This is the continuation of 50 Tips to Battle Writer's Block, Part 1.
You all know that I don't consider myself a writer, right? So, sometimes I have to trick myself into it. Here are some of the things I do, and some of the things I want to do but don't, but think I should.
And as always, if you have a tip to add, feel free to leave a comment.
Writing Tips & Techniques
- Explore the why to your writer's block. If you frequently experience writer's block, do you really enjoy this niche? Do you enjoy writing? Do you really want to blog? Do you feel ill-equipped? Ask yourself the hard questions. Be honest. Either commit to deep-down change by strengthening your areas of weakness or ditch it (gasp!). (We should all do something we really want to do, don't you think?) Related: Do You Need To Declare Blog Blankruptcy?
- Choose a topic you are genuinely passionate about. If you don't have a genuine interest in what you're writing about, it will be a drag and a burden. If you talk about the topic among your real life friends and they just want you to be quiet already, it's a great topic to blog about.
- Set a timer. If you have trouble writing, set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes and commit to write whatever you can until the timer goes off. Sometimes having a finite amount of time makes the prospect of writing less overwhelming. And more often than not, once you get started, you can continue long after the timer goes off. That always happens to me.
- Live your real life. If you're not living your life but sitting in front of your computer all the time, you run out of things to write about. Nothing will give you more fodder for posts than stuff that happens to you for real.
- Write in batches. If you set aside an extended period of time to write and make a goal, say, to complete 5 posts at once, sometimes you can get into the zone and the ideas flow a lot more easily. I keep trying to do this but admittedly, I've had a hard time making it a habit. When I do it though, the pressure to get a post out today is gone, and therefore I'm less inclined to freak out and freeze up.
- Don't start writing from the beginning. Instead of trying to come up with a brilliant opening paragraph, start in the middle or the end instead. Somehow it's not so overwhelming that way. I can trick myself into this sometimes. Like, I'm not really writing, just putting some thoughts down on the page for when I really start writing.
- Establish a writing routine. I think even the most spontaneous person on earth likes a routine. Now, maybe my routine looks differently than yours, but designating a spot in your schedule for writing is really helpful. Also, it helped me feel more relaxed because I felt like I was dealing with bite-sized chunks instead of having to accomplish a huge amount at once.
- Establish a posting schedule. Some people plan their meals like this: Monday is pasta day, Tuesday is chicken day, Wednesday is slow cooker day, etc. Do the same for blogging so you know what's coming and you're not scrambling to come up with something—anything—at any given time. In my most organized dreams, I post about Productivity & Organization on Monday, Marketing, SEO & Traffic on Tuesday, Making Money on Wednesday, Networking & Social Media on Thursday, Passion & Writing on Friday and Blogging Nuts & Bolts on Saturday. I often fall off the wagon, but still, the structure is helpful.
- Don't edit as you go. Just get it all out and accept that the first draft won't be stellar. Write it and come back later. Editing as you go is enough to drive anyone crazy (OK, me, but I can't be the only one) and coming back to what you've written with fresh eyes provides so much perspective.
- Start with a good collection of posts in reserve or just get ahead. If you're new to blogging, I recommend you write at least 10 posts before you ever launch your blog. Not only will it give you a little posting cushion, but if you can write 10-20 posts and feel like you're just barely scratching the surface of your topic, it's a pretty good indication you'll be able to sustain the writing pace long term. If you're not new to blogging, take an extended period of time to write a bunch of posts so you can get ahead. It brings back the fun day to day.
- Keep a journal handy at all times. Choose one place you will keep a running list of possible blog posts. This might be your phone or a simple paper and pencil notebook, but use it all the time. I'm still trying to get this right. I am a notebook and calendar/planner junkie. Not to mention the fancy ways to keep notes online (hello Evernote!). Having one central location for ideas, though, is very helpful and time-saving.
- Write with your non-dominant hand. So, I was in therapy for a couple of years in my twenties. About that time, I heard this suggestion and frankly, I thought it was a bit cooky. Someone suggested I write in my journal with my left hand (I'm right-handed). The reason? It makes you write differently. I don't know if it was just because it was more cumbersome to write mechanically, but I found that I didn't beat around the bush as much. I got to my real thoughts and feelings quicker. It also eliminated some of the "I've got it all together" walls because, well, when I looked at the page, I reminded myself of a 5 year old. Then again, maybe its effectiveness was all in my head. In any case, I don't think this would work for all bloggers, but I throw it out there as a suggestion anyway.
