1 Stop reading, more writing
This may seem counterintuitive, but I’ve found that I put off actually writing and doing the work to do more research. It is like I don’t want to sit and write, so I tell myself I need to read another book, or another blog post, or something else. It isn’t a matter of actually doing the research, although that is definitely a totally valid pursuit, but rather a way to put off writing. You don’t need to be an expert before you start writing. Far from it. As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog, it is the act of researching and writing that help you become an expert. The second thought about reading vs writing: for me, I have found that when I read nothing but “how to” books, I lose my imagination and begin duplicating what I’ve read. You can spend your whole life learning from other people and never actually acting on anything. Put the “how to” books down, and act.
2 Pay attention to the world around you.
Look for stories, metaphors, lessons, and the relevant experiences of others. When I feel stuck, I’m always surprised at how I’m able to draw inspiration from something completely unrelated to my topic. Sometimes you’ve got to just walk away from your project and do something else and you will be surprised at the connections your subconscious mind makes. For example, a few weeks ago I was having trouble coming up with ideas for a blog post. We went to a concert that night and the musician’s story led me to an idea for a post that would have never happened had I not been paying attention.
3 Draw on personal past experiences
I know this sounds a lot like #2, but they are different. I think that sometimes the best posts come from my own past experiences. For example, one of my most popular blog posts came from remembering my dad and how hard he worked to serve people. That memory connected to something that I’m passionate about today and it made for a compelling story. You never know, good or bad, which memories or past experiences will help you connect with your audience. Different things resonate with different people, so if you are having trouble coming up with something, take a stroll down memory lane and I bet you come up with something. Another way to use past experiences as inspiration is to write about the mistakes you’ve made. We all know that person who seems to have a perfect life and everything just turns to gold. Don’t be that person. Talk about ways you’ve screwed up and what you’ve learned from it.
4 Ask questions; be curious
Asking questions and then thinking about the answers is a great way to come up with solid content. I like to struggle with something for awhile and then take a nap while thinking about the problem or topic and usually by the time I start to relax I come up with something. I love looking at why things are the way they are and then also thinking about how it could be different. I think that curiosity is a hugely underrated gift that many adults have forgotten about. Even if you never find the answers, ask the questions. You will be surprised where they lead.
5 Read blogs unrelated to your topic
I know, I know. I just told you to read less and write more. Now I’m telling you to read? Here’s the thing. I am suggesting you read something unrelated to your typical blog topic. If you write about finance, read fashion or DIY. If you write marketing stuff, read budgeting and recipes. Whatever. I am always surprised at how quickly inspiration strikes when I am preoccupied learning about something new. I love studying how other bloggers write. I love looking at how voice changes from person to person, industry to industry. I promise, if you are stuck and don’t really know what you want to write about next, start reading blogs in different industries and you will find some inspiration.
6 Talk to everyone
Share what you are working on with people you know. Run it by your BFF. Do you have an active social following? Send out a plea for help and use the responses to get your creative juices flowing. The insights you gather from people you know (or even those you don’t) can go a long way in getting you back on track. We have a tendency to get so close to a project that we can’t see around it or under or over it (yay for pronouns!). We don’t see it for what it really is or see alternative ways of getting it done. Then all of a sudden someone takes like 4 seconds to look at it and they see something you’ve missed. It is extremely irritating, but also super helpful when this happens. Stuck? Ask around. Talk to everyone you know. You’ll soon find you have plenty to work with.
7 Look at Google and Twitter trending keywords and topics
While typically political in nature, there are almost always hashtags that are very interesting and make me curious about what’s going on (see #4). Likewise, if you go to Google Trends there is always something worth looking at and you never know what you’re going to find. For example, one day I saw a fascinating map of the United States that showed how Google searches around the eclipse path of totality imitated the actual path of totality. That led me to investigate the eclipse. It can be a slippery slope, like watching a YouTube video then clicking on a suggested video and then another and pretty soon you are too deep into the rabbit hole to even remember what you were watching in the first place.
8 Look for reader comments or questions
Talk to your audience. Hopefully, they are commenting on your page or emailing you with questions and comments. This input from your tribe makes for great blog content. Don’t have any comments yet? Look up blogs similar to yours that are more established and go through their comment section. Take note of anything that sounds like something in your expertise. Also, pay special attention to any comment or question that prompts a conversation. If people are disagreeing or are passionate enough about it to argue or have a full on conversation, it could be a gold mine for you. Follow the thread and look for opportunities where you can add to the dialogue via your blog.
9 Mow the lawn, take a shower, go for a run, play Xbox, walk away
I can’t stress this one enough. Walk away. I get so frustrated staring at that stupid blinking cursor that I just rage quit and walk away cursing. As it turns out, this is super helpful. Maybe not the rage quit and prolific profanity, but doing something else to get my mind off the assignment usually leads to a breakthrough. Sometimes I’ll read a related blog post, ask myself a couple of questions, and then walk away and let that new information combined with those questions simmer. Once I am distracted enough, inspiration strikes and I make notes in my phone or notebook. I’m sure there is actual research on what happens to the brain when you are distracted, but I’m thinking if it means that much to you, you’re going to look it up even if I give you links.
10: When all else fails, RedBull vodka and binge watch Archer on Netflix
You’re stuck. You don’t have any good ideas. You’ve long since given up on writing anything for the day. Now what? You’re so frustrated that you can’t just leave it alone, but you also can’t work on it. It is a crappy place to be. I hate that stuck feeling. My solution? Make yourself a cocktail. Relax. Watch something random on Netflix. I love me some Archer. It is funny, crass, and super creative. Lose yourself in your show of choice and let the cocktail do its thing. Ernest Hemingway famously said, “Write drunk, edit sober.” If it works for him, it should be magical for your blog.
Ok, that’s it. This is longer than I meant for it to be, but I hope it is useful. As always, please comment, let me know what you thought. Do you have other ways of getting through writer’s block? Where do you find inspiration?