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December 30, 2010

7 Ways for Bloggers to Overcome Writer’s Block

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“I love talking about nothing. It is the only thing I know anything about”
-Oscar Wilde

I have an annoying affliction that rears its ugly head from time to time. It’s called blogger burnout. In fact, it literally took me five minutes to write that first sentence. I blame it on three things:

a) Information overload. I literally have 100 things I could write about right now, but nope. Nothing. Cannot form sentences.
b) Blogging every day. Trying to keep blog posts new, exciting, relevant to everyone and engaging is a big job. And sometimes it leads to analysis paralysis.
c) Forgetting that life inspires writing. Not making the connection between the experiences and challenges I face every day and topics for the blog. Big mistake.

But stick around, because in an effort to fix this nasty problem, I’m gonna hit it head on by talking about it. I’m making lemonade.

1. Use what you are experiencing as fuel for your blog posts.

My little problem is actually the basis for my first bit of advice. Write what you know. The fact is, most people who write content for the Web aren’t just bloggers, they’re professionals of some sort with talent in some field.

Every working person (and even the unemployed!) faces challenges every week. If you’re a blogger, use those problems as ideas for your posts. If you’re experiencing it, chances are someone else is, too, and will find value in it.

Oftentimes, ideas will come at the oddest of times — which brings me to my next tip:

Pencil N' Paper

2. Keep something close by all day, every day to record your ideas.

This is where I’m extremely guilty. How many of us have (grudgingly) dreamt about work and had a great idea come from it, but nothing to record it at hand? Or, who has experienced an epiphany while driving and nothing near you to document it?

A simple notepad or audio recording device within reach is essential to putting those great ideas down the moment you have them, before they are lost. This is great writing juice for a later date, and helps put the kibosh on writer’s block before it even happens.

3. Always leave your “association” switch turned on.

Some of us turn our brains off when we leave work. Some of us turn our brains off when we’re at work. And as a writer or blogger, our brains should never really be far from associating what’s happening now to our next great topic.

This is why it’s important to leave our “association” switch turned on, and always think about how something we’re experiencing can tie into something we can write about. And how do we remember those things? If you guessed, “Writing it down or recording it as we think it,” you get an “A” for not drifting off. Which means I’m doing my job — Yaay!

Conversation at Caffe Nero

4. Tap into your network for topic ideas.

If personal experience isn’t helping you tackle that writer’s block, tap into your network. I mean this both digitally and offline. Take Twitter, for example. I bet you could look at your feed at any given time of day and find a handful of worthy ideas to blog about.

I say this with slight trepidation, because if you’re like me, you become overwhelmed with the volume of information. And it can sometimes seem like everyone is saying the same thing in your community.

So, what often happens is a resistance to writing about it altogether for fear of regurgitated information. Here’s a tip: Try collecting a handful of resources on the topic, read through them, and find a new perspective on it that someone hasn’t shared.

Tangent warning: Today, Susan and I were talking about perspective and opinion in blogging. She reaffirmed to me that having an opinion doesn’t mean being right. But it’s an important aspect of blogging. I thought I’d turn to Dictionary.com for a reminder of what “opinion” means:

o•pin•ion [uh-pin-yuhn]–noun
1. a belief or judgment that rests on grounds insufficient to produce complete certainty.
2. a personal view, attitude, or appraisal.

Now, back to tapping into your network. Even if you’re self-employed with a staff of one, you have colleagues. These are people you turn to for insight on business, who have specific skill sets. Look to these people when you’re in a pickle. (Don’t you love old-timey expressions?)

I’ve written countless blog posts by simply asking BCI employees here, “What should I write about?” People on the front lines of a profession are the greatest source of knowledge. They have stories to tell, and it’s our jobs as bloggers to tell those stories.

5. Write about a topic you want to learn more about.

If using other people’s ideas isn’t working for you, pick a topic that you’ve always wanted to know more about and educate yourself on it. One of the coolest things about being a writer or blogger is that you get to learn a lot about things. In fact, I have boatloads of knowledge on various topics that are approximately 1,000 words deep floating around in my brain.

Take advantage of the fact that it’s your duty to learn and report. I’ve written several blog posts and articles simply because I wanted to learn more about the topic.

