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Stuck Writing a Post? – Change Your Writing Medium

Posted By Darren Rowse 20th of December 2007 Writing Content 0 Comments

WritingDo you ever have an idea for a post that you just can’t get out? You know the gist of what you want to say – but the words to express it clearly just don’t come. How do you get it out?

LifeClever has a writing tip that I’d not hear before. They write that they write most of their posts as an Email first – particularly those that they get stuck on.

I’ve never sat down to write a post in email before (although I’ve written emails answering questions to readers that do evolve into posts) – but I do get the idea of writing in a different writing environment.

Sometimes when I get a little stuck I start writing in different mediums including:

  • notebook – pen and paper, sometimes you can’t beat them
  • whiteboard – usually just main points – brainstorming
  • out loud – sometimes I find ‘speaking a post’ can be quite helpful in getting my head around what I’m trying to say
  • Twitter – a few times lately I’ve ‘thought out loud’ on Twitter and the ‘thoughts’ then progressed to a full post
  • Text Document – when I’m writing an official post I do it in Ecto (a desktop blog editing tool) but around 50% of my posts start less formally as Text Documents in TextEdit.
  • Instant Messaging – I quite regularly IM one or another of my contacts to run a post idea or opening paragraph by someone else

Sometimes changing things up in one of these ways will help you to find words to describe what you’re trying to say, give you a new perspective or help you stumble upon a killer idea.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
  • Sometimes when I get stuck I will stand up and walk around. Walking and talking it out seems to work for me. I’m more of a kinesthetic learner – so movement helps a lot.

  • I agree sometimes writing with pen and paper its easier to get started then sitting in front of a computer screen.

    I regularly email myself with ideas for posts, links to source articles, pics i want to use in the post.

    When you’re away from the computer sometimes I think about the post in my head starting with an outline of the sections or paragraphs and then composing the first sentence or two in my head — this really helps overcome the initial hurdels

  • All my best ideas have come from different mediums. Thanks for reminding me that.

    Merry Christmas Darren

  • BW

    and if a different medium does not work, try a different environment.

    Go to the park, pub, cafe or even into the yard.

    A change in scenery will probably spark those creative juices

  • About half of mine are in email first!

  • TDH

    I must say, everyone struggling with their writing should give the notebook a shot. Personally, that’s what sparked my interest in writing fiction again. Naturally, I blogged it.

  • I totally agree with what everyone is saying about changing your environment. How inspirational is a home office anyways. Getting out of the house is the best medicine most of the time.

  • It’s interesting you should write this, Darren. Just today I was stuck for how to write something, so I opened up ‘Vlog It’ and started talking out loud as a video blog. It actually didn’t make for a very good vlog, but it did help me figure out how I wanted to say what I wanted to say, and so I was able to write it down with relative ease. :)

  • If find that when I get stuck, I head to Google Hot Trends and see what has been most popular searches in the past hour

  • I have found that using a whiteboard and/or notebook are the best for me. It is also much more enjoyable than typing articles. It’s the only way to really “write” an article.

  • I just take a break from what I am writing and do something else.That is why I love WordPress because you can save things and edit them and then set when you want the post to come out.

  • I usually write it down on a piece of paper, i think thats the best way to get it out.

  • When I have no pen and paper at the moment an idea strikes me, I use my mobile phone’s audio recorder to capture my thoughts as I speak out my post.

    It’s a good way to keep the idea and a great potential to start podcasting.

  • I also write on a paper then only i try to post of my blogs , whenever stucks middle on the post then i try to listen some music then i try to concentrate on this

  • I write all my posts in email. I feel far more comfortable using it.

  • I get quite a number of my ideas from talking to friends on IRC. Though Twitter? Might not be a bad idea…wish I had a whiteboard in my room though.

  • So… what your all basically saying is that when you have a problem writing anything on your computer RUN AWAY. You best off away from what you think you should be doing until you’ve gotten into a thought pattern that has forgotten about the “constrictions” of blogging.

