Spoiler alert: I had a bit of writer's block when preparing for this blog post. But, lucky for me, I work with professional storytellers all the time. So, what do the pros do when they're stumped? I reached out to bloggers and journalists I admire to borrow a page from their book (no pun intended) on beating writer's block. From research to running and photography and getting a pedicure, the responses were too good to paraphrase, so without further ado, here are some juicy tips from the pros that you can refer to next time you're trying to get an idea across on paper:
Cori Coffin, Anchor & Producer at News Channel 5 in Grand Junction, CO: Understand Your Subject Matter.
Well my biggest thing for writer's block when I'm completing a story is to re-read and really understand my subject matter. Reading up on all resources can help get the process flowing for new ideas or new ways to say things. Also, a thesaurus is my best friend. I can look up one word I'm trying to get across, and get a whole bunch of ideas from all the corresponding words. In regards to story generation, we are always taught to follow our beats, and continuously follow up with various experts around the community. For example, my beat is energy. So how is drilling out here on the West Slope--is it up or down since we last reported? Have any companies had and changes lately? Hirings/firings, special projects, etc. Also, the best thing when you are feeling uninspired with story ideas, is to take to the community and talk to people! Just listen to their experiences, history, thoughts and insights, they tell some interesting stories!
Alexandra Hedin, lifestyle blogger of the same name; author, and contributor to 425 Magazine: Get Your Mind Off of It.
Writers block is the pits! For me, because all of my writing is driven by something I’ve created, I think it get more of ‘creators block’ than writers block. To get out of that rut, I find a long walk, park time with my kids, or just a pedicure and a trashy magazine are enough to get out of my own thoughts and clear my mind. If I’m completely lacking inspiration, I hole up in my library with every cookbook I own and start thumbing through them. Usually I can be inspired by an ingredient, an image, or a recipe itself to create something.
Don Granese, Reporter for NBC Right Now in Tri-Cities, WA: Let the Story Speak for Itself.
We work on a harsh daily deadline mostly turning multiple stories a day. In a way writer's block isn't an option. Sometimes I only have 15 minutes to write a full story. I find the best way to tell someone's story is to let them tell it. I pick out their best quotes from the interview (ones that pack the most raw emotion) and then think of how to write around those while also including all the facts that could add to the story while also keeping a flow that pushes the story forward.
If I had any tips I'd say, think back on why you originally wanted to tell the story. What was the original factor that sold you on the idea? From there, how can you take that idea and make it relatable to your audience?
For example, today I met a woman who is deaf and needs donations for an $8,000 hearing aid. When I met with her and her husband they explained that he was also legally blind. Rather than write a story about how she needs this money, the story needed to be about them. They work together to see and hear.
I began my story by having the anchor read, "We use our eyes and our ears for just about every form of communication, but for one Kennewick couple they only have one full set between the two of them. Alejandro Vazquez is legally blind and Janie Gaunt has been deaf since the age of 12. They have been together for over a decade. This week the receiver for Gaunt's hearing implant died. They have always been each other's eyes and ears. Now, they have to work together until they find a solution."
Almost everyone has eyes and ears. When we imagine not being able to use them it gets us thinking. Hopefully it grabs the viewer's attention enough that they stay with the story. Then at the end of the story I mention the link to her page raising funds. The viewer/reader is already invested and maybe by that point they will feel charitable to the woman in need.
In this way my stories have an arc. I bring them in with the most relatable or intriguing thing I can without giving too much away. Then I let the story (and my characters) speak for itself.
Angela Russell, freelance writer and blogger at The Coupon Project: Try A New Angle With Content.
Revisit things you've written before to see if more could be said about them, or if you could take another angle on the topic. For instance, I recently wrote a post about dandelion foraging, but it later occurred to me I could also do a post on dandelion root tea, dandelion root coffee, where to harvest dandelion, the benefits of dandelion, and so forth. If you're having problems brainstorming new material, take a good look at topics you've already covered. Have you really said everything that can be said?
Christi Warren, Reporter at SaukValleyNews.com in Sterling, IL: Start in the Middle.
I just start writing words. It can be about whatever the story is about. It can be about my reaction to the story. Just the action of typing and getting thoughts out pretty much always fixes it for me. I find it particularly helpful, also, to not start at the beginning of a story. I start somewhere in the middle, a la: "and then Janice entered her bedroom and there, on the floor, was the gun she'd seen him holding earlier. The very same gun," and then I write until the end without having introduced Janice, or the gun, or "him," and just carry on until I'm finished and then worry about the beginning later once the story's written itself. I also know that if i have writer's block, it's only because I care deeply about what I'm writing and how it could affect the people who will read it, or the people it's about.
Katrina, fashion blogger at The Demure Muse: Go For a Run, Snap Some Photos.
I feel like I hit a bit of a wall whenever the seasons change. I know it sounds silly, but I'm one of those people who really enjoys consistency and predictability with weather. As a style blogger, the shift between seasons can be hard for the first few weeks trying to change gears for dressing for a new season.
When I'm stumped for what to wear and not sure what to write about, I like to clear my head and go for a run around the city. Seattle is absolutely gorgeous and has some of the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets I've ever seen, not to mention really interesting art all around
Whenever I go for a run, I find myself taking photos of random buildings or street art. While running, I don't think anything of the photos, but when I get home I like to review them over a quick water break and snack. It's during this downtime that I get inspired by the photos of the city to either come up with topics to write about to accompany outfits that are inspired by colours in the photos.
At times when running isn't an option (to be fair, Seattle weather has been amazing on the last few weekends), I look to taking photos of packaging around my home. As someone who appreciates creative ways to add character to mundane everyday objects, a lot of style and story inspiration comes from these photos as well.
Next time you're stumped, take a step back and look at your surroundings. Take photos of everyday scenes that you encounter and look back at them to see if there are any characteristics that you didn't notice on first glance. These little quirks and details are what usually inspire me to write. I hope they help rid your writers block too!