You’ve got a big presentation coming up. People are counting on you to get a message across clearly. But you're stuck staring at the cursor blinking on a blank page.
You've been struck by the dreaded writer's block. It can be extremely frustrating when it hits. But the following methods will help get you back on track fast.
1. Take a Break
A study from the University of Chicago at Urbana-Champaign found that taking short breaks will actually improve your overall performance. It turns out that the conventional wisdom, which says to just keep plugging away, might not be the best advice after all. University of Illinois psychology professor Alejandro Lleras, who led the study says, "Constant stimulation is registered by our brains as unimportant, to the point that the brain erases it from our awareness.” In order to keep our brain alert and working at an optimal level, it actually helps us to stop working for a little bit and then start back up again.
2. Change Your Environment
If you always write in one particular place, you might find that switching up your writing environment triggers new creative energy. For example, as I write this, I’m seated at the local Panera Bread café. There are days when I like to write from the environment of my home, but there are other days when I know I’ll be distracted by the laundry to be folded, dishes to be washed, or papers needing to be graded. So when I start to hear the “voices” of my home environment shouting for my attention, I know I need to grab my laptop and find a new space from which to work.
When you get stuck on the text of your presentation, instead of trying to write, read. Dig into what others are saying about your topic. Peruse literature that might help you. Often, reading what others have written will help you generate ideas of your own. Reading and researching for your presentation also gives you a broader knowledge base from which to write. That means better content for your presentation and new energy to join in on the conversation through your own words.
4. Tell a Story
Is there a story that you’ll be telling during your speech or presentation? If so, start by writing that. The process of telling a story comes much more naturally for most of us because of its chronological flow and level of detail. You probably don’t stop to think about how to tell a story to a friend, you just tell it. You can tap into that same natural energy for writing. Experts say, “Stories . . . engage more of the brain, and thus are better remembered, than simply stating a set of facts.” So start by writing the part of your speech that will be the easiest.
5. Talk about It
Find a friend or coworker with whom you can discuss your presentation. Conversing is often less scary than writing. Conversation feels casual and editable to us, whereas writing can feel formal and final. Talking through your ideas with another person might help you to jump start the writing process.
When you get up from your computer or notepad and move, you aren’t just battling writer’s block, you are improving your overall health. That’s a win-win. A Stanford University study showed that simply taking a short walk can lead to inspiration and creativity. Across 4 studies, over 81% of participants had more creative ideas while walking, and they continued to feel the burst of inspiration once they sat down to work again.
7. Schedule Writing Time
If you regularly put writing at the bottom of your to-do list, you might try scheduling writing time just like you would an important meeting. Put it in your calendar, set reminders on your phone, and then stick to the appointment you’ve made with yourself. Don’t let other distractions or needs creep into the time that you’ve set aside to do the important work of writing your presentation.
Whatever your reason for writer’s block or however you choose to try to battle it, don’t be too hard on yourself. All writers and speakers have times when the process of writing seems to come to a screeching halt. But don’t stare at that cursor for too long. Just try one of the tips above to jump start the process.
Writing is just one small part of the presentation process. We’ve got proven methods used by some of the best in the world to get you results every time you speak. Ready to get started? Check out our online presentation skills course now.