Writer’s block can strike fear into the heart of any writer, no matter how experienced. When your living depends on your ability to generate engaging content while you sit there staring at a blank screen, it can feel like all of your inspiration has slipped out the window.
As Alice Flaherty pointed out in her book The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer’s Block, and the Creative Brain, writers used to think of this as being “dried up.” The ideas were just gone, and they weren’t coming back.
The shift to thinking of writer’s “block” — a barrier to creativity, not an ending — is much more accurate. You’re not out of ideas; you just need a jump-start.
Writers have looked for that jump-start in countless ways. Artificial intelligence, more commonly known as AI, is one of the newest tools. It’s also one of the most effective, particularly for writing projects that need to move forward now.
Here’s what you need to know about AI writing and writer’s block.
What Is Writer’s Block?
Writer’s block is the phenomenon of feeling “stuck” in your writing. No matter how hard you try, you simply can’t get words onto the page.
It’s not a lack of skill or an apathy toward writing. You desperately want to write. Maybe you even need to write, or you won’t be able to pay the bills next month. But nothing will come. It’s one of the most frustrating experiences a writer can have.
According to The Midnight Disease, this frustration is a defining element of writer’s block. “Someone who is not writing but not suffering does not have writer’s block,” says Flaherty. “He or she is merely not writing.”
There’s nothing wrong with “merely not writing,” but it doesn’t call for an urgent fix in the same way writer’s block does. When you have writer’s block, you desperately want a way out.
How to Get Over Writer’s Block
There are two common pieces of advice for overcoming writer’s block. One is to step away from your keyboard for a while and do something else.
The other advice you’ll hear is just to write. Get words down on paper. It’s a fine technique for those times when you’re just a little bit stuck, but real writer’s block is tricky. No matter how many words you write, none of them feel good enough.
At that point, writing for the sake of writing can be more frustrating than helpful. That’s where AI enters the picture to cure your writer’s block… or at least help you break through.
AI and the Writer
AI writing takes over the “just get words on the page” part of overcoming writer’s block, so you can get your momentum back.
An AI writing tool will take your description of the material you need and generate text accordingly. Most of the time, you start by choosing a template and entering a few key details about what you want.
Today’s top tools, including Jasper and Copy.ai, have templates for most to all of the content types a professional writer might need. That includes:
- Facebook Ads
- Google My Business posts
- Product descriptions
- Cold emails
- Optimized web pages
The AI writing tool will ask you for some key information about the content, such as the product or business name and a description. Some tools will even ask you for the tone you want, which helps you get closer to quality copy.
If you need longer-form content, like an entire blog post, AI writing can help you to build it out. You can generate an outline, topic ideas, or even a full first paragraph — wherever you happen to be stuck.
What It Can Do
Here’s what Jasper generated for the post title “Earning Money as a Freelance Copywriter,” in an encouraging tone for an audience of new and aspiring writers:
“Do you enjoy writing? Do you have good grammar skills and a high level of creativity? If so, then freelance copywriting might be the perfect career for you. With more and more businesses using content marketing to drive sales, there is always a need for talented writers who can produce quality articles that resonate with their target audience. You don’t need any qualifications or experience to get started; all it takes is an interest in writing combined with some basic knowledge on how to use Microsoft Word.
If this sounds like something that interests you, read on! This blog post will provide everything you need to know about becoming a freelance copywriter from knowing what clients expect from your work, understanding the different types of copywriting jobs available and making sure your work meets…”
It needs some editing to be publication-ready, but it effectively gets the post started. It even gives the writer ideas for next paragraphs — client expectations, types of jobs, and meeting expectations.
How It Works
This kind of writing may come from a computer, but creative human brains still play a role in the process.
AI writing uses a technology called natural language processing to generate custom text. NLP is a kind of artificial neural network, which “learns” from experience in the same way a human or animal brain can learn.
A neural network is a set of mathematical models called algorithms. Programmers create these algorithms to recognize and classify patterns, such as the patterns in human language.
For example, the creators of an AI copywriting tool would “teach” their NLP by feeding it examples of different content types. After seeing a certain number of these, the NLP learns what that type of content is supposed to sound like.
Programmers are also working on a more advanced form of AI content generation called a generative pre-trained transformer, or GPT. A GPT can process and understand language in context, so well that it only needs a few simple instructions to create a plausible paragraph.
