Sometimes when I write blog posts I know what I want to say but struggle with how to say it. Do you ever have that problem? I guess it is partly due to my perfectionism, and maybe kind of down to my now infamous “analysis paralysis”. There are just so many times I can rewrite the start of a post before the post gets too late to publish!
Here is my approach for combating this affliction. It is not perfect by any means but hopefully you guys can help me improve upon it.
- Know what you are going to say – The most important thing to remember is that you need to have formulated what you are going to write about before you can write it. Some of my posts evolve but they always have a core message that I am trying to get across. Work this out before sitting at the scary blank screen from hell.
- Have a point, just one – This isn’t so much a rule but more a tip, it is easier to write a post about one key point than more complicated multi-point articles.
- Write your title – I leave my title to the end here, in fact usually Nick writes them – he is so much better at it than me, elsewhere though I am on my own so spend a lot of effort (not always effort that shows) on getting headlines right. They can attract the majority of your readers but also help in the writing of the post itself.
- Beginning, Middle, End – Recall what you learned at school, you need an introduction, something to tease the reader to keep reading, then you need to make your point and summarise at the end.
- Imagine a virtual reader – I find it helps to articulate what I need to say by imagining someone at the other end. What do they need to hear? What parts need explaining? Will they find it interesting the way I am presenting it? Do I need to be funny here?
- Use an outline – Sometimes I write posts as bullet points then rewrite as paragraphs, other times I leave them as bullets. I find outlines very useful for structuring my posts especially as I have a really bad memory.
- Write it out as an email – If you have difficulty starting the actual writing you might find it easier to write it out as an email to your friend. A lot of people go into “formal thesis” mode when writing that they would never do in an email. While an email and a blog post are not identical, it will help you get the information across in a more relaxed way. You might find there are less changes necessary between email and post than you expect.
- Call a friend – The act of explaining what you need to do can be enough to break the back of it, but also a friendly conversation about the topic can bring out a lot of unexpected and interesting angles. Some of my best posts here have been after discussing the subject with Nick.
- Tell the cat, ornament or a rubber toy – This will sound daft but try it, it works. Just like telling a friend can help sort out your issue in your own mind it even works with inanimate or uninterested objects and pets. Because you have to make sense of a problem in your own mind in order to explain it to someone else you do not even need a reply, just to articulate it. The best name for this I have heard is “Rubberducking“. I usually tell my friend Bender the robot my problems. He doesn’t care.
- Just get it out of your system – Just write, get it out of your head. Pump it onto the page as a stream of conciousness. Some people find editing much easier than writing.
- Edit Edit Edit – Don’t expect to get it right first time, you can edit until you have it the best you can make it.
- Walk away – If you find you are spending too long on it then you will get brain cramp. Walk away, get some fresh air, make some tea. In fact I recommend this regardless, I find I can improve whatever I do with some time away from it if you have the opportunity.
- Read it back, aloud – The written word and the spoken word can be quite different beasts, strange thing is a lot of us actually silently vocalise in our minds as we read. If there are any awkward passages that trip up our minds tongue it can be very off-putting. Reading your content aloud can overcome this, highlighting places to make edits and making the final work easier to digest.
- Post it and move on – At the end it is worth remembering you are not aiming for a Pulitzer, just a great blog post. Rather than agonising until the cows come home, get it as good as you can make it, post it up and move on to the next one.
As I say above I am pretty much an “agonise until the cows come home” kind of guy myself, I know what it is like. These points and tips work for me though usually so I hope you find some use out of them.
Do you ever suffer from the “blank page of doom”? Please do share your own advice in the comments.
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