This post is based on episode 86 of the ProBlogger podcast.
For the past couple of weeks I’ve been talking about beating writer’s block. I’m sure every bloggers faces it sooner or later, and to be a successful blogger you really need to know how to deal with it.
We started off by learning about the different types of writer’s block, and how to identify which one you’re dealing with. And last week we talked about how to deal with a major one – running out of ideas.
But now that you know how to keep coming up with fresh ideas, it’s time to take the next step: getting the words flowing and turning those ideas into posts.
So here are ten things you can try to not only get the words flowing again but also keep them flowing.
1. Mix up your environment
Now this is going to mean different things to different people. I like white noise, and so I used to head to a nearby café quite a bit. I found the clinking of glasses and the nearby conversations helped me get into the flow of writing.
But I understand that might sound like your worst nightmare, and that you need a much more controlled (and probably quieter) environment. My wife Vanessa loved going to our local library, not only to get out of the house but also to get away from the noise and distraction of our children. (And me, quite possibly.)
So if you’re finding it hard to get the words flowing where you are, try creating a different environment. That could mean anything from changing your location to having music or even the television playing in the background.
It can also mean creating a distraction-free environment by disconnecting yourself from the internet and switching your phone to silent.
2. Try freewriting
While I don’t do a lot of freewriting, it’s still a great way for me to get the words flowing again when I’m stuck.
I’ll get up early in the morning (so I don’t have any distractions), and just write about whatever’s on my mind. It might be about work or the business. It might be personal. It might be silly, and make no sense whatsoever. It might be about my children, or the movie I saw recently.
You might write about similar things. Or you might write about something completely different. In the end it doesn’t matter what you write about. It’s about the physical act of writing, and getting your thoughts (whatever they may be) down on paper. Because the more you do it, the easier it becomes. And sometimes those random thoughts that pop into your head can become a great idea for a post..
3. Write for one person
As much as I love having a large audience, sometimes the thought of hundreds or even thousands of people reading the post I’m working on makes me freeze up. What if they don’t like it? What if I say the wrong thing, or offer the wrong advice? What if I make their lives worse instead of better?
Fortunately, I’ve come up with a solution. Instead of thinking about all those potential readers, I pretend I’m writing my post for one person.
Now that person could be a persona who represents your readers, or it could be an actual reader. Many of my ProBlogger posts started out as responses to readers’ questions. And some were my actual responses to readers’ emails (after removing any identifying information).
And that’s another advantage of writing for one person. Your blog will come across as being far more personal because you’re writing an individual instead of a crowd.
4. Get in touch with a reader’s problem, need, or pain point
Some of my best posts have come about after talking to someone about an issue, problem or challenge they’re having. And while I don’t like the idea of anyone suffering, knowing I may be able to help those who are suffering inspires me to write.
So as morbid as this advice may sound, start hanging out in places where people are in pain. Forums are a great place to start because people often go there to share their problems and ask for help. Read their story, and allow yourself to feel their pain. Then see if you can come up with a way to help them, whether it’s by offering a solution or simply letting them know they’re not alone.
And then let that desire to help inspire you to write.
5. Get into a rhythm
Make sure you schedule regular writing time into your week, ideally at the same time every day. That might mean every day, every weekday, or perhaps every Saturday or Sunday.
And try to choose a time that best suits your writing. My ‘golden hours’ are in the morning, and so that’s when I schedule my writing.
The most important thing is to make it a regular thing so you can get into a rhythm with your writing.
6. Set deadlines
Last week I mentioned a blogger who comes up with more than 100 post ideas every January, and then schedules them all to create her deadlines. Now, how do you think she’d go writing all those blog posts if she didn’t have those deadlines?
A lot of bloggers create their schedules by setting up an editorial calendar. We use CoSchedule for both ProBlogger and Digital Photography School, which helps us visualize our posts and when they’re due, as well as how they all fit together. But you can use any calendar tool, or even paper and pen.
I generally write my posts a week or two in advance. (Some bloggers plan their posts a few months in advance, or even longer.) It allows me to plan ahead, but also gives me the flexibility to be spontaneous.
