3 Ways to Kill Writer’s Block and Clarify Your Message

3 Ways to Kill Writer’s Block and Clarify Your Message

By: Kerstin Butzelaar
  9642 reads

It’s about time we knew how to write, right? As Communication students we are all too familiar with the importance of writing numerous quality pieces on tight deadlines, often causing us to become the unofficial experts on a topic we previously knew nothing about. Pairing our written communication skills with our information gathering skills, we as Communication students are able to create the creative, engaging, and intelligently written pieces that employers desire and require.

For the times when writing doesn’t come so easily, however, it’s helpful to remember these tips to jolt yourself out of your writer’s block:

Jess wants you to help a brotha' out

Pyramid Method: Most Important Goes on Top 

Readers pay more attention to the beginning of an article or document. Why? Remember the last time you had the intention of getting through a forty page reading from start to finish; did you actually do it?  Or did you skim because you lost interest, got distracted, or ran out of time?

When you are writing, start off by identifying why your reader should care (what’s the relevance to them?), and then by identifying the action you want them to take. Do you want them to register for a program, come to an event, or share the post? Putting your most enticing content at the top will help to capture the reader’s attention and ward off skimming. 


2)     The Power of the Headline

The most popular blog posts and easy to read professional documents utilize the ubiquitous headline. Whether it’s to draw readers in or to help organize your thoughts within longer pieces, mastering the art of headline writing can be difficult. Headlines must be punchy, clear, and provide enough information to highlight what the following body of text is about. If your headlines don’t cover these bases, it is easy to lose a prospective reader. Try not to be too cryptic in your efforts to write a creative and compelling headline.


3)     Write From the Reader’s Perspective

Ask yourself these four questions:

  • What am I trying to say?
  • What is the purpose?
  • Who is my audience and why should my reader care?
  • What actions do I want my readers to take?

If you can’t answer any one of these questions, stop. Take a moment to step back and identify what information you are missing. Instead of publishing blasé content that has no meaning, go back to your contributors, if you have any, and ask them to provide you with more specific information. If you don’t have contributors, try putting yourself in the shoes of your readers. Taking either approach will help you to answer these four questions and avoid confusing your reader. 

Nick doesn't get it

As a rule of thumb, assume your reader knows nothing. It is your role as the writer to clearly identify what the piece is about, its purpose, relevance to the reader, and what actions readers should take once they have finished reading.

Although we all are likely familiar with common ways to kill writer’s block, it can sometimes be hard to remember these tips and use them as tools. Once recalled and put into practice, they can help you to clarify your message and deliver a written piece that will impress your boss and showcase your writing. So remember to entice your readers with engaging content at the beginning of your piece, invite them to start and keep reading with witty but clear headlines, and take the reader’s perspective into account at all times. With these tips in hand and a finished piece of writing to boot, you too will be celebrating like Nick Miller with a clap dance.

Nick celebrates with the clap dance


Beyond the Article:

  • Connect with Kerstin on LinkedIn.
  • Feeling ready to write after reading Kerstin's article? Learn the ins and outs of blogging for SFU by checking out the OLC Writing Guidelines and Submission tips and get started on your own path to publication!
  • Is your writer's block in front of all those cover letters you're writing? Take a look at the OLC's Cover Letter Newsletter, filled with articles to help you break through.
Posted on October 10, 2014