Blogging

What To Do When You Lose Your Blogging Mojo

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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. Write something important.
    Maybe you’ve never written your will. Or is there anything else important that you might write?

  12. 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.)

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. Laugh.
    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?

Author: Raj Dash

18 thoughts on “What To Do When You Lose Your Blogging Mojo

  1. Artem: there are actually tons of WordPress plugins that convert video and/or create a player. Just keep in mind that if you are hosting the video files, it’s going to get expensive at some point. If you’re still at the hobby stage, then upload your files to YouTube, etc., or a player such as SplashCast.

  2. I afraid commercial tools are out of my interests still. Blogging is still more of a hobby, than of business for me. At least when, there are quite good free tools available.

    I hope there is some free AVI to SVF converter that can create a YouTUbe-like player with controls. However, if there is not one, I’ll probably either stick to the CamStudio’s one and just make my clips short, or will try converting avis to flashes on some video-tutorial sites (since I don’t really mind sharing them for free as a side effect).

  3. Artem, check my Exploring blog content alternatives: video post. I wrote a fair bit there about. I use both CamStudio and Camtasia Studio. The latter is from TechSmith and is very sophisticated. There’s also something called Screencorder from Matchware.com. I haven’t tried it because the trial only allows 45 seconds, which isn’t enough to test anything.

  4. CamStudio is indeed a simple and easy to use tool, I managed to “get” it in five mins . I’ll probably try creating my first screencast soon, because of this post. Thank you for the idea and pointers, Raj.

    What puzzles me still is the flash creation part. CamStudio’s own SWF producer makes a player that has neither FastForward/Rewind controls, nor YouTube like progress bar to jump to the middle of the clip.

    What tools do you use for creating the YouTube-like playable flash clips?

  5. Oops, before I forget (my head’s been muddled up lately) — great post, Raj. I enjoyed reading this, being both a technical and creative writer. The obituary thing is something I will try in the future 😉

  6. The earlier commenters have mentioned two of my fave tricks — sleeping (or at least lying on the bed) and reading the magazine 😉 The latter’s not only an inspiration for good blog content, it’s also a source of content. More on that in a later post (blog content from offline sources). Hopefully I can put it together before my flight.

  7. @thebutler: yes, and even if you aren’t inspired by a good magazine, you’ll be relaxed, which allows you to be creative once more.

  8. One of the better tricks is to kick back in the local library with a few magazines. Just chill out for a few minutes. Well written articles in good magazines can really help inspire some good content. If you have plenty of free time hit the New Yorker if you don’t People magazine.

  9. @Abhinav – I agree sleeping is an excellent way to get your mojo back. Too little sleep will definitely screw up your mojo.

    For the record, I like to go for long day long hikes typically up a small mountain or something, but I’m not much on sleeping outside if I don’t have to (unless I’m in hawaii or the desert).

    I wouldn’t advocate mixing porn and hiking, but I’m sure there is a tutorial on this somewhere on the internet. 😉

  10. Abhinav, you’re absolutely right. I find that my best writing happens when there’s a few hours sleep between the writing and the posting. Gives me time to reflect: did I say what I wanted? Is there anything I missed, or any new references? I try write the bulk of the next day’s articles the night before.

  11. Raj,

    Great post… Very much needed by one and all. How about sleeping? I personally find that sleeping is the best thing to do between writing.

    Remember the proverb that says it pays off to spend more time sharpening the axe before chopping the wood than to chop the wood with a blunt axe.

    abs

  12. I’ve mentioned Audacity before, but forgot it here. It’s a fantastic free audio recording program that was supposedly created by audio industry insiders. I’ve tried $300-500 programs and Audacity rocks, and is VST-plugin friendly. It’s a great starter program for recording individual tracks, though you can’t sequence with it.

    http://audacity.sourceforge.net/

    You can of course use Skype in conference mode to have a 2+ person interview/ show, provided you have software to record. I use the $15 HotRecorder for Skype. But check out this URL, about a Buffy the Vampire Slayer Skype Radio Podcast Play:

    http://sl-podcast.livejournal.com/116802.html

  13. The items in my list are not necessarily for blogging mundane activities but to get your creative juices flowing again, using other activities, by reducing the importance of the activity. It’s easier to write creatively when you don’t feel pressured.

    So use the activities above to relieve the “must write, must blog” pressure. Of course, if you can come up with a good post with a home for it somewhere, then by all means blog your drunk porno hiking trip and encounter with Big Brett.

  14. @Brett: NOT blog about something mundane I’ve done? I’d rather die! Seriously though, I think it’s a sign you’ve got problems when everything is a potential blog post. I’ve been there, got the t-shirt and some anti-blogging medication….

    @Raj: Thanks for the advice. I’m probably going to start off small with the podcasting. If it becomes popular, I might look at upgrading to better equipment.

  15. In addition to downloading porn, I’d also add, getting drunk, go hiking,or running or exercising or swimming.

    On the read a book topic, I’d also suggest just taking a couple days and read a book cover to cover and here is the kicker, tell yourself up front “I’m Not Going to Write About Reading this Book”

    Maybe best of all, tell yourself on Friday night that you are going to turn off your computer and leave it off until Monday morning, and then Do THAT!

  16. @Gerard: Thanks. If you’d asked me a few years ago when I had a huge recording setup, I’dve known, but I haven’t kept up with it all. What you can do is go in to your nearest musical instruments store and ask them what they have for recording devices. I personally like the company M-Audio. If you want a quality portable recording device, check out the MicroTrack 24/96 2 channel digtal recorder good for podcasting:

    http://www.m-audio.com/index.php?do=products.filter&ID=podcast

    It’s nearly $500, though. However, check out its specs, then find a suitable alternative for less money. I have the FastTrack USB Guitar/mic recording interface for voice work at home. (Though due to some USB problems on my computer, I haven’t used it yet.)

    Note that if you go into a stereo store, you’re more likely to end up spending more than necessary. Unless you’re really serious, you don’t need to spend more than $200 for a portable device. (I’m sure that you can get something good in the U.S. for that much.)

  17. Great post Raj. I’ve been toying with the idea of doing podcasts for a while now – I run a reality TV site and regularly get the opportunity to interview contestants from the shows – it would make a lot of sense to be able to broadcast the audio.

    Could you recommend a good handheld recorder for use out and about that I could use for podcasts?

Comments are closed.