So set yourself some realistic deadlines, and then push yourself to meet them.
7. Stimulate and inspire your mind
Food is fuel for your body. And the better the fuel you put into your body the better the performance you get out of it.
But while your brain also benefits from good food, your mind needs a different kind of fuel: stimulation and inspiration.
For me, some of it comes from learning, being mentally stretched, and having good conversations (and laughs) with people. So whenever I can I listen to podcasts, read books, and watch movies and documentaries. And not just about topics I write about, either.
For example, I often listen to the Hidden Brain Podcast, an NPR Hope podcast on human behavior. It’s not really connected to what I write about, but I always get ideas while listening to that particular podcast. I also listen to comedy podcasts, regularly watch TED talks, and read novels.
These activities not only fill your mind with new information to draw ideas from, but also give you a mental break from your work. And it’s often when you’re not thinking about your topic that you get great ideas (just as you often do while you’re in the shower).
Of course, you should also keep up to read up on your those lightbulb moments.
8. Use outlines
Most of my blog posts start with some kind of outline. I’ll start with the need or problem I’m trying to solve, and then come up with a list of things I want to say about it.
That list starts out being very light – a few words for each point I want to make. I then work through the list and expand of each one.
Sometimes I don’t have much to say about any of them, in which case I simply publish them as a list post. But I usually find I can expand on each one quite a bit, and it becomes a long-form post with segments and/or subheadings.
Once I’ve finished writing the ‘meaty’ part of my post, I’ll turn my attention to the introduction. I usually write my introductions after writing the main section, as I generally talk about the need or problem I’m addressing and how the reader benefit from reading my post.
From there I work on the conclusion, which is usually a call to action, and finally the title.
Of course, this isn’t the only way to write a blog post. Michael Hyatt has a six-point template for his blog posts. He starts with a compelling title, followed by a lead paragraph, a relevant image and a personal experience. After that comes the main body of his content, and finally a discussion question.
If you’ve never used an outline or a template before, why not give it a try?
9. Write in a different style
When my writing gets stuck, I sometimes challenge myself to write a different type of blog post. And I find that approaching the information from a different ‘angle’ usually gets the words flowing again.
So if you always write ‘how to’ content, try writing a story post. If you always write personal posts, try writing a review post.
Varying the length of your posts can also help. If you always write long, meaty posts, challenge yourself to write a 100-word post. And if all your posts are relatively short, try writing a 2000-word post.
Once, when I was really dry, challenged myself to write in the third person. And the result was 5 Things You Should Know about My Dad the ProBlogger, a post written in the voice of my son who was one at the time. Setting myself that creative challenge got the juices flowing again. It was fun, and it got a great response from my readers.
So whether you choose a different type of post, a different length or a different voice, give yourself some sort of challenge. You may find it helps you get back into the flow better. And you’ll learn more about writing as well.
10. Talk about what you’re going to say out loud
My final tip is to do something that might have people thinking you’re a little bit crazy: compose your blog post by speaking out loud.
I go for a walk most days. And during those walks I often recite the blog post, talk or keynote I’m working on out loud. I’m sure my neighbors all think I’m a little bit crazy, but sometimes I think best out loud and need to say it before I can write it.
Another tactic I use sometimes is to jump onto Periscope and talk about an idea that’s half formed in my mind. Having that conversation about it i(even if it’s just a one-way conversation) gives me inspiration, and what I’m working on usually turns out much better as a result.
Another option is to publish your outline on social media and ask people for feedback. The responses you get may not only inspire you to finish the post, but also help you flesh it out and make it better.
In an ideal world you’d never suffer from writer’s block, and so you wouldn’t need to know any of these techniques. But I don’t know of any blogger who hasn’t become stuck at some point or other, and I hope these techniques can help you get your word flowing again.
But I realize these all come from my own experiences. What techniques have you come up with to get the words flowing again? Please share them in the comments.
Photo by Mazhar Zandsalimi on Unsplash