Heather Baker is founder and CEO of TopLine Comms, a London-based video and integrated communications consultancy.

Blinking cursor syndrome. We’ve all experienced it at some point. I’m sure even Shakespeare wasn’t immune, he probably just called it something else. Blunt quill malaise, maybe?

I used to let the lack of good ideas get the better of me. I’d sulk, I’d procrastinate, I’d stick my head in the sand. Anything to avoid that blinking cursor was fine by me. I stopped short of elective root canal treatment, but I’m not going to lie, the thought did cross my mind.

Nowadays a brand new Word document (replete with blinking cursor) gets me excited. So many ideas, so little time. What changed? How did I go from nothing to overflowing?

I discovered two completely different approaches that together ensure you’re always primed to write. The first is almost counter-intuitive and the second is so obvious you’ll kick yourself for not having thought of it sooner. I know I did.

Tip #1 – Stop writing

“The opposite of play is not work – the opposite of play is depression.” – Brian Stutton, The National Institute for Play.

The first time I read this quote I thought, “That’s ridiculous. I don’t play and I’m not depressed. And besides, who has time to play when you have deadlines looming?”

I might not have been clinically depressed, but I wasn’t all that happy either. More importantly, I was a creative desert. Maybe this guy was onto something? Further research revealed that he’s not alone in his thinking.

In her book, The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron advises weekly Artist Dates to fill the creative well. With nothing to lose and everything to gain, I decided to take these two at their word and close my laptop for a couple of hours a week and indulge in anything other than work.

Tip #2 – Answer this question before you sit down to write

Back at my desk and rearing to go (it’s ridiculous how a few hours of ‘me time’ can revitalize the soul) I had a thought. The content I had written was good, so why wasn’t anyone reading it? They weren’t ignoring everything (which was heartening), but some things passed by without even so much as a bleep on anyone’s radar.

I did a content audit and discovered the problem. The dead in the water posts all had one thing in common: they had no purpose. They were interesting, relevant, entertaining even, but they didn’t serve any real purpose. There was no ‘why’ to them.

So now, before I write even one word I first figure out what the purpose of the post is. Some examples of purpose are to get our company name out there ahead of an event, get more downloads for an eBook or rank for a specific keyword. Only once I know exactly what it is will I start hammering away at my keyboard.

What I’ve discovered along the way is that play replenishes your creative well. Put another way, it recharges your batteries. But that alone, while highly beneficial, is not enough. We also need direction; we need to know why we are writing something. When we know that, what to write takes care of itself.

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