You sit down, ready to write the killer blog post that will enchant your readers.
It will be a masterpiece, gracefully straddling the line between informative and entertaining. You confidently rest your fingers on the keyboard, eager to begin.
And then, it happens. Your mind goes completely blank. You look at the page, then down at your carefully positioned hands. You sit, frozen. Writer’s block is back.
All the ideas you had moments ago are out of reach. You are left with words that are unoriginal, clichéd, over done.
And, your deadline is looming.
How do you write a delectably shareable blog post when your mind is as empty as the screen?
I’ve been where you are. Every successful blogger has stood in that terrifying spot.
It's not pretty but it's definitely not the end for you. I'm going to show you how you can write a killer blog post, even if you feel like the words will never flow again. Ready?
Planning is to writer’s block, what writer’s block is to you.
A good plan gives you structure and direction when faced with a blank page. Planning relieves stress by allowing your brain to focus on something specific and take action.
Start by writing down the structural elements that make up a blog post. A great hook. Introduction. Your key points. The call to action.
Next, write a couple of sentences about what goes in each part. Don’t worry about the actual words at this stage – the only person they have to make sense to is you. Voila. The page is no longer blank.
Sometimes a bit of direction is all you need to start building up writing momentum.
2. Thought Dump
Maybe you've lost your focus. Maybe the sheer volume of content out there has left you feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. Are there any original thoughts left?
A good old-fashioned thought dump can help chase the fear away and help you get to the root of your writer's block.
Your brain is a bit like a pond. Over time algae and pond scum gather on the top and block sunlight from reaching the depths.
To start the cleaning process, open up a new document (or grab your notebook,) set a timer to 30 minutes and start writing everything that's in your head right now. Don't filter the words. Let them flow freely. After your time is up, take a 5-minute break, have a cup of tea, stretch your legs.
Now that you’ve cleared the debris on the surface, you can take a look at what's been hiding underneath. It gets the surface ideas and fears out on the page so you can dig in and explore the nuances they were covering.
3. Change Location
As you spend time in a particular place, your brain starts to associate thoughts and feelings with it. If you’ve been staring at a blank screen for the last 30 minutes feeling frustrated, your association is going to be mostly negative.
Get up and go somewhere else. Go to the patio, the couch or your favorite coffee shop. It doesn’t matter where.
What you are doing is moving away from a space that you have a negative connection with, to a neutral or positive one. The simple act of moving taps into a different part of your brain and can pull out ideas you didn’t know were there.
If you can’t move physically, then alter the space you are in. Light a candle, make a cup of tea, introduce a new smell, change your writing position or change your chair so that the sensation of sitting in this one is different.
Engaging your senses in a different way allows your brain to let go of the block and approach the challenge in a new way.
4. Let your killer blog post start life as a terrible blog post first
When you are blocked, every other blog post seems magnificent, like it was written by the kind of literary genius you can never hope to attain. But, every swan starts life as a gray, dull-feathered cygnet.
Allow your blog post that transformation. Let it be a jumble of ideas and words that have lingering potential. Let the terrible words out so better ones can replace them later. That’s what first drafts are for.
There are no perfect first drafts. All those swans are carefully preened and polished. When you are stressed and frustrated, it's easy to forget that writing is hard work.
Giving yourself permission to do the work without expecting instant miracles is a crucial step to writing a great blog post and becoming a brilliant blogger.
5. Take time between drafts
Let your ideas and post get worked over by your subconscious when you are not thinking about it. The point of this is to let your ideas mature when you aren't actively exploring them.
Often, the first draft and the complete post have very little in common because the final draft refines themes that the initial draft may merely touch on.
Time and space grant clarity. There's no ideal amount of time to leave between drafts but aim for at least 24 hours and experiment so you can find what works best for you.
If it's absolutely impossible to take time away then take a break and change your environment.
6. Don’t think about the post in between drafts
The post is a problem you have to solve. So, naturally, you keep turning it over and over in your mind.
By focusing your attention on a different problem fully, you are allowing your brain to relax. This lets your subconscious brain focus on solving the problem when you are not there to masterfully get in your own way by second guessing everything you write.
At first, not thinking about it will be hard. Like in meditation, when the thought comes, acknowledge and then let it go – that way you can get back to it with fresh energy.
7. Do a writing sprint
Unlike a thought dump, a writing sprint is laser-focused on your blog topic. It's a quick way to get a sufficient amount of a post down on paper.
Set your timer for 25 minutes and keep writing until the timer tells you its time to stop. Congratulations, you've got a decent part of a first draft down! Take a break and then do it again until you're done.
The exact time isn't that important – I use 25 minutes because I'm a fan of the Pomodoro technique. Legendary copywriter Gene Schwartz did bursts of 33 minutes. Experiment and find what works for you.
8. Go offline
The most natural thing to do while writing a draft is to jump over to google and check out a particular source or find a specific study you want to mention.
The distraction can lead you into the black hole of google, where you’ll find yourself reading other studies that are vaguely related to the subject at hand but won't actually help you produce the post you are writing at the moment.
Under the guise of helpfulness, you’ll look up and realize you’ve been doing this for over an hour.
Instead of researching now, make a note of what you want to research next to the section you want it to go in and keep writing. Before you start editing, go online, find the studies and posts you'd like to link to, then return to offline mode.
By creating a distraction free environment, you allow your mind to focus on the problem at hand and remove the temptation to surf the internet when you hit a writing wall. Ultimately, this focus will improve the quality of your blog post.
9. Identify the underlying reason for the block
The biggest reason you feel blocked is fear. Fear that you have nothing valuable to say. Fear that what you do say will ignite some sort of horrible controversy that will result in a 16th-century style witch hunt.
Fear that everything worth saying has been said already. That you’ll be rejected and laughed at. That every negative thought you’ve ever had about yourself is true.
Your fears know you inside and out. They know exactly which buttons to press to make you question every part of your writing ability.
They pass themselves off as protectors, guarding you against the disappointment of failure. You don’t want to feel that do you? You don’t want to put yourself out there and write a blog post only to get rejected.
Time for an annoying truth. Your fears will never fully go away. My fear of rejection is sitting beside me right now, munching on cake (it's always cake.) But, you can develop coping mechanisms.
Knowing why you are blocked can be half the battle. To help fight my fears, I've personified them. They take the form of exaggerated cartoon characters with a penchant for cake, naps and watching Gilmore Girls on repeat.
Build your own armor against your writing fears. Recognize they exist and start putting systems in place to fight them. Because if you don't, they'll keep whispering sweet lies in your ear and hold you back from becoming the blogger you know you can be.
10. Put a process in place
A process can keep you moving forward when it's the last thing on Earth you want to do. A bit more elaborate than a plan, it's like a safety blanket for the blocked blogger.
Track down, collate and create resources that simplify every part of the blogging process. Put together a folder of resources and formulas that help you write killer headlines, enticing hooks and irresistible calls to action.
Put together a few templates for different style blog posts and gather a list of sources for your topic you can always rely on.
That way when you are blocked and a deadline is looming you can fall back on a proven system that yields results.
Wave goodbye to writer’s block
Next time you have a deadline and can’t think of what to write use one of these tips! You’ll be surprised by the results.
What’s your favorite tip for dealing with writer’s block? Let me know in the comments!