GPTs learn faster than older language processing tools. They create more unique and “human-sounding” copy with fewer instructions. Most importantly, they generate copy that can mimic a particular writer’s or brand’s style. AI writing is a developmental technology, but it has the potential to change the experience of writer’s block.
What It Can Do…and What It Can’t
Advanced AI worries a lot of writers. They think that if it gets good enough, it will take their jobs. But that’s not what AI writing was intended to do.
Today’s AI writing will create a respectable first draft, or part of a first draft if you’re looking for longer-form content. Once you have that material, you need to tweak it before putting it out into the world.
Most importantly, AI writing algorithms are programmed to write — not research and fact-check. Even the best ones are notorious for letting inaccuracies creep in. (See above. Microsoft Word isn’t the be-all and end-all software for most copywriters.)
Also, even the best AI writing needs some human editing to tighten it up and make it flow smoothly. Take the following sentence, for example:
“With more and more businesses using content marketing to drive sales, there is always a need for talented writers who can produce quality articles that resonate with their target audience.”
There’s nothing technically wrong with this sentence. It could easily have come from the mind of a developing writer. But you’ll get better responses from clients and readers if you take some time to freshen it up to something like:
“As the number of businesses using content marketing increases, so does the need for writers who produce quality articles that resonate with audiences.”
How to Use It
Today’s AI tools help you move through writer’s block in whatever form it shows up. The key to success is knowing what you need help with, and what AI tool features can get you there.
AI algorithms generate all kinds of marketing copy, from Instagram captions to different kinds of ad copy. Both Jasper and Copy.ai even generate content based on common ad writing techniques, like Pain-Agitate-Solution and AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action).
All you need to do is choose the right format and fill in the requested information as thoroughly as possible. And don’t worry — it won’t make your writer’s block worse!
Most of the time, the template only asks for a product name and description, and possibly a tone. It’s completely acceptable to copy the product description from a web page or other piece of copy, since the template won’t use it verbatim.
Idea generation is one of the biggest challenges of content writing. It’s tough to consistently come up with ideas that are fresh, original, and engaging. AI can help by providing you with blog post concepts.
For the description of “copywriting and content writing services for businesses,” Copy.ai generated ideas like:
- What Are Businesses Hiring Copywriters For?
- Need Copy for Your Blog? Here’s What You Need to Look for in a Writer
- Freelance Copywriter Salary
The results get more specific when you add “business owners” and “marketers” as an audience:
- Got Boring Copy? Try These Copywriting Techniques to Boost Your Sales
- What Is Copywriting and What Can a Copywriter Do for Your Business?
Jasper also lets you provide a target audience description, your intended tone of voice, and a sample article title. In response to the example title “Why You Need a Freelance Writer,” it suggested:
- The Value of Hiring a Professional Writer
- 5 Mistakes You Must Avoid When Hiring a Freelance Writer
If you don’t love the suggestions the AI writer generates at first, you can always ask again with different or more specific background information. Today’s AI writers generate ideas in seconds, so you’ll still be moving along faster than if you were trying to push through writer’s block on your own.
One of the most frustrating kinds of writer’s block is the type that strikes when you’re in the middle of a piece. You’re moving along at a steady pace and suddenly, you start to second-guess yourself.
Does that sound awkward?
Is that really what I’m trying to say?
The more you overthink it, the more stymied you can start to feel. When that happens, you can turn to AI writing to refine your content. Jasper calls this its “content improver.” Copy AI has other tools, including Sentence Rewriter and Simplify Sentence, to help you think of alternatives.
You can use these tools to refine a sentence you wrote yourself, or do some tweaking on an AI-written sentence. For instance, Copy.ai’s Sentence Rewriter turned this:
“You don’t need any qualifications or experience to get started; all it takes is an interest in writing combined with some basic knowledge on how to use Microsoft Word.”
…into options like these:
“While some experience and/or education would certainly be helpful in your line of work, you don’t need to jump through any hoops to get started.”
“The best way to get started is to make a commitment to learning as much as you can, and then just start writing.”
Again, you can generate as many alternatives as you want, until you find one you love. Remember, it’s best if you do some editing yourself to give it the human touch!
Moving Past Writer’s Block
With a combination of idea generation, content writing, and rewriting tools, AI writing services can make writer’s block a thing of the past.
Take some time to experiment. There are many different tools you can try, including Jasper and Copy.ai as well as Copysmith and Writesonic. Most have free trials, so there’s no commitment — just the opportunity to see blank pages fill up and frustration turn back into ease.
Musings and updates from the content management team at Clippings.me.