I’ve been staring at a blank Word document for at least 20 minutes. And now, finally, after thinking of 10 different ways I could start this blog post, I decided to just write it already. This happens every time I try to write anything — a feature article for MyBusiness, a Class Act profile for American Spirit or even an e-mail to a client. But most days, I don’t have more than five minutes to organize my thoughts and get cracking on an assignment. Here are my methods for beating writer’s block:

Create an environment free from distractions. I start by closing any programs that could be distracting: iChat, Twitter and Mail are usually the biggest culprits. Then I choose some fast-paced, upbeat music that will help me clear my head a little bit. If it’s a particularly noisy day in the office, I find retreating to the library, conference room or the coffee shop across the street helps me get into a writing groove much more quickly.
Make an outline. If you can’t decide how to start your story, try figuring out how you want the rest of it to flow. Decide what you want your story to say and create an outline, including quotes, important statistics, interesting facts or anything else you want to include that might stir up ideas for a good lead paragraph.
Start scribbling. If the outline doesn’t get my creative juices flowing, I put pen to paper. Just grab a scrap of paper from the recycling bin and start writing whatever comes to mind. Usually I end up jotting down four or five sentences before I write one I like; from there my story starts to come together.
Insert a quote you like and build around it. Occasionally, when I’m conducting an interview, the person I’m speaking with will say something perfect and a light bulb will go off in my head. That one quote will help me figure out exactly how I want to structure the story. If I’m having trouble kicking it off, I start by using that perfect quote and building around it. By the time I go back and edit, I usually know how I want to form my first sentences.
Writing this entire blog post took about as much time as I spent agonizing over the first sentence. When all else fails, just start writing. You’ll stumble on something great before you know it!