Side Note: I originally wrote a monstrous post called 30 Proven Ways to Kick Writer’s Block To The Curb but I decided it was just too much to take in all at once.
So I’ve broken it up into a two-parter. I’m giving you part 1 right now, and you’ll get access to part 2 next week. Enjoy!
I know the feeling.
You’re sitting there. Staring at your computer screen. That blinking cursor mocking you with its smug little blinky-ness.
You, my friend, have writer’s block – or, as I like to say, you’re stumped.
Now, there’s a lot of information out there on proven, wild, and magnificent ways to beat writer’s block but a lot of it is missing a key ingredient – in order to beat writer’s block you first need to diagnose what exactly you’re dealing with.
There are 10 major reasons you struggle to get the words out. And in this blog post I’m gonna share 5 of those reasons with you (and I’ll share 5 more next week) – I want you to be super clear on why this is happening because it’ll be easier to fix the problem if you know what’s causing it in the first place.
I’m also gonna share 30 ways (15 now, 15 next week) to punch writer’s block in the face! (Okay, I admit, that may have come off a bit too aggressive. But let’s be honest, writer’s block sucks and sometimes ya just wanna one-two-jab the things that make you wanna have a crippling meltdown. Right? Right!)
Without further ado, here are 5 reasons you’re stumped for the right words (and how to getting your writing groove back)…
#1 You’re Fresh Outta Ideas
You know what the best part about writing an essay in high school social studies was? Your teacher typically always told you what to write about.
“Write about WWI”; “Write about the Great Depression”; “Write about why that guy in front of you consistently asks to cheat off you before every test and you have to keep telling him no and that he should open up his social studies textbook and read a few words every once in a while”…
The point is that back in high school it was a lot easier. Someone told you what to write about.
Here, in the wild, wild west of the blogosphere there’s no one telling you what to write about. You gotta come up with the ideas.
But what if you have no idea what to write about? What if you’re totally stumped?
No worries! Use these 3 solutions to help you overcome this frustrating blockage…
1. Talk to past clients, current clients, and potential clients
The best, easiest, and quickest way to get a whackload of ideas is to just talk with people who wanna read your stuff and get your support.
Ask them what they’re struggling with, what they wish was true, what their hopes, fears and dreams are.
Write those ideas down and before you know it you’ll have enough ideas to last you 5 years (or more!)
2. Look at other blogs and pay attention to their popular posts
Another simple and effective way to generate ideas is to try to put a new spin on an old classic. In other words, check out what’s popular on other blogs and put your unique spin on those topics.
If you’re curious about what’s getting the most attention on other popular blogs in your niche, check out the Social Crawlytics tool. It’ll tell you what the most popular blog posts are for any website.
You can then use this to hit on a topic that people obviously care about. Just don’t write about the same thing. Take a unique spin on it by bringing in some contradictory evidence, telling your personal story, highlighting a case study to prove your point, or something else.
3. Stop trying to get inspired
Did you know that the famous composer, Tchaikovsky thought he needed to walk for exactly 2 hours everyday? And if he came home even a minute early something bad would happen?
While I’m pretty positive you won’t suddenly have a string of bad luck if you don’t walk for exactly 2 hours, I think Tchaikovsky has a valid point – step away from whatever it is you’re doing and search for inspiration elsewhere.
Some of the genius artists, composers, inventors, and world-changers of all time knew and know that one of the best ways to get inspired is to stop trying to be inspired.
So, take a break. Do something completely unrelated to writing – go to a museum, take your kids for ice cream, sing in the shower, go for a run.
It’s kinda like the couple who tries for years to get pregnant, decides to adopt, and then, when the adoption papers are signed and they’re about to get their cute little being, they find out they’re pregnant.
When the pressure’s off, things just happen a whole lot easier.
#2 You Have Too Many Ideas
At times you might find that you have the complete opposite problem – you have too many ideas and you don’t know which ones are the good ones.
If that’s the case, try one (or all) of these solutions…
1. Focus on burning pains and deep desires
The easiest way to figure out if your idea is good enough? Put it through the pains/desires test.
If you’re giving your potential clients an easy button solution to a pain or desire that they actually have – and let me be clear that it’s something they actually have, not something you think they have, or think they should have – then you’re on the money, my friend.
So, ask your potential clients what they’re struggling with, or what they desire. Then create an easy button solution that fixes that problem for them, or gives them what they want as easily as possible.
2. Do some research and test the waters
If it’s pretty clear that no one is writing about what you want to write about, you may think you’ve stumbled on gold, but that actually might be a bad thing.
