You’ve been there. You sit down, ready to write the next killer blog post, only to have your mind go totally blank. Then, your brain clutters up with fluffy thoughts of melted chocolate, lust-inducing iPhones, and unicorns. (Or is that just me?)
Even if you don’t blog, you know the agony and frustration of losing the words you want to write.
Here are my favorite tips for eliminating writer’s block:
1. Lower your standards
Blogs aren’t novels, so don’t start a post by worrying about being perfect, insightful, original, or even grammatically correct. Take Anne Lamont’s advice: begin with a “shitty first draft.” Let yourself write a big stinking pile of poo. Good writing, like good design, is a process of iteration and editing.
2. Start with a headline
Do you feel pressure to write a full-length piece? Don’t. Instead, brainstorm headlines for articles you would like to read yourself. It could be as crazy as “How to Get Great Hair Like Sanjaya” or as controversial as “Why Design Education Sucks Today.” Even if you don’t end up writing the article, you’ll create an arsenal of ideas to inspire you when you’re stuck. To get started, check out Brian Clark’s excellent series on writing magnetic headlines.
3. End with a deadline
Never start a post without a deadline. I really believe in Parkinson’s rule: work expands to fill the amount of time available. If you don’t have a deadline, you’ll never finish.
4. Eliminate distractions
Use clever writing tools such as Writeroom (Mac) and Dark Room (Windows) to eliminate all distractions on your computer. You’ll see nothing but words on a screen, not even an oppressive clock. Outside the computer, find a quiet room, silence your mobile phone, lock out the pets, and turn off your TV.
5. Write at dawn, not at dusk
Even if it’s just a hobby, don’t blog before bed and after a long day’s work. Take a cue from Leo Babauta of Zen Habits and 15-year old blogging phenom Glenn Wolsey. Both schedule a time to write in the wee mornings. It’s quieter, your mind is fresher, and you avoid making excuses like “I’ve had a long day, I’m just too tired to write.”
6. Take a break
Who says you have to blog non-stop or even every day? Hit the gym, go to the movies, take a vacation, and spend time with your loved ones. After all, doing real meaningful things is what inspired you to blog in the first place. If you don’t blog today, the world doesn’t end.
7. Automatically spawn ideas with HitTail
HitTail analyzes the words on your blog and makes suggestions for related topics you can write about. It’s free and a great source for getting relevant inspiration based on your past writing. If used wisely, it’ll even help boost your site’s traffic.
8. Get a little help from your friends
Blogging doesn’t have to be a solitary journey. Run headlines or ideas by your friends, and ask what they think. Chances are, they’ll point out new ideas and angles you’ve missed.
9. Capture ideas before you lose them
Ideas for articles come when you least expect them. It happens as you’re walking to get a donut, commuting to work, or even on the toilet. To stop your thoughts from vanishing, always carry an easy-to-use device to jot down ideas as you get them. You can go as high-tech as a T-Mobile Sidekick (my personal favorite) or as low-tech as a little Moleskine notebook.
After recently taking my first Yoga class, I’ve turned into a true San Franciscan. My biggest realization? My habitual shallow breathing contributes to a lot of tension, blocking the flow of ideas and thoughts. I know its cliché, but take a moment to breathe deeply. It’s easier to unstuck yourself when both your mind and body are relaxed.
Check out these additional resources:
Overcome writer’s block with writing toys (Language is a Virus)
Hack your way out of writer’s block (Merlin Mann)
Strategies for Overcoming Writers’ Block (University of Illinois)
Where To Find News And Topics To Blog About (Glenn Wolsey)
10 Killer Post Ideas (Performancing)
The Imagination Prompt Generator (Creativity Portal)
Did I miss anything?
What do you do when you get stuck? Go ahead, share your tips in the comments.