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The #1 Reason You Get Writer’s Block (and How to Fix It for Good)

‘That’s it – I can’t do this anymore!’

I was six months into my copywriting career, and I was ready to give up.

Here’s the crazy thing: I was making good money at one of the largest email marketing companies in the world… a $600m-a-year behemoth many people call the “Harvard of direct response copywriting.”

It was a dream job for anybody aspiring copywriter… and the perfect place to learn the skills I’d need to make SERIOUS bank in the years to come.

Yet I STILL wanted to quit.

I couldn’t handle the frustration.

You see…

I’d arrived at a place where every writing session felt like a BATTLE

When I sat down to write something, I’d wind myself up into a ball of anxious energy, worrying about the idea… I’d write in fits and starts… I’d edit obsessively…

It would take me 5 hours to write a 200-word sales email. And it wasn’t rare for me to rewrite something TWENTY times.

The stress!

To me, writer’s block wasn’t some minor thing. It was crippling my life’s greatest ambition… my career… and my sense of self.

Can you relate?

Even if you aren’t a nutso perfectionist, you’ve probably felt the DEEP frustration of writer’s block at some stage. And you probably understand that writer’s block is not just about an inability to get your words out.

More than that, you know the dangers of letting writer’s block take hold of your day.

The biggest danger? You have an online business that relies on writing, and writer’s block keeps you from writing. It’s like if a surgeon experienced “surgeon’s block.” Her practice would shut down. So when you experience writer’s block, it all but halts the sustainability and growth of your business.

Think about it…

If you can’t write the blog posts, emails and sales pages your business needs to function, you can’t get subscribers and sales… which means no soup for you.

It’s even worse if you’re just starting out and you don’t have any of these things out there already… It can literally mean the difference between staying stuck in a 9-5 you hateand building a business that brings your dream lifestyle into reality

But listen…

What if you could defeat writer’s block forever… in the next seven minutes?

Imagine what it would feel like to never have to feel that frustration again… to have words flow out of you with ease every time you sat down to write… and to actually finish all the those pieces of writing you need to make your business grow.

It’d be awesome, right?

Well, great news: In this article, I’m going to show you how I overcame writer’s block once and for all. It didn’t take me seven minutes to implement this, though. It took me months and months to arrive at this place where I can confidently say I’ve conquered writer’s block. Today, when you take what I’m about to share, you’ll be able to implement it all in SEVEN MINUTES.

You’re about to learn a simple, repeatable writing system that I began to develop on the very same day I almost quit my career as a copywriter…

Because you see, I’m proud to say that I did not give in that day.

I grit my teeth and promised… 

“Writer’s Block, you bastard – I WON’T let you win”

About six months ago, I began my journey into writer’s block ‘deconstruction’.

And let me tell you… I went DEEP.

I read books… I quizzed more experienced writers… I pondered deeply… and after much searching, I am super pleased to say: I found a solution. It’s something that helped me go from the stereotypical tortured writer into a happy, productive writer whose words flow effortlessly on demand.

I believe it can do the same for you.

We’re about to get started.

But first, let me put an old myth to bed and tell you this:

Writer’s block has almost nothing to
do with a lack of ideas…

That’s right. Writer’s block is not about being short on imagination.

It also has little to do with your skill as a writer.

A lack of ideas and feeling stunted when writing are only SYMPTOMS of the true cause of writer’s block: Resistance.

Resistance is a term coined by author Steven Pressfield in his book The War of Art. Pressfield defines it as an internal force that tries to stop you from completing your most important creative endeavours. However, the most accurate description I’ve found for Resistance comes from celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain:

“I understand there’s a guy inside me who wants to lay in bed, smoke weed all day, and watch cartoons and old movies. My whole life is a series of stratagems to avoid and outwit that guy.”

“That guy” that Bourdain is talking about here is Resistance.

And the thing that makes him extra hard to deal with is that he shows up in all kinds of different ways. Here are some examples:

  • When you hear a voice that tells you to put on another episode of Stranger Things when you know you should be working…
  • When it takes you three weeks – and countless edits – to write a single blog post…
  • When you feel the urge to give up on your most important goal rather than trying hard and dealing with potential failure…

Basically, whenever you stop doing something you should be doing in favour of something easier, that’s Resistance working its ugly magic on you.

Before you can break the powerful spell of Resistance, you need to understand its fundamental nature:

Resistance feeds on fear and stress
like vampires feed on blood

That means, the more fear and stress we associate with a task, the more Resistance we get when we try to complete it.

This is why people who identify as writers – whether you’re a blogger, a copywriter or an author – often struggle with writer’s block so badly. It’s because their writing is so important to them.

For example, the reason I used to get it so bad was because:

  1. I had set becoming a great copywriter as my most important goal, so failure became a HUGE fear.
  2. I thought of myself as a ‘good writer’. So being told I wasn’t or having people criticize my writing became an idea that stressed me out BIG TIME.

That meant that every time I sat down to write, I was hit by overwhelming amounts of Resistance, which gave me crippling writer’s block. In a nutshell:

Fear/Stress = Resistance = Writer’s Block

It follows, then, that if we can minimize the fear and stress… we can lessen the Resistance we feel towards the task… and we can stop writer’s block.

Here’s the good news. I’ve developed a useful way to do that. I call it:

The Happy Writer’s 7-Minute System

It’s insanely simple. This makes it SUPER easy to implement. By my watch, it’ll take you just seven minutes to set this system up today.

But don’t let the simplicity fool you.

This system represents six months of hard work whittled down to a razor’s edge… designed to SLICE away your writer’s block almost instantly.

STEP ONE: Kill Your Fear and Stress the Happy Way 

How I do this:

→ Jump up and down before I write and chant a happy mantra (yes, seriously)

OR

→ Write a half page of happy gibberish at the start of every writing session

Why I do this: 

This gets rid of any stress and fear you may be feeling towards the writing task you’re about to complete. Allowing you to kick Resistance to the curb… and enter a creative, free-flowing writing state almost on demand. Ideas will come more easily. Your words will be more entertaining. AND writing might actually become fun again.

STEP TWO: Know What You’re Going to Write About BEFORE You Try to Start

How I do this:

At the end of every writing session, I plan or write a bit of what I’m going to write in the next session. I either plan to continue the piece I’m working on. Or if I’m finished, I begin a new one.

Why I do this: 

Ernest Hemingway said you should stop writing when “you are going good.” As in, when you’re on a roll, stop. That way, your mind keeps working on the unfinished thought. It’s like leaving the engine running instead of shutting off the car before the next time you get in.

A writer by the name of Nadia Ballas-Ruta took that note further: she suggests stopping mid-sentence. And Roald Dahl also practiced a rule of stopping mid-way down the page to avoid starting with a blank white page the next time.

I’ve also found this: when you put pressure on yourself to come up with ideas on the spot, it usually results in a big fat helping of STRESS. That’s because when the ideas aren’t forthcoming, you tend to get agitated: Why can’t my stupid brain come up with anything!?

Odds are, from that point, your writing session is going to be a failure. However… if you already know what you want to write about, it’s much easier kick your writing session off with a bang… and give Resistance-causing stress the slip.

You’ll want a good cache of ideas ready to go at all times. I recommend using a note-taking app on your smartphone to jot down your good ideas as soon as you have them. That way, you’ll always have good ideas ready to go.

It also helps if you plan the ideas out a little bit before starting.

STEP THREE: The Daily Writing Habit

How I do this:

Write at the same time EVERY day. Start small: just 15 minutes a day, at the same time.

Why I do this:

According to Steven Pressfield, a daily writing habit is the most powerful weapon you have in your battle against Resistance and writer’s block. And most great writers have one (or have had one) – Ernest Hemingway, Stephen King, Gary Bencivenga… the list goes on.

The reason this works is because when something becomes habitual, it happens automatically. You don’t think about doing it. You just do it.

And here’s the thing: If you don’t think about something, then fear and stress can’t possibly play on your mind. Thus, Resistance is robbed of its power over you.

Win!

The problem is that habits can be hard to form. That’s why I recommend you start with short 15 minute sessions – they’re MUCH easier to commit to (this hack comes from the Tim Ferriss school of behavioral change). Then, once you feel comfortable with 15 minutes, you can stretch it out to 30 minutes… then an hour.

STEP FOUR: Use the Seinfield Method to Reinforce Your Habit

How I do this:

Mark an ‘X’ on your calendar for every day you complete a writing session. Jerry Seinfeld used this method to help him build a habit that made him the most prolific joke-writer in history. He would mark his calendar with a big ‘X’ for every day he wrote a joke, and then try not to break the chain. It looks like this:

pasted image 0
My calendar: Using the Seinfeld Method to build a daily writing habit.

Don’t worry if, like me, you miss a day or two here or there. The important point this is that you get back up on the horse the next day.

Why I do this:

The Seinfeld Method for your writing is a great way to help measure your progress and reinforce your daily writing habit. And as we’ve already established, forming a habit is your most powerful weapon against Resistance and writer’s block. If you manage to stick to writing even two out of every three days, you will be wildly more productive than most of your competitors.