You want to make sure that people actually care about what you’re writing about. If you have a genius idea that you think is the bee’s knees, but no one else is talking about it, you’re gonna wanna do some research before you move forward.
The reason no one’s talking about it might be because no one actually cares about it. If so, you can ditch that idea and sleep easy.
So, talk with some potential clients, ask a trusted mentor, and do some checking before you spend a ton of time and energy writing a post on a subject no one wants to read.
3. Get honest with yourself
Ask yourself, “Is this an easy-button solution that my subscribers actually want to read about? Or am I just being selfish?” And, by selfish, I mean are you writing for yourself or your readers?
Yes, you obviously want to enjoy writing about whatever it is that you’re writing about. But, this isn’t for you. It’s for your readers. And once you switch your perception from, “Me! Me! Me!” to, “Them! Them! Them!” it’s easier for you to write popular posts.
Get honest with yourself and ensure whatever topic you want to write about isn’t just based on your own passion for it. Your readers would actually be excited to get that knowledge in their inbox and they’d definitely share it because it totally helps.
#3 You Don’t Know Where to Start
So, you got a few ideas, you’ve settled on a topic for this week’s blog post, but now you don’t know where to start.
Do you just start writing? Should you create an outline? Should you edit as you go?
All valid questions and I’ll help you answer them (and more) with these solutions…
1. Create an outline
I’m a weird mix of anal-control-freak-meets-wild-hearted-spontaneous-girl.
I’m compulsively controlling 50-ish% of the time, and fly-by-the-seat-of-my-purple-Lululemons 50-ish% of the time.
And with my writing, things aren’t any different.
I like to start with an outline and then just go with the flow. This means that I have a general idea of where things are going, but I allow my free-spirited self to take over when I actually start writing so I can allow my post to become whatever it becomes. Then I get back into my control-freakness and edit it so that I make sure it has a great flow, isn’t all grammatically whacked out, makes sense, and has clear takeaways.
If you don’t know where to start, start with an outline and then give ‘er from there.
For more on how I create my outline (and my overall blogging strategy) check out this post.
2. Start in the middle
The hardest parts of a blog post to write are the beginning and the end.
You wanna start with a bang and end with a flourish. So take the pressure off yourself to come up with something super snappy right away, and start by writing out the middle bits.
Once you’ve fleshed out the middle bits it’ll be easier to come up with a punchy beginning and end.
3. Get interviewed
Sometimes it’s just easier to talk about something than it is to write about it.
If you’re having troubles getting started, ask a friend or client to ask you questions about the topic you want to write about.
You can then do one of two things:
1. Get it transcribed and use that as the basis for your blog post – just go in and do some editing.
2. Just listen back and jot down key points you’re making to create an outline for your blog post
Or, you could do both!
Either way, getting interviewed is a great way to get the juices flowing.
#4 You’ve Started But Now You’re Stuck And Don’t Know What Comes Next
The ball’s rolling but it’s suddenly hit a brick wall and you’re not sure where to take it from here.
In other words, things were going good, you were writing up a storm, then the inspiration well ran dry and you feel stuck.
What now? Try these solutions…
1. Go back to your outline
Are you missing something? Do you need to do more research? Do you need to try a new direction?
You want to think of your outline as the frame of a house. Once the frame’s up it’s easy to see where the roof should go, what walls go where, and whether you’re standing in the kitchen or the living room.
But, if you’ve really gone off book and you suddenly find yourself stumped it might be because you’ve trailed too far from your outline.
That may not be a bad thing, though. As long as you’re still giving your readers an easy button solution they can grasp onto, and you’re staying focused on that solution, you can take things in this new direction.
However, if you’ve gotten way off track from what you originally planned, you may need to go back to your outline and re-outline things. This way you’ll get some clarity on where to go from here.
2. Ask a client what’s missing
Give the draft to a trusted client (or potential client) or two and ask them, “Have I solved your problem? Do you feel like there’s something missing? What would you need more help with?”
Those kinds of questions will help you flesh out your post some more and get the wheels turning again.
3. Take it offline
I still buy almost all my books in paperback form.
I definitely buy a lot of Kindle books and read them. But I mostly buy paperback, and, even if I do buy a Kindle book, I’ll often buy it in paperback too.
There’s just something about having a physical book – being able to turn the pages, highlight, scribbles notes – that I can’t get over.
The same may be true for you with writing.
Some people just get more inspired, and write better when they write by hand.
