Say you’re on deadline with a proposal, report or other written piece and you’re truly stuck.

communicate

What to say next? How to say it? And where can you turn to get words and ideas flowing again?

Try taking a break from putting words on paper or a screen. That’s right…

Put down the pen. Stop typing. But, don’t give up on the assignment. Do something besides write — like these five:

1. Research

Maybe you’re stuck because you really don’t have enough material to keep fueling your writing. Going blank can be a sign that you haven’t done all of the legwork and need to do more fact finding before you can make your points articulately.

One giveaway? You lack solid examples or specifics that really tell the story you’re trying to get across. The cure is the do some more research or think through more clearly the points you want to make.

2. Talk

Tell a friend or colleague what you want to say. Voicing your points — in plain language, out loud — sometimes frees up the brain. Explaining, verbally, what you want to say, can flush out the clog that sometimes prevents people from explaining, in writing, what they ought to say. Then you can make the case better when conveying your thoughts on paper.

3. Walk

Take your thoughts and writer’s block, strap on some comfortable shoes and move. Here’s the trick to this one: Allow yourself to think about the writing and the project as you walk. Picture what you want to accomplish with the piece. Imagine getting the breakthrough you need. Try a 30-60 minute stroll while you think. Then head back and get into it.

4. Plan

If you don’t already have an outline or a framework for the written project, make one now, while you’re stuck. What’s the most important thing you want to achieve with the report? Why are you writing the proposal? What points should the reader take away? Remind yourself about the main reasons you’re undertaking the effort and then map the work accordingly.

You can use a mind map. They are powerful. They boost creativity and prevent brain seize. My favorite is iMindMap — the video embedded in this post demonstrates the latest version.

Another useful site, Biggerplate, features a library of mind maps that its community of users has already created. See if any of those offer inspiration.

5. Breathe

Just be. Try to relax and think of something else entirely. Listen to music or brew a cup of tea. Close your eyes. Do something that lets you empty any anxiety that might have crept into your being about the writing and about finishing the task.

And remember, writing doesn’t flow perfectly on the first pass. That’s why those takes are called rough drafts…it’s okay to be clunky or wordy. You can fix it later when you’re revising and editing.

Good luck! Let me know what you think of these ideas, and what gets you writing again when you’re stuck. Here are some other ideas to fix writer’s block, too. And here’s a post with the 12 most infallible ways to improve your writing.