How To Overcome Writers Block

Sep 1st
posted in

Anyone who writes a regular blog knows about writers block. But no matter how much time you spend staring at that blank page, the article just never writes itself.

Pity.

So how do you overcome writers block?

Here are a few tips.

Topic Selection

It's not that there aren't plenty of topics to write about, the problem is we often feel we need to say something new. The reality is that not much is genuinely new. We all stand on the shoulders of giants.

Instead, try and find new angles on old ideas.

One good way of doing this is to combine two topics. For example, if you know a lot about SEO, apply this knowledge to a more conventional topic, like, say "How To Innovate" The article then becomes "How To Innovate In The SEO Business". Not rocket science - or a particularly new angle for that matter - but combining two tried-n-true topics can create something new.

2. Just Write

Often called free-writing, there's a lot to be said for just making a start.

Think of a question - any question at all - and start writing about it. Don't worry if your produce gibberish, the aim is to get rid of that blank page.

Introduce an SEO twist by going through your keyword logs. Find any keywords phrased as a question, and free- write about that keyword. Put the keyword phrases into Google's Keyword Research Tool, and see what word associations, and other questions, come up.

I'm getting self-reflexive and post-modern here, but that's how this article started. I'm rewriting this article from a page of utter gibberish. Hopefully I'm making slightly more sense now.

3. Go For A Walk

One daily habit I've got into recently - and I can't recommend it enough - is to go for a walk. There's something about exercise, and being away from a computer, that clears your thinking processes. Try it for a few days and see if you notice the difference.

I'd be really interested to hear if your experience has been the same as mine.

4. Steal!

Well, not really.

Creatively borrow :)

There isn't much that is genuinely new in this world, and there is even less new in the field of marketing theory. I loved the book "The Purple Cow", but really, it's a new spin on an old topic - having a unique selling point.

A lot of the books I've been reading recently have a "sameness" about them. That's because a lot of marketing books rehash old theory using new terminology.

But hey - why not join them! What's old to you might be new to someone else. And if you can put your ideas in a contemporary setting, then that will bring something new to the table. Grab some old books or magazines and rewrite articles. Bring them up to date. Put them in a new context. Redefine terms. Add a new spin. Do some keyword research on the key themes and integrate.

The good thing about writing from existing pieces is that you get over the blank page effect. You're already starting from a finished piece. Your job is to rewrite, expand, take it into new territories, respin and create something new.

5. Chunk It

Chunking is a method of writing where you split concepts into small pieces.

  • Create bullet-point lists of things you want to say - write the conclusion first
  • Create headings
  • Write a paragraph of one sentence under each heading

Can you scan the document and understand it?

Although sparse, the article is complete in terms of structure. You then dress up the bare bones by expanding the sentences under the headings, thus turning them into fully formed paragraphs.

6. Write Something Unrelated

Ever get the feeling that everything that can be said about SEO has been said already?

It's not true, of course, but it feels that way sometimes.

Try researching and writing about a completely different topic area. You might not publish the piece, but by immersing yourself in new areas and concepts, you might gain new insights on your chosen field.

Unfortunately, the SEO niche has become an echo chamber, so try to read outside the area of SEO as much as you can. How about looking at areas such as future gazing, trends, history, economics, business, politics or personal development? Can you relate any of these fields back to SEO and marketing?

7. Don't Write At All

A lot of people feel the need to publish, even when they have nothing to say.

You often see this on blogs. Some arbitrary decision has been made that the writer must make one post a day, or must Twitter five times a day, or else, or else....

....or else what?

People will leave and never come back?

No one is that important.

I think it's more likely that readers will appreciate something that is worth their time reading. Time is a scarce thing, so I don't think writers do readers any favours by churning out, well, typing. Sure, the golden rule of blogging is to keep a blog regularly updated. A good thing, if you can manage it. But this can create a pressure to churn something - anything - out. The reality is that few people can write killer pieces each and everyday.

So rather than write something substandard because you're not really feeling like it, why not just do something else instead.

I'd be interested to hear your strategies for beating writers block.

Published: September 1, 2009

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Comments

September 1, 2009 - 2:54pm

90%+ of my ideas for search marketing writing (and search marketing in general) come to me while I'm in the gym...if I didn't work out, I couldn't do my job.

September 2, 2009 - 4:16pm

Number 3 is the most important. Writers need to think, and thinking requires a good supply of blood to the brain. Since writing (and all webmastering) is so sedentary in its nature, a daily workout isn't really optional. It always makes me feel a lot more alert, that's for sure.

Exercise will also help stave off vascular dementia:
http://www.alzheimers.org.uk/site/scripts/documents_info.php?categoryID=...

October 5, 2009 - 12:06pm

Thanks for the tips. I am new to this and all of these tips are a big help. And I have to agree with Ros, working out does give one the ability to think clearly.

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