration. This helps clear your mind, in turn getting rid of that pesky block. Sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate with this strategy, but even going for a short drive can produce similar results.

An Audience of One

Man in dark theater

Creating content or developing innovative marketing strategies requires knowing who your audience is. That much isn’t a secret. Many times, however, the defined audience can be poorly defined or much too broad. As a result, marketing intended for that audience can be difficult to create.

In situations such as this, it’s time to narrow down the audience even further. We’re talking really narrow. When faced with this type of difficulty, writers are told to imagine writing to a single person. This helps the writer craft their message with more exactness. The same holds true if you’re designing a new ad or planning a new campaign. Picturing a specific person helps you to cut through the barriers you’re experiencing and get to the heart of what you’re trying to do.

Identify the Cause

Problem solving with friends

Inspiration barriers can pop up due to a wide variety of reasons. Once you identify what your particular case is, you’ll be better equipped to address and correct it.

There are many possible causes. Some of the most common ones include fatigue, anxiety, distractions, and analysis paralysis. That last one may be of notable concern for marketers. All too often we can get caught up in the details of what we’re trying to accomplish and we spend way too much time analyzing every little thing.

Figure out why creativity seems to be so difficult to conjure at the moment. Understand the cause and then you can form a plan to counteract it.

Read, Read, Read

Picking out a book

With reading comes inspiration. You don’t even have to read something related to the current subject you’re tackling. Any reading will do.

Reading an unrelated subject can help get your mind off of your frustrations and promote more open-minded thinking. In a sense this encourages ideas that you might not have thought of before.

Choosing to read about your subject can certainly help as well. By going this route, you may discover information you never considered or inspiration that triggers more ideas. All of this combines to get the creative juices flowing, leading to the destruction of unhelpful barriers.

“I can’t write a thing. But I’ll continue to try—that is the point.”

Perhaps the best piece of advice I can give when inspiration is hard to come by is to not get too flustered. Creative block isn’t an indication of incompetence or failure; it simply happens. If anything, getting down on yourself may only make the problem worse. Give yourself some slack, try out these tips (or one of the many others floating around the web), and hop back into it with renewed energy. You’ll find free flowing inspiration soon enough.

Colin Baker

Colin is a writer and content manager at 97th Floor.

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