In Writing for developers

Sometimes you are just not meant to be writing. You don’t feel like it, and if you try nevertheless, all you do is stare at a blank page for ages.
Welcome to the world of writer’s block!
You might say: Heck, I don’t have writer’s block, I just don’t like writing; that’s okay too, and I know a trick or two that might help you get your writing stuff done.

So, because I’m suffering from writer’s block myself regularly, I have curated a list of the top 6 things that help me to get into the writing mood—or flow, zone, the matrix, whatever you like calling it.

1. Start off easy

The thing is, once you are writing, things will often happen on their own accord. Sentences emerge, paragraphs get formed, and witty puns weave themselves into context. But it isn’t always easy to shift into this trance-like state.

When you begin your writing session with the hardest part, then you’ll probably won’t get much done. Instead, try to find something simple or something you feel like you could write about quickly.

For some the hardest part to come up with is the beginning of a text. You could start somewhere in the middle, where you feel confident enough to come up with some decent paragraphs and start typing. At the very end, you write your introduction part, which then will be much easier!
It doesn’t matter how you do it—the reader won’t know how you wrote, and I’m sure nobody even cares if you write your articles from bottom to top or in mirror writing.

Be kind to yourself and let it flow

Another possibility is to jot down your ideas in keywords and sentence fragments. Type what comes to your mind, try to let it flow and don’t set yourself any boundaries; in this early stage of writing everything is allowed! Be bold, exaggerate, make a few jokes and add lots of grammar mistakes. Bye-bye bad writing mood!

Once everything you want to say poured out of your brain and onto your screen, you can start getting everything into reasonable shape: Create sentences, correct your mistakes, make your jokes smoother, etc.

2. Create your ideal writing space

Surround yourself with things that inspire you or let you feel calm. You may even change your environment: Maybe you need absolute silence, maybe you concentrate best while sitting in a cafe, sipping a cappuccino and hearing peoples’ chatter. Whatever floats your boat, I am not judging you for your weird choices.

If you’re the type of person who can’t concentrate while the waste bin next to them is starting to resemble the Leaning Tower of Pisa, then please get rid of the trash!
Remove all unnecessary clutter from your workspace, and while you’re cleaning up, you might also get into a calmer state of mind.

3. Listen to music or embrace the silence

While it is said that we can concentrate best while listening to music that has no singing in it, this can be entirely different for you. Here, you have to experiment a lot to know what works for you.

I like listening to game soundtracks—they’re usually very symphonic, and make me relax. While writing, I try to avoid listening to music I listen to in my free time for two reasons:

  1. Sooner or later my head would start bobbing, and I’d sing along. Bye-bye concentration!
  2. You can imagine how hard it would be to concentrate while some metal dude screams into my ears that he wants to drag some virgins into purgatory.

Surely it is also worth trying to work without music. Maybe you’ll discover, that this is the best solution for you. Like I already said: experiment!

4. Set yourself writing goals and reward yourself for accomplishing them

When your writing project is big enough, try to split the process into manageable steps. These could be something like finding ideas, doing research, creating a draft version, finding good headlines, editing your text, etc.
Every time you accomplish an objective you may reward yourself with chocolate or an episode of your favorite TV series.

Additionally, plan when you want to finish each task. Doing this is extremely helpful to get a sense on how to spend your time wisely.
Write your to-dos into your calendar or to-do list to keep track of your progress and appreciate your journey!

5. Think about your mission

Many of us can’t do things when they don’t know why they’re doing it.

Why are you writing? For whom are you writing?
Was it your idea to write or did somebody set you up? Do you want to help people understand your favorite topics?

Sometimes we tend to forget our mission and must remember it to get motivated again. You could write your ‘Why’ on a post-it and stick it on your monitor or any other place where you’ll see it regularly.

If you aren’t able to find motivation from within you, you have to get it from the outside: Are there readers who are waiting for your articles? Have you promised your boss to write the documentation?

Knowing what motivates you is key in many aspects of your life. If you can’t commit to doing stuff for yourself, you need to find external motivators to push you ahead and lead you back into a good writing mood.

6. Supply yourself with inspiration

Go ahead, open your browser and visit your favorite blogs, newspapers, magazines or documentation.
Read stuff written by other people; if you want to write a tutorial, look up tutorials from people you like and see what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.
Are you writing documentation for your API? Look up documentation from companies you think did a good job. Again, see how they explain things and why it’s so helpful.

At some point, those writers had to sit down at their desk an start typing just like you have to do now. They’re also suffering from writer’s block from time to time. Plus, it doesn’t matter if you think you’re not as good at writing as them. Just do it, you’ll get better over time.

Through this routine, you’ll hopefully remember why you want to write (see Tip number 5). Seeing other people doing it may inspire you and bring you back into a productive writing mood.

Know when you’re making excuses

Sometimes we just feel like not doing something. And sometimes this is a feeling we can’t get rid of. I think we don’t have to force ourselves every time to do stuff nevertheless and instead invest this time to explore our sub-conscience to answer the question: What is holding me back right now?
I believe you’re well aware when you’re not able to hustle and when it’s just some sort of excuse. And when it’s just an excuse not to write today because you’d rather spend time with your PS4, I hope those six tips on how to get into the writing mood help you bring your butt back on track.

What are your tips on getting into the writing mood? Got any secrets you may want to share? wink

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