You’ve now got the four steps of the Happy Writer’s system. Here are the actions you can take in the next 7-minutes to get it all set up:

→ Create a happy mantra if you want one (step one).

→ Download a note-taking app, like Evernote, so you can jot down all your ideas. That way you always have something to write about (step two).

→ Decide on a time you’ll write every day (step three).

→ Set up a calendar near your writing desk so you can track your progress (step four).

If you need any clarifications or help getting the system set-up, don’t hesitate to reach out.

~pete

Pete OC teaches solopreneurs how to launch a profitable online course in just 14 days – even if you have a small list, no product idea and almost zero tech skills. To learn more, visit Pete’s website here.

About the author

Pete OC

Pete OC learned the art of writing email copy and the "product launch" at the world-renowned Agora Inc, a $600m-a-year titan of email marketing. Today, he uses those skills to help solopreneurs launch their own online courses in just 14 days - even if they have a tiny email list, no product idea and almost zero tech skills. How? By doing almost the exact opposite of what most internet marketing "experts" tell you to do when launching a product. Intrigued? Visit Pete's website here to learn more

  • Dhwani Sangani

    A Great Informative Post Pete.
    Thanks for the insights 🙂

    • Thanks Dhawni — glad you got something out of it.

  • Commiting to work is one of the best strategist, trying not to die from hunger is another Great thing that motivates, btw, why don’t you give a read to http://bit.ly/2nmP3sI and let me know if it complements your post.

    • I love the layout of your website — it’s awesome.

      And I also like your writing style — very clean. My issue though is with the “list post” format for fixing an issue like this. One, actionable plan I think is a better way to tackle it. Rather than trying to think about doing 17 things at once.

      But hey, that’s just me… I’m not a “list post” type of guy.

      Thanks for the comment though (y)

  • I had to laugh at the Stranger Things reference.

    For the longest time I avoided starting it just looked weird and I’m not that big on the Horror genre.

    But once I finally took the leap I think I finished the season in less than 5 days. It helped that I started it on a Saturday, the one night I can afford to binge watch.

    After that, “Finishing the next episode” became a primary goal that I was determined to find a way to meet.

    One of example of my commitment to this goal happened on the Sunday after I’d started “Stranger Things”. I got WAY too caffeinated in the hours before it was scheduled time to lay down and so it would have been easy for me to just use this as an excuse to stay up late watching episodes.

    But I have another ritual that I’m committed to which is a 90 minute routine that I do every morning that helps me keep my body aligned. Without it, all the time I spend sitting – sinking into a keyboard warrior posture – makes my body do weird shit – annoying aches, pains, tingles, numbness in extremities, etc. I learned about it from Tony Robbins almost 20 years ago, used it to heal my knee pain and never strayed away from it since.

    It’s a series of light exercises and stretches you hold for an extended periods of time and during this time I usually put something on that I can listen to when I can’t hold my tablet in front of my face, like a Tim Ferriss interview, and during the parts when I can hold it I do Lumosity brain exercises.

    And so because, I’m Jerry Seinfeld pot committed to doing this ritual, I did it at 2:00 in the morning, watched Stranger Things during the part when I could, and slept in the next day.

    If people will go through the same gyrations they do to find a way to finish a series they’ve become obsessed with, to implement your advice here in pursuit of the goal of writing everyday and capturing their ideas when they burble up to the surface, there’s no way they can’t improve.

    Awesome work Pete! I hope many a writer is served by what you’re sharing here.

    • That’s a great point man.

      If I committed to work with all the gusto I do when finishing a good series after I start it… well… then I might have a stadium named after me. Or something.

      Cheers for the comment!

      Pete

  • LJ Sedgwick

    These totally work for fiction writers too. I write fiction as well as content and I often find that writing bulletpoints about what’s going to happen next before I shut Scrivener down for the day is the easiest way to get started next time I boot it up. And I set a reminder to write in Wunderlist so it’s on my To Do list every day!

    • Thanks for the comment LJ.

      In truth, I started out wanting to be a fiction writer… but got seduced to the “dark side” of penmanship because I wanted to make more shekels.

      One day I’ll get back to it 😉

  • Donna

    I know that Resistance so well! I’ll clean the house, or put the washing on rather than just get started writing something. Anything. But when I do, it goes away. Thansk for the prompts to sort her out!
    PS You might want to add a couple of words in here or change one… “It was a dream job for anybody aspiring copywriter… “

    • Glad you liked the article Donna.

      And good spot on the “anybody aspiring” typo!

      Cheers 😉

      Pete

  • Really good stuff Pete! Thanks

    • No worries tejones — glad you got something out of it!

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