For PR pros who do a lot of writing – most of us – we will, at one time or another, face an insurmountable case of writer’s block. One day you’re at the top of your game, pounding out pitches, tweets, speeches and press releases like a high-powered printing press, and the next moment you’re struggling to find the words to write anything at all. It happens to all of us, but there are always ways to jump-start your creativity. Here are four tips for getting out of a creative rut.
Read… a lot
It’s not a secret that reading makes you a better writer – the challenge is, of course, finding time in your busy life to read. The great thing about reading is that, whether we realize it or not, we’re reading almost constantly. Everything is copy, and in the digital age, we’re inundated with copy. So take inventory of your day and set aside a few minutes to read – on your commute, before bed, or, if you’re a particularly impressive specimen of human, first thing in the morning.
Find a genre that you think is eye-opening, engaging or entertaining and get to reading. Pay attention to the sentence structure, the unique voice of the author and anything else that makes what you’re reading special. How can you emulate this in your own writing? What lessons can you learn from the narrative in different genres?
Write for fun
The easiest way to get better at writing is to just keep doing it. Even though it may feel like the last thing you want to do after a long day (week, month, year, decade…) of writing, go home, put your feet up and keep writing. There’s nothing like putting pen to paper (even in the figurative sense) to help you realize why you love writing so much.
There’s no need to embark on writing the next great American novel – do something small, like keeping a journal, jotting down your dreams or even writing a letter to a friend. Forget about all the technical things that you pay attention to at work. It can be challenging to write blind, but ignore word counts, page formatting, spell check and redundancy.
Search for Intriguing Story Lines
If there’s something good publicists should know, it’s how to sniff out a good story angle. Stories are all around us – so keep your eyes open and observe the people around you. Turn your daily commute into a way to invent an intriguing storyline. For example, there’s a man sitting across from you on the train. He’s got a story. Challenge your imagination to fill in the blanks find it. Then add to the challenge and find stories everywhere.
If you’re stuck, think about how your favorite authors would describe the person, place or thing that you’re seeing. Hemingway, Steinbeck, JK Rowling. Every author – including you – brings a unique flavor to descriptive writing. Now develop your writing voice even more.
Here’s a secret – when I’m uninspired or feeling tapped out of descriptive language, I read poignant passages from one of my favorite books, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Here’s one that always stands out:
“She was made up of more, too. She was the books she read in the library. She was the flower in the brown bowl. Part of her life was made from the tree growing rankly in the yard. She was the bitter quarrels she had with her brother whom she loved dearly. She was Katie's secret, despairing weeping. She was the shame of her father stumbling home drunk. She was all of these things and of something more...It was what God or whatever is His equivalent puts into each soul that is given life - the one different thing such as that which makes no two fingerprints on the face of the earth alike.”
What’s not to love about this paragraph? The author brings so much emotion to what would have been an otherwise flat character description of a small child. In a few sentences, the reader is fully honed in on the character and understands her depth much more thoroughly.
Try a Prompt
If you can’t think of something to write, try a prompt. There are thousands, but I suggest Writer’s Digest, Think Written and Writing Forward. Find a quiet place, put your phone on silent and take a deep breath – it’s time to write.
Amy Lecza is senior content marketing lead at All Points Public Relations