Writing is nothing like computer programming. The latter is scientific yet was relatively easy for me, when I did it for a living. I could reuse code fragments and thus produce large, functioning programs in just a few days. Writing isn’t like that. While hyperlinks are probably the equivalent of code reuse, writing involves a wholly different process. There is only so much “system” you can apply. In thirty years, I’ve never suffered coder’s block. Ever. I used to brag that I’ve never suffered from writer’s block, either. At least, not until I started writing full-time for a living. That is, multi-blogging professionally.
Mind you, it’s not that I don’t know what to write about. I’ve done a lot of research into what topics are popular and/or profitable, and my blogging contracts already define my topic parameters. So you think it’d be easy to write, right? Wrong. The problem is, there’s more and more “invisible” pressure to be linkworthy, and when you write on as many blogs as I do, it’s not easy. That doesn’t mean that every one I write for is expecting linkbait out of each article, considering that most of what I write is a combination of news summary and my spin. So, in fact, much of the pressure is of my own creation, my drive to be a better blogger.
Still, if you let such feelings carry too far, you do suffer from writer’s block – or whatever you’d like to call it. And then you end up with unproductive months, which is bad for your clients and bad for your business. So what do you do when you’ve got some sort of writer’s block? Here are some suggestions that have worked for me in the past, and a few of which worked for me this week, after a month of bad writer’s block.
- Take a break and treat yourself.
If you work from home, get up and get away somewhere. I headed downtown a few days ago to try out a new restaurant and treat myself to blank sketchbooks, a packet of original Moleskines journals, and some new rollerball and fountain pens. And you know what? It worked. I started writing this article you’re reading on the bus ride home.
- Draw a diagram.
Despite my writer’s block, I’ve been producing a lot of diagrams lately, as well as screencasts. Your diagrams don’t even have to serious, as this hilarious Venn diagram attests to. [via Digg] If you’re not having any luck in this area, maybe you’ve got a spreadsheet that helps you in your daily blogging activities. Consider sharing that with your readers by using a web-based spreadsheet app such as ZohoSheet or Google Spreadsheets.
- Record a podcast.
Do something other than writing. If you have something to say, try actually speaking it instead of writing it. You can find cheapo $1 microphones that do almost as good a job as a better $50 mic. Maybe not broadcast quality, but okay for an occasional podcast, or just for fun. And go get Audacity, the very well put-together cross-platform audio recording software for free, to help you record and convert audio formats. There are also a multitude of blogging platform plugins to help you publish your podcast files.
- Produce a screencast.
If voice work isn’t your thing, maybe you’re good at using a piece of software and you can capture a screencast of how to use a certain feature. (Practice up, because later this year, I’ll be looking for paid contributors to Tubetorial, which is a SplashPress site that I’m currently editing.) You can use the free Camstudio to record a screencast.
- Make a SplashCast.
Have a number of images and screencasts that you’d like to integrate together into one presentation? Try SplashCast or other tools.
- Blog some TV.
There’s nothing like blogging a show while you’re watching it to really fire up your creative juices. There’s really very little planning needed – it’s all stream of consciousness. Reality shows are good for this, and if you pick the right ones, you can build a bit of seasonal traffic to your blogs.
- Go see a movie.
It’s partially the simple act of getting away from your unproductive writing activities, but also the opportunity for some different creative input.
- Read a book.
Since I started blogging full-time, I’ve barely read anything in print, and miss doing so sorely. I find lately, though, that if I actually take 15-30 minutes per day to read offline, not only does it relax me, but it doesn’t seriously affect my work time. Do this and you can even blog about the book.
- Write fiction, lyrics or poetry.
When I was a paid technical writer, between programming gigs, I found it very hard to come home after work and write fiction. They involve two different mindsets, at least for me, and the activities couldn’t coexist on the same calendar day. But blogging is much more creative in nature, the way I do it, and can coexist with fiction writing. Try it. Start by creating a story premise, writing down a list of events in sequence (and which characters are involved) and see where your story goes from there.
- Write something irrelevant but fun.
Make up something to write. Or try Jason Rekulak’s The Writer’s Block (non-affil.), which is a small, cube-shaped book of writing inspiration. There’s also Naomi Epel’s The Observation Deck (non-affil.), which contains an instruction book and a packet of flash-style cards to help spark your creative juices. When I remember to use these, they’ve helped me considerably.
- Write something important.
Maybe you’ve never written your will. Or is there anything else important that you might write?
- Write a list.
Write it point form, without details, and see what develops over time. It might turn into listbait, once you beef it up with details and relevant hyperlinks. (A list is only a list. Turn it into a useful resource to become linkworthy.)
- Write your future bio and/or obituary.
Imagine that if you were, say, a subject of A&E’s Biography show, what would people say about you? What do you want them to be saying? Write that down. Now go a step further. What do you want to be remembered for, when you leave this mortal coil? Write that down.
- Write summaries of other bloggers’ posts.
When I can’t decide some days what to blog about, I start by reading a batch of posts by other bloggers, then writing a few sentences of summary for each post. A topic may catch my interest, and a post will form on its own out of one or more summaries.
Laughing relieves stress and tension, and brings down inhibitions. It’s long been touted as a curative for many reasons. Laugh heartily and you’ll see why. I make it a habit to watch at least an hour of comedy every day.
What works for you, when you’re suffering from writer’s block?