Five Ways to Overcome Writer's Block No Matter What You're Writing

I've sat through countless writing classes and watched as myself and other writers struggled with moving forward on a manuscript. This was most certainly the case when it came to screenwriting and I've found it also to be true in the book writing process.

The thing about writing, in my opinion, especially when it comes creating significant pages of work, is the task can feel pretty daunting. Putting word to page seems like such a major commitment and writers are sometimes paralyzed by the thought. I think that successfully completing a written work, whether it's a major piece such as a novel, non-fiction book, a screenplay or even something shorter, like a blog, comes down to the writer overcoming his own antagonist -- himself.

There are little outside forces at work when it comes to writer's block. Sure. Life has commitments. Other work beckons, the kids might get sick, or you may need to handle the details of that unfortunate fender bender from this morning, but ultimately, the onus is on the writer to get the words down on page. I don't think there is a one-sized fits all prescription for everyone, but these tactics have been known to work and if you're experiencing writer's block in any form, consider giving one or two of these a try.

1. Break down the writing into bite-sized bits. I committed to writing my book for five hours a week, outside of my normal work time. What I found was that I initially tried to schedule the time in larger chunks and procrastination sometimes reared its ugly head. So instead, I committed to 15 minutes of writing a day, with the intent of writing five hours a week. Bingo! That worked and I actually ended up writing over an hour per session and more than my intended commitment time because I wanted to finish what I had started.

2. Free write. Part of being stunned into paralysis on the page is the idea that once it's on the page, it should be perfect. Sometimes the words may flow out right and sometimes they need some editing. But I've found that committing to an idea, writing the thoughts down continuously for five minutes or more with no judgment, I'm able to get a good grasp of the intended piece. If it's a screenplay, then I'm often able to resolve a scene idea in minutes when it may otherwise have left me with a blank page for hours. If it's a non-fiction book, I'm able to pluck out some headers or sidebar ideas that I like from a larger list.

3. Get rid of the idea of perfection. Writing is a process. Depending on your skill level and the topic at hand, you may speed through a well thought out 2,000-word article in a mere two hours with little editing. (Who are you and can I borrow your superhuman skill?) But more often than not, especially for a longer manuscript, laying out the structure, writing the broad pieces and then going back in and fine-tuning the details is necessary. The attachment to perfectionism at first try when it comes to writing is often a sure-fire writing killer. Writing involves a rewriting and editing process. It's not only necessary but okay.

4. Don't write. If you're really stuck, move away from your writing and do something else for a short time. Sometimes, it's easy to get stuck in a mindset of not being able to write. A change of pace or surroundings may be necessary to rectify the situation. Alternate activities may include going for a walk, getting a workout in, or meeting a friend for a bite to eat. The key, of course, is to come back to the writing, ready to go after clearing your head.

5. Change the timing. To me, this is another example of doing what works best for you as the writer. For some, writing in the morning, when your mind is fresh, works best. Others feel more inclined to write in the evenings after having accomplished various tasks. I personally don't have a favorite. For me, the process is more about scheduling in reasonable time frames, rather than the time of the day. I think most writers who are successful in completing their blogs, articles, manuscripts, screenplays or other written works in a timely manner have found the tricks that work best for them.

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Four Ways Psychographics Can Help Your Business Decisions

Recently, I was doing some market research for a couple of different projects. It's always interesting for me to examine not just the broad statistics, but also the psychology behind how decisions are made and what the motivating factors are. Part of doing a comprehensive marketing assessment of your target audience is defining their demographics. Demographics considers factors like age, income level, marital status, geography, and profession.

But to truly paint a clear picture of your avatar or intended audience, it's necessary to take a look at the psychographics of your target market.

What exactly is psychographics?

I like to compare psychographics to demographics, which explains who your market audience is. Psychographics explains why your intended clients and customers make certain decisions.

For instance, let's pretend you are launching a business as a stylist to young career women who want to look on-trend, but don't feel they have the time to pull the best looks together. You may learn that your avatar is a professional millennial woman, between the ages of 25-34, who lives in a major metropolitan area of the United States and has an annual income in the range of $45,000-$58,000 from demographics. Psychographics tells you that she also likes to shop at boutique stores that carry indie brands and likes to buy things that give her good value for her money over status items at high-end designers.

In this made-up scenario, you're not only privy to information about how much she can afford, but also where she tends to shop and how she makes her decisions, giving you ample room to figure out where to market your stylist consultations, how to price your services and what types of clothing are better bets to recommend.

It's fairly clear that rounding out your market research with some psychographic information can be useful. From the example above, here are four ways psychographics can help your business:

1. Helps you determine what locations to target your marketing, whether they are physical or online. In the social media arena, you'll know whether your target market prefers sharing information via Facebook over Instagram or vice versa, for instance.

2. Helps you figure out appropriate price points for your service or business, not only in the realm of affordability, but also with regards to which specific products or services your target market is mostly likely to purchase.

3. Helps you determine if what you're selling, whether it's a service or product, will be marketable to who you intend to sell it to.

4. Psychographics also helps you determine how refinements could make your product or service even better for your intended audience. For instance, if you learn that your intended audience of millennial women is more prone to purchasing products made by companies which incorporate social causes, it may be worth your while to take note of those brands and offer them as options to your clientele.

From Businesses to Blogs to Books: Why the "Why" is so Important

When I first ventured into the entrepreneurial world, I learned an essential building block to forward momentum -- being clear about why I was doing what I was doing. I've found this line of reasoning to be important for any new venture, whether it's writing your own blog or authoring a book.

As I'm currently moving into the realm of ghostwriting and writing my own book about the process of working with a ghostwriter,  I'm finding it's absolutely essential to ground yourself in the reason behind what you're doing.

