How to Beat Writer’s Block By Using an Writing Template or Example

There are many tricks we as writers use to defeat writer’s block. Of course, some may work wonders for an individual writer, but leave you utterly frustrated. There’s one tip, however, that’s considered “the ultimate secret for overcoming writer’s block.” It’s a tip that can work for pretty much any writer, whether you’re writing professionally or for fun. Whenever I find myself at a writing impasse, I’ve found a good writing template or example to be the best way to get unstuck. 

How Can Working from a Writing Template Beat Writer’s Block?

There are many writing templates out there, for articles, essays, and more. Writing templates are very popular, and you can find templates for just about any type of writing anywhere. This includes templates for short stories, novels, and nonfiction books. Some work better than others for particular writing styles. What these templates have in common is offering you a baseline to work from on whatever topic you’re trying to write about.

Plenty of writing templates are available for free, too. Just try to use the template as a baseline, though, and don’t simply blindly follow it. After all, you do want to make your writing your own. But, as a way to beat writer’s block, it’s hard to beat a good template. In fact, I used a short article about writing templates to help outline this very essay! I was able to build on the ideas in that brief piece to create what you’re reading now.

You could even create your own article writing template. It might be based off of something you’ve worked on before that’s similar to what you’re trying to write. It doesn’t even have to be something you’ve actually published. The template could be the outline of an article which succeeded for you in the past by one or more metrics: pageviews, social shares, or conversion rates.

In 2024, it’s also not a bad idea to ask ChatGPT, Bing’s Copilot, or similar AI assistant to help you create an outline. This means you’ll get something far more specific to your topic, audience, and goals, plus help you brainstorm some ideas. While many people are hesitant to use AI for actual drafting, there’s really no harm in using an AI-generated outline as a baseline. Just keep in mind that while these tools can be really helpful, the outlines it generates aren’t always going to be useable as is. 

One major advantage I’ve personally found from using ChatGPT or Copilot for outlines is that it will often give you a good idea of the scope of your idea. I’ll put in an idea for what I intend to be a short essay, only to have it create an outline for a book with chapters! You can chalk that up as a glitch, but whenever this has happened, I’ve actually created multiple essays based on the original core idea using the template it generated. Bing’s Copilot even offers you sources that it finds based on your idea to support its output, giving you a head start on providing more concrete evidence for your arguments.

Can I Use a Writing Example to Help Get Started?

Sometimes, you can’t find a writing template that fits the type of writing you’re trying to do. Or, the template is too limiting in one way or another. So, the alternative I’d suggest is to use an existing work, preferably one that has performed well in some way, on a similar subject as a writing example. 

This is different than using a template because your goal here is to figure out why that piece of writing works. With this strategy, you’re not limited to any type of writing. Templates are great starting points, but sometimes your idea is one that even increasingly advanced AI can’t seem to help you express quite right. Using other writing as an example is the old-fashioned way, but it works just as well as ever, as long as you are working from a masterclass example.

For example, say you’re trying to write a sales pitch. But, you’re really stuck on what points to make or how to make them. Fortunately, there are examples of actual sales pitches out there that have bene proven to be effective. No matter the product, you can see how successful sales pitches were able to hit the right emotional notes or how certain pros of that product or service were presented. Just by having this sort of positive example in front of you, your mind will automatically begin to process it and start applying your ideas into a similar vein.

If you ask famous writers about writing examples, many of them will admit that they’ve written pieces directly inspired by a magazine clipping or random brochure that they picked up. Some writers are much too proud to admit this, but all writing is inspired by something. This is why reading regularly is important; you pick up on what you find effective in writing and subconsciously apply these things to your own work. 

The idea of a writing example is to give your brain something to start with, and that’s very important when you are trying to create something new. Even if you’re setting out to write a work that’s entirely original, it never hurts to take some cues from the experts of your given genre or school of thought.

Always Keep Your Writing Template or Example in Sight When Writing an Article

Whether you decide to use a template or a concrete example as a writer’s block aid, these aids are most effective when placed in your field of vision as you work. Having it open on your screen in another window, or on a separate monitor, is useful. You can even print it out on paper if you find that works better for you, although place it in a way that you don’t have to strain yourself to see it. 

To ensure that you don’t find yourself constantly stopping to look at your writing aid, you may want to do several things. If you have it open on screen or decide to print it out, I’d suggest making the font large enough to clearly read at a glance. You may also wish to bold certain key things for emphasis. Making your template or example as visually appealing as possible can help spark your creativity when you’re feeling stuck. It’s almost like using a piece of writing as a sort of personal coach.

Of course, when using a template or example, it’s likely you’ll need to go back and clean up whatever you initially write to fit your intended goals. But, starting with something is almost always better than nothing. Writer’s block is going to happen, but templates and examples are probably a couple of the best outs that can help. So, the next time you get stuck on your writing, no matter what it might be, find a good example or template to inspire you and watch the words flow!

~ Amelia Desertsong

Also appeared on Medium, May 9th, 2024

Amelia Desertsong is a former content marketing specialist turned essayist and creative nonfiction author. She writes articles on many niche hobbies and obscure curiosities, pretty much whatever tickles her fancy.

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