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August 4, 2016
Beat Writer’s Block with Improv (Part 1)
Mary Olivieri

There are many opinions as to what causes writer’s block. But it really comes down to one thing: fear.

Fear of getting the words wrong… of failing to impress the reader… of lack of creativity… of not getting it done on time. That last one is especially burdensome when you're required to generate content and copy in a hurry! But there are practices that you can adopt in order to help you tap into that truly fearless writer locked inside you. And many are based in improvisational theatre.

Improv is the key to expressing your elusive ideas.

Why improv? Because performing improv is basically writing on demand. From your head. With only a single suggestion to fuel the words.

As writers, that’s exactly what we have to do every day. The only difference is, when you’re doing improv, you don’t have the option to have writer’s block. As writers, we can find ourselves staring at that blank page for hours. But in improv, you can't stare at the blank stage. You must take the stage — in the moment — and write on demand. After all, there’s an audience watching! It must be smart and entertaining. It must tell a story. It must have a point of view. And it must make people feel something.

Beating writer’s block is a matter of breaking old habits.

So what is it about improv that allows actors to push past the fear of the blank stage, find the words, and avoid the block? It’s all about having faith that the words that show up in your mind are there for a reason. Then, trusting those words and thoughts to unravel in an interesting narrative… in essence, to Zen into it and discard your inner editor (the real culprit in all of this!).

But we've been taught from a very early age to do quite the opposite. Think about it. We can all recall as children being told to “wait your turn” or “think before you speak” — in essence, to edit ourselves. And by the time we reach adulthood, we're so well-trained at self-editing that we're actually doing our writer’s brain a huge disservice. Children are the BEST improvisers because they haven’t yet learned to edit themselves — they fearlessly throw themselves into new scenarios with wild abandon and a true belief. And that’s what you need to do to get past the block!

You can break through writer’s block and deliver inspired, must-read content, by following four simple improv tenets:

Improve your copywriting with the 4 simple improv tenets.

1. Listen.

Go with the first thing that pops into your head.

2. Agree.

Use a "Yes, and…" response to heighten your initial idea and begin the process of storytelling.

3. Have a POV.

Designate an emotional point of view to your topic — even if it’s ridiculous — and see what happens to that block.

4. Play the part.

Don’t just write for your audience, become your audience through physical manifestation.

In part two of this blog series, we will take a deeper dive into these four tenets through easy, do-at-your-desk exercises certain to help you break through the block.