Is there anything worse than being all ready to script and design a training, only for the right ideas to just... not come to mind? We’ve all had a bad case of writer’s block at some point, but when you’ve got it, how do you really break through it—especially when you’re on a deadline?
Don’t lose sight of the fact that there’s always a way forward; to keep writing and make progress you can be proud of, even if you feel like you’re facing an impossible barrier in the moment. As instructional designers and writers ourselves, we want to help our fellow wordsmiths out! Which is why we’ve compiled five of our favorite tips for beating writer’s block—give them a try, and the words will be flowing onto your page in no time.
Forget about Perfect
We all want our writing to feel perfectly polished and completely clear. It’s only natural, right? Being a perfectionist about your work isn’t a problem in and of itself. The real issue is in trying to be perfect right from the outset.
When you’re tackling your first draft, forget about getting everything right for a bit. Dr. James C. Kaufman writes in “The Psychology of Creative Writing” that, “It's easier to edit than create. To generate from scratch seems harder than building on what’s out there.” And indeed, it’s much easier to polish and sharpen your writing according to your vision once you’ve already gotten the content onto the page in some form. We all want to write clearly and perfectly—but to try to do so from the beginning is to put untold stress on yourself, and unnecessary delays on the project.
Revisit Your Roots
Picture this: you were off to a great start with your topic, but now you’re stumped on its direction—you just can’t figure out how to keep the ball rolling. Sound familiar?
At times like these, it’s never a bad idea to go back to your source material. You’re likely very familiar with the content you’re planning to cover, but that’s not to say you know it front to back. Chances are, there’s an info tidbit or two that’s slipped your mind—info that could be key to getting your own writing back on track, once you’re reminded of it.
Revisiting your source material is also a great opportunity to innovate: to consider new, unique ways to present the provided information from an instructional design standpoint. Your audience has more stake in how you present the information, so don’t be afraid to try an approach to the topic that’s fresh and exciting.
Don’t limit yourself to project-specific documentation, either—if you’ve written scripts for projects in the same vein before, it’s not cheating to look back at that work for inspiration. Take the ideas and the lessons you’ve learned, and try applying them to your new project in fresh, new ways. Hindsight does wonders for your work!
Take a Shot at Another Section
Some scriptwriting is meant to be taken like a staircase: linearly, with each step building on the last in terms of content. Other scriptwriting is meant to be flexible: you could go through the training in order, but you wouldn’t be lost if you went through the sections randomly, either.
If you’re writing a training more like the latter, consider going out of order for a bit. Write the sections that you know you’ll be able to cover easily first, and go back to the ones you’re struggling with afterward. More often than not, you’ll find that the “easier” work you’ve done has given you more concrete ideas of how to structure and write the sections you were struggling with before.
Look at It Creatively
If your script will feature visuals or other media, why not consider it from that visual perspective, too? Take a few minutes to sketch out how you expect your writing to appear to your learners through a storyboard; or, start browsing for images you’ve been provided or plan to use with your training.
Thinking through your visuals will help you gain more creative insight into your work, and can help you unlock the story you’ll need to tell in order to support those visuals. Don’t forget to consider how your learners are going to experience your training, too; trainees love a program that’s exciting, fun, or interesting to go through—not a cookie-cutter training that feels static and boring.
It’s never too early to consider how your work is going to be interacted with: are you going to use unique animations? Quiz mini-games? Interesting anecdotes? Thinking about how to make your work engaging is one of the best ways to, well, engage with your work—and, more often than not, it can help get you out of your writing-designing rut.
And if you need some inspiration, check out these 20 Creative Ideas for your Next eLearning Project.
Take a Well-deserved Break
Still stuck? Sometimes, you just can’t think of everything on the spot, and that’s okay. Don’t stare at a blank document—take a break and do something else. Grab a bite to eat, watch a video, or do something you’d like to do for a couple of minutes; and if you need more advice on how to get unstuck, we’ve got more right here.
A change of pace can be a good thing: it can give your brain the time to relax, and to think passively without pressure. Still, remember to keep your deadlines in mind—give yourself the time to get the project done. We’re not always going to be able to put out scripts that we’re 100% confident in, but the great thing about our craft is that we’re always iterating and improving with each script written.
While writer’s block may seem like an awful roadblock at first glance, there’s more than a few ways to get around it. We hope that some of our tips have helped you get out of your slump and back into your writing groove.
Got your own tricks to beating writer’s block? We’d love to hear them—feel free to leave a comment below!
If you’re looking for even more writing tips, check out our article: