Help! When Soul-Crushing Writer's Block Strikes: Arm Yourself With Secrets from Tina Fey and Google to Kick Your Deadline's A$$ Now!

Help! When Soul-Crushing Writer's Block Strikes: Arm Yourself With Secrets from Tina Fey and Google to Kick Your Deadline's A$$ Now!

In the spirit of full disclosure (and a very grateful heart to Sharethrough's Headline Strength Analyzer), it took a ton of brainstorming to start this blog today. As you can see, it has been a bit of a hiatus. Writing for others can take the wind out of your own sails, even if you love what you do. Actually, especially then. So what do you do when you find that your mind is as blank as the page before you and your window of "writing time" opportunity is swiftly closing? 

Here's what has worked for me (and Tina Fey, and Google's Co-Founder Sergey Brin, because hey, if anyone knows about pressure, they do): 

1. Stop Overthinking It:

Yes, I am going to just say it: outlines can really suck. Don't get me wrong, they're awesome starting points and a great organization tool. But just like you can go overboard with a closet so organized that you don't want to use it in real life, too much structure can bog you down. So what do you do when you have so much written down that you don't want to ruin the perfect structure that you've created? Ditch it and just write already. Take it from Tina Fey in her book Bossypants:

“You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide, overthinking it. You have to go down the chute.”

Perfection is guaranteed to slip. Just go down that slide!

2. Go Ahead and Jump Into that Worst Case Scenario:

Didn't I just tell you to STOP thinking? Yep, but let's say that you can't. When anxiety grips you, ask yourself what the fear is really about. Usually it's the true F-word for most of us: FAILURE. So let's say you're afraid your client won't like you work, or that no one will read your newest blog post. No doubt, those things can feel horrible. But only for a moment. Remember, one little blip during your writing career doesn't diminish the other clients you've thrilled or the other blog posts people have loved. Even GOOGLE has fallen on their face, as Co-Founder Sergey Brin is proud to tell you:

“We do lots of stuff. The only way you are going to have success is to have lots of failures first.” 

If Google is cool enough to fail, so are you! It's simply a building block to key words that will unlock your future success. 

3. Remember Why You Took on This Writing Project

I remember my first job. It was as an intern for a local newspaper that was so small that "intern" meant general assignment reporter. I had Target as work experience and was 19 years old. To say that I was afraid at the time is an understatement. So what did I say when they called me up asking me if I wanted the job? "Absolutely." Then I spent the weekend biting my nails and started on Monday. I consistently wrote 5 stories a week for the next six months.

What does this have to do with your impossible assignment ahead of you? Everything BECAUSE the fact that it scares you means you are meant to ROCK it. Growing pains are just that. Remember that this push is part of becoming a better writer and that your experience will pay off. Even if you clumsily type along for awhile, be heartened by the fact that you are in good company, as Tina Fey has done the same thing throughout her career: 

"Say yes, and you'll figure it out afterward" has helped me to be more adventurous. It has definitely helped me be less afraid. 

"We're offering you a job here at Saturday Night Live—can you move here within a week?" 

"Ummm, yes I can."

"You know, you haven't been here that long, but do you want to move up and try to be one of the head writers?"

Feeling completely terrified inside, but saying, "Uhhh, yes, okay, yes, for sure."

"Do you wanna do 'Weekend Update' with Jimmy?"

Petrified. "Yes, thank you, of course!"

There are limits of reason to this idea of saying yes to everything, but when I meet someone whose first instinct is "No, how can we do that? That doesn't seem possible," I'm always kind of taken aback. Almost anyone would say, "It's Friday at two in the morning. We don't have an opening political sketch. We can't do it." Yeah, of course you can. There's no choice. And even if you abandon one idea for another one, saying yes allows you to move forward. 

Read more:

Don't make me use the cliche "no pain, no gain" more than once. Hit that keyboard.

4. If All Else Fails, Laugh. Laugh. And Laugh!

At the end of the day, it's not so serious! Really! Step away from the keyboard if you need to and you'll see that you're still in the comfort of your home, favorite cafe, or wherever you chose to write. Even if it takes longer than you wanted it to (by hours), how many other people get the freedom to have time for writer's block? So take a breather and chuckle. Remember the added benefits Ms. Fey has advised you to take advantage of:

"Laugh more, it burns calories."

Now that you've distracted your writer's block (and maybe grabbed a brownie since you're burning calories), it's time to go crush your writing goals for today! Write on!


Megan Reilly