Now, I get that you might be thinking that this is gonna make you end up doing more work – writing by hand, then having to transport it onto your blog – however, there are some solutions to that…
– You could write it by hand and then scan the pages and put your handwritten words up on your blog as-is
– You could use one of those fancy notepads that you can write on and then it transports your writing into a file on your computer. (I don’t actually use one of these so I can’t recommend a brand. But type “digital notepad” into Google – or just click here cuz I did it for you – and I’m positive you’ll find a gooder)
– You can write by hand, scan the pages, and send them to your assistant to transport onto your blog
– You could write by hand and then read it and record what you’ve written and put that on your blog
So, if you’re the kind of person who finds writing easier when you do it by hand, and you get less stuck when you do, give one of these options a try.
#5 You Feel Like Things Were Good, Good, Good And Then Suddenly You Took a Wrong Left Turn Somewhere
Ever have one of those times where you feel like the writing is going good? You’re in “the flow”? You’ve got this?
Then you read it back and you feel like asking, “Was I drunk?! Who wrote this?! What was I thinking?!”
In other words, you felt like you were on track to a glorious blog post when you suddenly realize you’ve gotten way off track and you’re not sure how to reel it back in. Been there? I have!
If this is you, check out these solutions…
1. Create some headings
Take a step back, go back to your outline and create some headings for the different sections of your post. This will help you stay on track and get your point across clearly and concisely.
For example, say I was going to write a blog post about kale and how awesome it is (isn’t it awesome?!).
Say this was my outline:
– Talk about the different kinds of kale
– Talk about the nutrition benefits of kale
– Talk about ways to eat kale
Then, using my outline as my guide I can go into my doc. where I’m writing the blog post and create some headings. For example:
Heading 1: What Kale Variety Are You?
Heading 2: Why You Should Wanna Devour Kale Day & Night
Heading 3: Kale! It’s Not Just a Breakfast Food
I’d then use these headings as my guide while writing. For each section, I’d start with the heading, maybe jot down some points I want to cover, then write until I’ve said what I want to say and move onto the next heading.
Writing your headings out ahead of time will help you contain your wandering tendencies. I know it works for me (and I’m a rambling fool so I know it can work for you!)
2. Scratch that (but keep it)
If you feel like your first draft is a total lost cause, start again but don’t delete anything.
You never know if you might be able to use bits and pieces of that first draft. And you might save yourself time by keeping it.
So, start over (perhaps even starting with writing your headings for the different sections à la the tip above) and then refer back to your first draft for bits that you can paste into your second draft.
3. Forget about it
(Is it just me that’s picturing an old Italian man saying that?)
If you’re flustered and frustrated with the way things are going you know what’s not going to make it any better? Continuing to try to bumble your way through it and get more frustrated!
There’s a reason that professional athletes take a pause after a mistake. They re-group, re-focus, and re-engage.
Take a page outta their book and set aside some time to write tomorrow, or the next day – preferably at a different time than you might normally write.
Sometimes we just need a change of scenery and to give ourselves a break to work things out.
It’s like when you’re trying to think of that actor. What’s his name? That guy, in the movie, with the car chase?
You inevitably think of his name in the shower at 6:22am the next day and shout it out like a crazy person, scaring your cat and potentially waking up your neighbors.
When you give your brain a rest it thanks you by re-charging and allowing you to be more awesome in the future.
So forget about it (again with the Italian accent, right?) and come back to it later – preferably after a good night’s sleep and a delicious kale smoothie! 😉
Writer’s Block Is Tough But You’re Tougher (Or Another Inspirational Playful Punch to the Shoulder)
Everyone gets writer’s block from time-to-time – even the most famous, most award-winning writers get writer’s block.
But the secret to overcoming writer’s block and getting your goodness out there is this: don’t let it stop you.
You’re doing this because you have gifts to share, and people to help, but you can’t help them if, every time you go to write a blog post writer’s block suplexes you and leaves you breathless on the floor wondering how you’re gonna get outta this pickle.
So, to avoid the whole suplex situation, take a two-step approach:
1. Identify what kind of writer’s blockage you’re having.
2. Tackle it by using one of the solutions I’ve suggested.
The moral of the story? Don’t let writer’s block stop you. You can, and you will overcome it. And you’ll feel so much better when you do.
If your particular flavor of writer’s block isn’t in this post, stay tuned. I have 5 more potential reasons you’re experiencing blockage (and 15 more solutions) coming your way next week. See you then!
Lots of love,
P.S. Know a friend who’s stuck in the writer’s block trap? Send ’em this post and give ’em the opportunity to get their goodness out into the world.