6. Create an editorial calendar.

Yes, writing and organization can go hand-in-hand. Sometimes brainstorming ideas ahead of time can be a huge help. Imagine sitting down to your computer, looking at the date on the calendar and seeing your topic already laid out for you. Of course, this doesn’t mean you’re married to it. Use it as a guideline and it can work like magic.

I'm NOT standing on any of your buttons, so calm down!!

7. Minimize distractions but know the value of them.

When you’re experiencing writer’s block, you’re even more susceptible to be distracted by things like pretty colors. Sure, you’ve heard it all before: “Stop looking at your Twitter feed,” they say. “Don’t leave your Web browser open.” “Put that kitty away.” Yes, it’s true. People prone to ADD can be distracted easily. And writer’s block fuels ADD.

Remember, most writers and bloggers are “creatives” at some level, so approaching a writing task the same way an accountant would approach crunching numbers, well it just doesn’t work that way.

If you’re a writer working in a corporate environment, sometimes getting up and walking away from your desk is one of the most valuable distractions you can experience. I can’t tell you how many Aha! moments I’ve had in the bathroom. TMI?

And if you’re writing from the comfort of your own home, well first, I’m having very strong feelings of resentment, but remember — you can also apply the same principles. Just because you conduct business from your couch (OK, envy escalating rapidly), doesn’t mean you couldn’t benefit from a change of scenery.

So. Now that I’ve pretty much showed writer’s block who’s boss, I want to know, what do you do to overcome it?

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7 responses to “7 Ways for Bloggers to Overcome Writer’s Block”

  1. Scott Ludtke writes:

    Writers block is a real, and often occurring inconvenience that I suffer too! Mostly due to information overload, I have actually begun to simply jot down ideas when they come to mind. Not only do I have the idea in writing, but it prevents me from the needless suffering and distraction of having to try and remember later down the road.
    Great tips! Thank you.

  2. Chris Edwards writes:

    Jessica, you hit the nail on the head. I often run into writers block and all 7 of these tips are right on key. One idea I have been doing is picking a special topic for the month and doing multiple articles on that topic. It does not keep me tied to only doing that topic, but on days I have a block, I just do a little research on that topic and bang something out.

    Another way I found around my block was not to focus on writing the best article and just writing. I have articles that are huge hits, and others that are duds. The thing is, I found my self sitting around trying to come up with the next big idea when I had low hanging fruit I could use. I overcame this and just started banging out even short and sweet articles that I normally would think would be duds. Sometimes, they are, sometimes they surprisingly become hits. The key is, instead of sitting around, I am now banging out articles, and that perfect article idea will come while I write these quick short articles.

  3. Jessica Lee writes:

    Thank you, Scott! Appreciate you taking the time to comment.

  4. Jessica Lee writes:

    Hi, Chris! These are great ideas! Thank you for sharing.

    It’s true that sometimes obsessing over making every post award-winning can sometimes get in the way of sharing information quickly that might be just as useful. I am guilty of that.

    And it’s also true that sometimes the posts you think are duds really strike a chord with people and take off.

    Like you, we also tried breaking down the month by focusing certain weeks on a specific topic. Like one week would be local, for example, and then we could find four different aspects of local search that we want to touch on M-TH. It does help!

    Thanks for reading and your feedback.

  5. Boise SEO writes:

    Yep, gone are the days like Ward Cleaver, where when you get home it is all about family (home) life. From 8 to 5 it is all business. The lines have been blurred, crossed, and torn down. When you have or run your own business, you as you said “Always leave your “association” switch turned on.” Even when I go on vacation, I always walk away with a couple of good stories that I can blog on. Blogging is truly just modern journal writing for all to see.

  6. Jessica Lee writes:

    Does this mean I can’t have my future husband waiting with a stiff drink and some slippers for me at the door when I get home?

    You’re right — blogging is like a public diary. I never thought of it that way.

    Thanks for all your great comments.

  7. Paul J writes:

    I find exercising tends to stimulate ideas for me. Not just during, but immediately after, when the endorphin rush is peaking. I often find myself scrambling to the computer or the nearest notepad, the minute I return from a run, a bike ride or a session on the weights.



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