Adam Patterson | November 25th, 2013

Like a lot of curses, it arrives at the most inopportune times (say, when you have to draft a crucial presentation) and is nowhere to be found when it may just be of some use (like when you’re firing off an angry, ill-thought-out to response to an e-mail from a problematic colleague). We’re talking, of course, about writer’s block, the creative dry well that’s dogged scribes from the beginning of time — and maybe even before that.

The problem being as ubiquitous as it is, writers have come up with a range of interesting ways to overcome it. Dan Brown, author of airport mainstay The Da Vinci Code, advocates inversion therapy — that is, hanging upside down — to get the creative juices flowing (though the many critics of his work might debate whether his ever have). Truman Capote reportedly recommended writing lying down, with a cigarette in one hand and a drink in the other (which begs the question, how did he hold the pen?). Les Miserables author Victor Hugo apparently took the less pleasant step of having servants hide all his clothes so he’d have little choice but to stay in and toil away at his desk — one would imagine this would be particularly effective in the colder months.

Admittedly, none of these solutions are likely to work, at least without repercussions, in the contemporary office environment. But at n/n, where demands for content, and deadlines, are a daily reality, we’ve found some no-nonsense advice attributed to American great Mark Twain has served us well:

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”

In other words, the best response to writer’s block, as with so many other apparent barriers, is to disregard it completely — or, if you like, to knuckle down and do it. Your first few words (or sentences) may be nonsense, you may not be pleased with the results, but at least you’ll have something to work with — or to hand over to the friendly folks at n/n to refine. Trust us – struggling with Mr. Something on the piece of paper, or screen, in front of you is always better than doing a cold, lonely, and directionless dance with his evil brother, Mr. Nothing.

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