    Release your mind and be FREE!!!…. dang…. i now sound like a hippy…

  • I tend to move around a lot. Pick up the notebook, go to the couch, lie in bed, sit on the porch, back to the study. Of course some times I just need to be sitting at my desk. It seems much easier to concentrate when I’m in “work mode”.

    And while I like the idea of writing in a notebook, it never works for me. My handwriting is too bad and I wind up with a page full of doodles.

  • Thanks for the ideas. I’ve used MS Word and notepad as well as paper and pencil (that works best for me), and I also agree with the others who have commented about getting up and changing environment….for me this isn’t so much about writing a particular post, but I get a lot of ideas when I’m away from the PC…. doing dishes, cleaning up, or exercising. That’s why it’s a good idea to keep a notepad around your neck (LOL).

  • I have started using Writeroom for nearly all my blog posts. It’s great because it removes all the distractions of everything else on your computer. I also make the font really big for readability while writing.

  • Ed

    I agree with Donald. I’d have to say that I’m probably the most paceful (which is a word i just invented) person on the planet. I pace about when I’m on the phone, when I’m cleaning the house and definitely when I’m thinking up ideas to mash together into a blog post.

    I don’t think wildly different format, though. I may have to try bringing a notebook with me from time to time, even though typing has ruined my penmanship.

  • Deb

    Sometimes words in any medium aren’t the best place to start writing or get unstuck writing. Try drawing a picture or sketch of what you want to write about. It doesn’t have to be beautiful because nobody is going to see it except you. But sometimes watching yourself draw and the way you emphasize or skip parts of the image clarify why you wanted to write about it.

  • That’s pretty cool. Writing in an e-mail format could help me, I think.

    Sometimes I write long e-mail posts, and I can see how it tends to use different areas of my brain.

    Thanks, Jason M. Blumer

  • Writing wears the mind out. Eventually. It may not be immediately, but it will happen. Great tips, Darren.

  • This is an old writing trick and it’s very useful! You can also mix it up by writing sideways on the page in a notebook, or in a circle. Try writing on colored paper, or using colored pens and pencils. Great tips!

    -Melissa Donovan
    Writing Forward

  • I’m a big fan of the notebook paper and pen. I always carry them around with me for when inspiration hits. My gramma had a stroke 2 weeks ago and I had my notebook with me every night as I sat with her sleeping. I knocked out about eleven stories and a bunch more smaller posts. Same for when I fly anywhere.

    I’m also a fan of – I can call and Jott myself with blog notes. Sure, I could Twitter, but sometimes I’m not ready for the thoughts to be public, yet.

    I did, however, Twitter via my cell on a recent road trip and then used those Twitters to craft my trip round-up post on my blog with photos.

    So I definitely agree with not solely limiting yourself to the computer. You just never know when inspiration will hit.

  • I usually try to write on a notebook. Sometimes I use the Google Docs, so that I start the post and after some time go back to there and try to finish it.


  • Darshana

    Obviously the best way to get a post done is writing it down in paper with pen tan typing.
    I totally agree upon walking up and down does help in clearing your thoughts, I do this so frequently I probably walk few Kilometers in my room.
    What do you guys think of talking out loud, giving the post as an speech helps (I am pretty lazy to type) so how about using Voice recognition software.Has anybody tried this?

    Are there any good Voice recognition software we can use?

  • Talking to a mirror sometimes helps.

    Actually the email idea really works. I use it very effectively when I wanted to send a nasty letter to someone: I write it late in the afternoon as an email an send it to myself and get up and read it the next morning when my mood has changed.

    Most of the time I tone it back the next day. However , sometimes I crank it up even more and then send it off.

    What happens is that when it hits your inbox and you open it, it feels like it is from someone else and most of us are very good at critiquing other people’s work.

  • I stopped writing altogether and now I’m having much more fun.

  • Darren,

    I think this is actually a good point. I have personally used your mind mapping idea and so far it has helped tremendously. I really like to hear about the specifics of what you currently do for blogging, like using Ecto. Thank you for the info!

  • I’ve found that composing things out loud helps a lot. Writer’s block is just so much more common than talker’s block.

