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What it feels like to write for 8 hours a day

Terry Pratchett once said: “There’s no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write.” This seems rather harsh, but to be honest, in my role as English Content Developer at Cicero & Bernay, I have never experienced the tortured, head-banging writer’s block that famous authors throughout history have described.

This is because as a copywriter, I am provided with abundant subject matter and messages – the well never runs dry and there is always more content popping up in my inbox. This means that I am never expected to start completely from scratch. I’m sure that attempting to write the first sentence of a novel would leave me a wreck, but on a day-to-day basis I am lucky to be given all the inspiration I need to write good copy.

On the flipside, I spend eight hours a day writing non-stop. This can feel like eating too much chocolate – at times I can’t face another bite. Contrasted with thrilling days when sentences flow on to the page with amazing ease, there are moments when I feel like I am trudging through waist-deep mud to get the words out.

This is not writer’s block because the material is all there. It’s ready and waiting, and I’m just momentarily struggling to pick it up and run with it. I think the best way to describe it is writer’s blur. Sometimes I can’t see the words for the trees.

When I sense this feeling creeping up on me, immediate action has to be taken, because in the busy world of PR there is no time to wallow or waste time. The blur must be hastily beaten back before it steps over the threshold.

How to beat writer’s block

As Philip Pullman, author of ‘Northern Lights’, so matter-of-factly explained: “The fact is that writing is hard work, and sometimes you don’t want to do it, and you can’t think of what to write next, and you’re fed up with the whole business.”

Many authors suggest taking a walk, having a bath or even cooking to beat this feeling, but with deadlines looming and content flooding in, this advice is frankly useless for PR copywriters.

So how can we quickly and effectively beat the blur?

  • SILENCE THE PERFECTIONIST: While every piece of finished content must be perfect, your first draft is for your eyes only. Start writing, even if it is unbearably awful, because it is easier to correct and critique a piece of terribly written content than to write perfectly from scratch. Give yourself something to work with and then the perfectionist in you can step in to refine it later.
  • AWAKEN THE READER: If you are stuck then spend five or ten minutes reading. The reading material should ideally be of a similar style to the content you are working on; this will help you to find your voice. The other approach is to read something inspiring by your favourite author to remind yourself why you got into the writing game in the first place.
  • MOBILISE YOUR TEAM MATES: Every now and then, your writer’s blur may be due to insufficient information or briefs, or simply crossed wires when it comes to the most important messages. If a writing task is daunting you then get to the heart of what it’s all about by talking talk to your team mates and getting a clearer picture of what is needed.
  • MIX IT UP: Intersperse shorter, simpler tasks with longer, more complicated writing to keep yourself fresh. If you are struggling with one particular task then don’t be afraid to switch to another. Miraculously, your subconscious will continue to work on the previous task and it will seem a lot easier when you return to it.

By following these steps, I have avoided writer’s block simply by keeping going and never running out of steam. After all, “writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all.”

Natasha Redcliffe is the English Copywriter of Cicero & Bernay Public Relations. An independent PR agency headquartered in Dubai and offering new-age public relations consultancy to the UAE and across the MENA region. |