- Quit while you're ahead. If you've been writing a while and feel your brain slipping, just stop. There's no use trying to push through another page or another paragraph if you have to go over it a million times to get it right or it takes you an inordinate amount of time to get through it at all. Take a break.
- Brainstorm. If you're really stuck on ideas, have a good old fashioned brainstorming session. Grab a piece of paper and write down whatever comes to mind. Don't self-censor, just write. A lot of what you write will have nothing to do with your topic, but you just might find some hidden writing gems among the irrelevant.
- Mind map. Mind mapping is, I suppose, a form of brainstorming, but for me, it's slightly more organized. It is so much more effective for me than writing an outline because I hate it when you write your outline and then realize you need to squeeze in a few more points into the ones you've already written. There are computerized mind mapping tools, but I prefer pencil and paper. If you don't know what mind mapping is, here's a video.
- Put blog posts in their place. Remember that a blog post doesn't have to be a tome or a well-researched college-level paper. Think of blog posts as appetizers not main courses. If you find yourself writing a post that's super long, consider making a series out of it.
- Change your blogging schedule. No one says you have to blog every day. Or every other day. Or every week even. Do what works for you. You'll relieve that stressful feeling of always having to come up with something worthwhile and your readers will appreciate getting only your best content.
- Write at your peak times. I am almost a complete zombie between the hours of 1pm and 5pm. My brain just does not function. Writing is always a struggle for me, but during these hours, it's worthless. When my kids were still napping (why can't they nap until they're 13?), this was a bummer because that was basically the only time I had some peace and quiet. However, I quickly realized I could adjust my schedule to fix the problem. I'd much rather get up at 4:30am for the peace and quiet than try to come up with something coherent during those afternoon hours. Frankly, I'd rather take a nap then myself.
- Write when you're tired. Now this is a bit different than what I just said. There's tired, as in, a zombie-like state and there's tired, as in, relaxation mode. This point is about the latter. You see, I tend toward perfectionism. I'm doing my best to overcome it, but still, it gets the best of me sometimes. But I've noticed a funny thing. Some of my best ideas happen on Friday nights. I've realized this is true because on Friday nights I'm exhausted from my week and my perfectionist tendencies are exhausted as well. When it comes to my writing, I'm a lot more courageous on Friday nights.
- Pray. Really. God is chock-full of excellent ideas and I think He loves passing them on.
- Exercise. I hate to exercise. Hate it. In fact, one of my top ten reasons for wanting to go to heaven is to be in a place where I won't have to exercise to stay healthy. You have no idea how much I look forward to my new won't-get-run-down body. But I digress. As much as I hate to admit it, exercise gets the brain's juices flowing. It's good for unblocking blocked thoughts.
- Pretend you're talking to a specific friend. Put their picture in front of you and write as though you're writing them a note or an email. For some reason, I can write an email much easier than I can write a blog post. Personally, I find it a bit looney, but seriously, sometimes I write my blog posts in Gmail instead of my post editor in WordPress because somehow it feels a lot less intimidating. Also see, Imagine the Person You're Writing To.
- Stress less. It's important to write with excellence, that's true, but if anxiety about making it "just so" keeps you from posting at all, no one wins. This is what I tell myself: If I do _______ and it completely fails, no one will die. Many ideas of mine have been flops, and no one has died yet.
- Don't over think it. This is a blog post, not a PhD dissertation. This post you're writing is going to be pushed off your home page before you know it, so don't stress about it. No single blog post is likely to singlehandedly make or break your blog. Sometimes we have to just write something and be OK with good enough.
- Write an ebook. If you do find yourself writing a dissertation because you have that much to say, why not turn it into an ebook? Related: How to Write an Ebook and Why I Turned Down a Book Deal (And the Lessons I Learned).
What about you? Got any tips to add?
Other posts in this series
- 50 Tips to Battle Writer's Block, Part 1
- 50 Tips to Battle Writer's Block, Part 2