HOW TO: Beat Writer’s Block Online

Nowadays, we are all content creators. Whether it’s work or a school project, the next blog post, or even that next tweet, we all suffer from writer’s block from time to time.

Traditional advice suggests taking a break from your monitor and getting some fresh air. That’s great old school advice, but it isn’t a useful suggestion for anyone tied to their computer. We’ve pulled together some top ideas, tools and services for beating writer’s block in an online environment, so you can break through that barrier without leaving your desk.

Have a read below for our quick tips to help you beat writer’s block online and let us know in the comments about any methods that have worked for you.

1. Get Inspired

Staring at your choice of word processing program is not likely to inspire you. If you can’t physically get outdoors, why not let the outdoors come to you. Take a virtual break — hop over to YouTube and refresh your brain with a seascape video, or stimulate your senses with the sounds of a forest.

Alternatively, music can help with creativity, but don’t just hit play on the usual suspects. Why not try some classical music that can lift your spirits without the distraction of lyrics. Or how about a foreign language radio station far removed from your usual choice of music to offer your brain some different input.

Images can also trigger a creative response. Flickr offers slideshow functionality — just tap in a keyword, hit the “slideshow” option on the top-right of the screen and let your mind wander as you view the images.

Finally, reading some classic literature is a great way to kick your brain into writing mode. You’ll find classics and more available to view for free at sites like Project Gutenberg and Google Books.

2. Improve Your Focus

If you are stuck in an office and can’t tailor your work environment to suit you, you can at least make on-screen changes to try and make you more productive and get rid of the many distractions of Web 2.0.

If you just need to sit down, get over the creative blockage and for goodness sake type, there is software available for both Mac and Windows users that can help. Writing is all about the text — you can worry about frills and formatting later on. Full-screen, no fuss text editors offer no distractions from other programs you may have open. There’s no on-screen clutter to hinder you and it can be a great way of forcing yourself to write.

Paid-for software WriteRoom is the seminal distraction-free writing tool for Mac users, while Windows users can try DarkRoom or WriteMonkey.

3. Use Language Tools

Sometimes writer’s block can strike when it comes to one line of text you can’t move past, or even just the one word you need to complete the perfect paragraph. There are online tools that can help. Rather than the obvious standard online dictionaries and thesauri, you may find alternatives can better help your creative process.

You can take advantage of a rhyming dictionary, an urban dictionary for slang and street speak, an online graphical dictionary or a visual thesaurus.

Lastly, a semantic dictionary might be the answer if you’re not even sure exactly what it is you’re looking for. Princeton University’s WordNet project groups words into sets of synonyms and then shows the semantic relations between those sets. It is arguably more intuitive than traditional methods, and might just be what you need to grab that bon mot out of the ether.

4. Develop Ideas

If idea generation is the problem, then going back over your old, similar work (especially the successful stuff) is a worthwhile exercise.

“Brainstorming” software can also help develop loose ideas into something concrete by giving structure to your thought process. As shown in the screengrab above, is a good example of such a tool done right — it is so simple to use you can concentrate on your ideas rather than how to use the software.

If you like the ability to draw freehand, as well as create flowcharts, then DabbleBoard might be the service for you. It also lets you upload images and documents and share your screen with others. is more suited to creative writers, offering a ton of tools for idea generation, including writing games like the “random line generator,” a text collage and a poem engine.

5. Get Social!

Two brains are better than one. And 10 are better than two. If you are really stuck then don’t be afraid to reach out to your social circle. Whether it’s fact or opinion-based help from Q&A services such as Quora or Aardvark or a quick bit of crowdsourcing on Twitter or Facebook Questions, your online buddies are there to help — just as you’d assist them in return.

If you’re lucky enough to have longer term collaborator(s), you can always employ some software to help the feedback process. Wridea is ideal for this use. You can note down, categorize and search your ideas on the web service and then share them with friends for feedback.

More Productivity Resources from Mashable:

18 Online Productivity Tools for Your Business
HOW TO: Choose a News Reader for Keeping Tabs on Your Industry
HOW TO: Use a Start Page to Stay Organized
HOW TO: Use Social Media to Connect with Other Entrepreneurs

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Pgiam

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