  • The notebook idea has been a huge help for me. I carry one almost everywhere I go. When I have time, I like to jot down ideas on not only posts, but features I want to add to my site. It may be a week or more before I actually have a chance to work on the list, and this way, none of those items will be forgotten in that time.

  • Wow, I never thought of that. Next time I’m having a case of writer’s block I’ll try writing it on paper…

  • I often dictate my posts into my speech recognition software – Dragon Naturally Speaking. I talk much faster than I type, so it types it for me at the speed of my voice. I also make notes through the week in a journal about the challenegs my clients talk to me about so that I always have something to blog about and dont’ ahev to think up a new idea every time.

  • One of the benefits of having a blogging “staff” is that I often PM one of them and say, “how about X idea? What can we do with that?” Right now, since we write about a TV show that is on hiatus to to the WGA writer strike, we have been doing a LOT of this to keep fun and creative content.

  • My favourite way of capturing ideas is scribefire and my PDA. The PDA is fab for jotting down ideas, I use the email function and then when I dock the unit it sends them to a gmail address with the the [email protected] This way I can keep the ideas sorted in their approriate spots.

    I then use scribefire to grab the info from Gmail and post it to the blog as a draft.

    This allows me to work on a few ideas at a time from anywhere you can get an internet connection.

  • Shane

    I find that not only changing medium but changing atmosphere works. Go someplace else or listen to different music or work at a different time of day. I mix it up between my desktop, laptop and note pad (I like the yellow legal pads). There are times that the imperfect nature of the pen on paper helps things flow…in digital I get to into getting it perfect right off the bat.

  • The philosophy in this post applied not only to blogging but to writing in general as well.

    I am an MA TEFL student at Lancaster University. Prior to my studies on those English teaching methodologies, I had seen students who use their cellphone, Mp3 player or voice recorder to store some random thoughts (in text or audio forms) and then put them together for a final write-up.

    Technically, it is called “brainstorming” at the Pre-Writing stage. It is better if the author has a central idea and all those random thoughts are considered branches growing on that idea.

    Nevertheless it is the variety of ways that people use to gather ideas that bewitches researchers and educators. Notions such as the individual differences of learners, learning style, psycholinguistics are studied thereafter.

  • Darren,

    I have to say that ive never had that problem. Whatever is in my head will always reach paper or my blog.

    My problem is – and i know i have to slowly rectify it- is that most of it is junk, and sometimes this can end up on my blog. (Ok, its not junk, it may just not be as compelling as some other posts)

    Its sorting through the GREAT content that i can produce from my head is the art of being successful in my opinion.

  • I try to always keep as many kinds of creative supplies around as I can — half-used-up sets of watercolor pencils, scrapbooking paper, journals, yellow legal pads, crayons, whiteboards, Sharpie markers, magazines to cut up, gel pens and index cards. Many of my best posts have started out on paper, in my Moleskine or in a chat window, and writing in a different “medium” (or even venue!) helps me tremendously.

  • When I need ideas (blogging ideas or cartoonideas ) I tend to leave the computer for a while and go and do some household chores. Actually, to be honest, this doesn’t happen that often. Our home is full of household chores that no-one has quite got around to yet.

    Going to a cafe and watching passers-by also seems to help for some reason.

  • Well, Darren, you seem to be quite a fan of pen and paper. And it is effective too.

    Often, I write out outlines for posts or even entire posts when I am at school (they don’t allow laptops there,and I don’t have time to use the desktops). When I come home, all i have to do is type it out and bang!

    I guess we’ve been used to writing creatively for years that changing it suddenly to a keyboard just doesn’t work as planned.

  • Bud

    I see Jan Marie uses speech recognition software; has anyone used a tape recorder to tape ideas or major points of a post? I would think it would be handy since we are spending so much time in our cars these days.

  • Again one of the useful post !

    I really enjoyed reading each and every post of yours.

    Thanks for the nice tips as i was stuck few times when it comes to writing.


  • I don’t rely on pen or paper or some other writing medium. For me the inspiration to write comes from the photos I attach with every single post. The first thing I do is add the picture, and the idea comes and the words just follow.