A reason for doing something may be as run-of-the-mill as:

1. That's the way it's always been done.

2. I'm supposed to do it that way.

3. I need to do this in order to make more money.

But for a truly inspirational and motivational mindset, especially when you're creating something in the spirit of entrepreneurialism, it's a good idea to really examine what goal you hope to accomplish by the action you're taking and then continue to whittle down that line of reasoning until you get to the core of what really drives you. Why is doing this process important? I can think of three reasons.

1. Your "why" will inform what you're doing, who you're doing it for and how you go about doing it.

2. Your "why" will keep you motivated when there are stumbling blocks (oh, yes, there will definitely be some) and unexpected delays in the timeline.

3. Your "why" will give you a goal to look forward to accomplishing, give you a guide to measure your progress and keep you in check as you move forward.

Essentially, your "why" can be the one thing that keeps you going when it seems better not to bother. In one of my initial chapters, I write about how to get to the core of why you're doing something and how it can benefit you.

I'll share my three primary "whys" for writing my book:

1. Writing is what I do, what I love, what comes naturally and what I've chosen as a career path in life.

3. I love the book writing process -- everything from learning about the target market and gathering the research materials to interviewing subjects and delving into what it takes to market a book and publish it.

2. I believe there is a multitude of people out there who have a great book inside of them, but may not have the time to write it, may not enjoy the process of writing or simply want to be more prolific with the material they share with the public. It's my goal to reach out to those people looking for a way to bring their book to fruition.

What about you? Have you thought about "why" you do something? If you have, what difference do you find it makes in your actions?

How To Hook Your Audience with Headlines - Five Ways

Let's face it. When it comes to copy, headlines are important. It doesn't matter what you've written if people get to the headline and then mosey on to something else because the words just didn't hold their interest. Conversely, what's written after the headline matters too. Nothing is more frustrating, in my opinion, than reading that cliff-hanger headline and then getting to the body of a post or article to find out I've been conned. 

The headline is a promise to the reader that you'll deliver on something. This might be information that'll save time or something laughter-inducing to break up the day. Either way, keeping the integrity of the written work with the piece is paramount. That all said, I'm delivering on my promise. Here are five ways to hook your audience:

1. Show your readers you're offering them a benefit. How? Here are a few ways by example.

  • How to Be More Productive and Have More Free Time
  • How to Invest Like a Pro and Increase Your Net Worth

2.  Make lists. This concept goes back to the idea of delivering a promise. A list spells out exactly what a reader can expect to get out of reading a post or article and why she (or he) should give you more than a few seconds of her time.

  • Seven Items You Can Repurpose when You Redecorate
  • Six Ways To Make Your Life Better Starting Now

3. Give readers an inside tidbit along with the benefit they'll receive.

  • Learn the Insider Experts' Secrets to Getting the Best Deal on Airfare
  • Facts Hiring Managers Don't Let On About Negotiating Better Salaries

4.  Just like benefits, people tend to gravitate towards headlines that remedy an issue.

  • Eliminate Drama from Your Life Completely
  • Put an End to All Stress by Following our Easy Guide

5. Last but not least, a good headline can just directly spell out exactly what the reader can expect to get. These headline scenarios are more sales specific.

  • Enjoy 50% Off Our Luxury Spa Package until December 1, 2015
  • Join Now for an Additional Three Months on top of Your Annual Membership!

Brainstorming a headline = Summarizing words/ideas to follow

Refine. Tweak. Tweak some more. Test for delivery of promise. Done.


Why Personal Branding Still Means Keeping It Real

Lately, I've been exploring the idea of personal branding. My initial reaction to the concept was that it at first seemed a little superficial -- like the creation of an uber-photoshopped image that's a distortion of reality. But then I dug deeper. Because you have to, if you want to define your own personal brand.

Creating a personal brand involves really exploring who you are as a person, what your strengths are, what you're passionate about and what your mission is, for starters. And then the next step would be to take that amalgamation and choose how you'd like to share your story with world. That story can involve the likes of a website, video and social media from Facebook and YouTube to Twitter and Instagram.

Personal branding can be useful for job seekers to set themselves apart from the pack. It can establish the reputation of an entrepreneur amongst an industry network. It can convey a consultant's value to a potential client. And a successful personal brand helps to promote you, the real you, to an audience you'd most like to reach -- employers, customers, colleagues or whoever it is you're trying to target. 

Presenting an authentic personal brand to the people who are interested in what you have to say. I could be down with that.

How to Decide on Your Blog Content

I find it fairly ironic that I've decided to make this first blog post about how to decide on what to blog about, even as I'm honing in on my own content. As a writer, I've always written for other outlets. Need a magazine article? Sure. I'll pitch an idea based on the readership and the topics covered in that issue. Creating a blog post for an industry-specific audience? Okay. I'll dig up something that's current and buzz-worthy.

But write for my own blog? Where do I start? What I did do is look on the Content Marketing Institute's articles on creating content and I found "21 Types of Content We Crave". The post cites things like content that makes us cry and content that reminds us that life is short as things that universally speak to audiences. I doubt I'll make anyone cry tears of sadness or otherwise. But I think the jist of what is being said is people like content that moves us in some way or inspires us, even if it's just in theory. Or maybe even better, what we read prompts us to actually go out and take action. Creating great content comes down to a level of storytelling. Reading something informative is great. But people want to feel something. Be surprised. Be able to root for the underdog. It's almost just like what makes a great movie.

My takeaway from all this? When it comes to deciding what to write on your blog, you can: 

  • Read.
  • Learn.
  • Look around you. 
  • Be inspired.
  • Be moved.
  • Then think about sharing that with others.