Most people struggle with two main aspects of blogging. Time to blog, and topics to blog about. When you first started your blog, you were probably gung ho about blogging and you said to yourself: I will blog every day, I have so much to say! Yeay! and you began strong and powerful. First post, no problem. Second post... and we're rolling. The third post starts to feel a bit like a chore. The fourth post has an outline and a title but your mouse doesn't make it to the publish button. Been there, done that. As a side note, before I continue, this is why I advocate having one blog even if you have many interests, but that's a topic for another day. On with my story...
And As the days go by and time passes, your daily blogging drops to once a week, then once a month and next thing you know the last time you blogged was almost a year ago. Yikes! that's happened to many of us but it doesn't have to be that way. In a future blogpost, I'll tell you how to manage your time so you can blog consistently. I will show you what has worked for me and what hasn't. But this post is about the other side of blogging woes. Ideas on what to write about.
If I were a blogging snob, I'd probably ask you: Why'd you start a blog and then don't have anything to say? I thought you had a lot to say! But I'm not a blog snob, and in fact I want to help you get your blog up and running. But having been a blogger for almost a decade now, I know how it feels to be stuck. Many people will give you very practical advice, like write down a list of stuff, or set a schedule, or make it a habit, yadda yadda yadda, but many time that advice isn't what you need. Writer's block is based on the fear that what you will write won't be any good. First, don't worry about that. Write from your heart and use at least basic spelling and grammar rules and your writing will get better each time. But if you don't write... it will never improve. -- With that said, don't force it. Sometimes you just aren't meant to write at that particular time -- So here are some unusual tips to help you get through those dry spells.
Read lots of stuff. All the time, everywhere.
Read. You know that the best writers are readers first right? Maybe you didn't know but in order to be good at something, you have to practice the end result. So if you want to be good at writing, you must read other people's writings. This will help you hone in your style and language. It will show you how it's supposed to look and sound. In addition to finding your voice through the reading of other people, you'll also be inspired to write. It's one of those things where it builds upon itself.
If you read something good, you want to then go and write something good. Don't limit yourself, read anything and everything you can get your hands on. Magazines, classic books, new books, fiction, non-fiction, even brochures have sparked ideas on how to craft a title or develop my story. Most important of all, read other blogs. Remember? No man is an island! Reading will hone your writing skills, don't take it from me. Take it from one of the master writers of our time if you must...
Break the monotony and habits.
Do something completely different today. We often get into the monotony of our habits and it's very easy to fall into the comfort of them without realizing that this could be killing your creativity. Take a different road home, eat a new food, call an old friend. Skip your usual coffee shop and try the new one a couple blocks away. Make your lunch instead of eating out, or eat out if you always make your food. I know it doesn't sound like blogging advice, but I can't tell you how many times I've been inspired to write something because I did something different that day that sparked a new idea. To add to the previous tip, read something completely new or out of the norm for you.
Give your opinion or expert advice.
Respond to a question. You'll hear at least a dozen questions today. You'll hear it on the radio, on TV, at work, at the market. You may read them on a magazine. You can even click over to Quora and see what people are asking about. Digest those questions and answer them, on your blog. As a bonus to getting more readers to your blog, when you answer a question on your blog, try to let the source of the question know that you answered their question on your blog.
Encourage the various aspects of creativity.
Develop other creative outlets. Writing is one of many ways of expressing your thoughts, emotions, and outlook. Try going outside and taking some photographs, even with your phone. Or pull out a piece of paper and pen or pencil and doodle for a little while. If you're into art and actually can do some cool paintings or sketches like my buddy Sam Carter, then take a break from your blog for a day and work on that. Breaking the stress of writing by doing another creative activity will sort of refuel your writing juices, or you may just get inspired by something completely new.
After you've done some or all of the above, get to writing. If you're still stuck, try a few of these:
Take a piece of paper, or your notebook or your journal and just write down ideas for new posts. Look for topics within your previous writings, current events happening, or important dates coming up. Holidays and historic days are great ways to re-ignite your blogging because when you write about something that is known or expected, writing tends to flow more easily. Keep a running notebook for ideas when you have a brainstorming session. I use evernote, getpocket, and a couple other tools to remind me of ideas I've thought about and other inspiration I've found during brainstorming sessions.
Revive and old topic.
Browse through your old blogposts and see if there is one that could use an updated version or some expansion. If you don't have a lot of blogposts or you are just starting out, find some of your favorite blogposts by other people and use them as your topic. Write your own perspective on the topic. Respond, agree, or add more information to what they've said. I'm currently doing a mix of all this on Notagrouch and on Oscarstech.
If you're just not inspired to write, even though you have ideas, maybe begin a writing plan or editorial calendar. Actually, that is what I'm doing now, and it leads me to my next and final tip.
Set a writing plan in motion.
Create an editorial calendar and stick to it. An editorial calendar is a fancy way of saying to plan out the next few weeks, or months of writing. You can use Google Calendar, or any other calendar application you're comfortable with. You could even use excel. Write down the date of when you want to publish your next blogpost, write down the title for the blogpost and next to it or in the description (if using a calendar app) write down 3 to 5 key points or ideas you want to touch on when you write your blogpost. You could also use something like Evernote so you always have your ideas on the go and can update them, change them, or heck! even write a blogpost while you're waiting in line or dozing off in that boring accounting meeting. A WordPress Blog comes in really handy for this too. You can create these ideas as posts in advance and save them as drafts, then come back to develop them on your own schedule.
Practice time management.
Another way to help you with writer's block is to manage your time wisely. A blogpost should not take you more than 20 - 45 minutes to write and about 10 - 20 minutes to polish it up. Not counting research and resource gathering, the actual writing part should be fairly quick. I often know that I'm not ready to write a particular post if I've been stuck on the first paragraph or two for more than 30 minutes. That means that I still need to let it stew in my head some more, or I need to read more about the topic or find more resources to help me support or deny my viewpoints. I will elaborate more on this soon when I tell you how I actually write a blogpost from start to finish.
If these ideas aren't helping you, tell me, what is keeping you from writing? How can I help you blog better and more consistently?