As a nonprofit communicator, you are most likely facing constant, large volumes of work. And if your role involves creating content, you have to be both creative and prolific under pressure. Which makes writer’s block very unwelcome indeed.

But don’t we all suffer from writer’s block from time to time? For one reason or another, a given writing assignment can loom a little too large. Perhaps because of the importance of the project and the pressure associated with it. Perhaps because of the scope – where to begin when faced with writing 5000 words?

A blank page can be an intimidating prospect, but it doesn’t have to be. There are many techniques available to either warm up in preparation for writing or to simply get started.

I like to feel organized and that my approach is well thought out. So for me, an obvious place to start is with reviewing any research or background information available, including my client brief – which I hope you have in place for internal clients. From there, I have two favourite starting points:

  1. Brainstorming: Straight up, good old-fashioned brainstorming works wonders. With pen and paper, I jot down any relevant words that come to mind. For me, this is particularly useful when tackling ad concepts, taglines or any other succinct copy that is calling for a variety of creative options.
  2. Mind maps: My favourite mind map is the straightforward type, an alternate form of brainstorming. I find these extremely useful for editorial work, press releases, case studies or any other form of writing where there is more of a story to tell.

Both of these techniques set me on the right path: either straight to writing, or perhaps to the outline stage. Outlines themselves can be a great kick-start. If the information is already organized enough in your mind to chart out a basic outline, go for it! From there, make it a detailed outline, then start adding in the facts, quotes and other information you have lined up and before you know it, you’re writing!

The most obvious solution

Of course, there’s a truly straightforward solution to the blank-page-blues: just start writing. Sometimes, that is all you need. Tell yourself that it can be totally rough and just start. Perhaps commit to just five minutes of effort and see what happens from there. I’m a big fan of the 50-minute work segment (distraction-free focus on the task at hand), which can work well here. It’s much easier to edit later versus procrastinating and then having to write under extreme pressure. In any case, you may be pleasantly surprised at the quality of your rough start!

Marlene Oliveira

Marlene Oliveira

Communications advisor and copywriter at moflow
Marlene Oliveira is communications consultant and copywriter at moflow and founder of the Nonprofit MarCommunity blog. Having worked in the nonprofit sector since 1999, Marlene specializes in working with capacity building and grant-making organizations, advising on communications strategy, and writing stories and other content.
Marlene Oliveira
Marlene Oliveira