Writers’ block is an excuse used by lazy writers (and marketers). There, I said it!
Having a ‘block’ is a luxury which only creative sectors can get away with, and sure, some days creativity may be harder than others. Though I completely reject the idea that there is some part of your brain which is inherently halting your ability to write. It is not an excuse to put your pen down, push away the keyboard, and submit to a lack of desire to write.
I’m not belittling writers, or bloggers, or anyone who has the courage to publish work which may be critiqued. After all, I have happily, and proudly, fallen into all three camps over the years. I just believe from the bottom of my heart that writers’ block is not a true barrier to writing. Rather a combination of entirely manageable factors. All of which can be rectified and when they are it’s easy to produce content which is amazing, powerful, and insightful.
Here are the four tactics to help you get over your block and write amazing blog posts
1. Not understanding your audience
Staring at a blank screen can be either terrifying or liberating. Knowing that it’s possible to bring every combination of every sentence, word and letter into existence, can be a bit… overwhelming, especially when you have no idea who you’re writing for.
Steven King once had a great quote about his art;
[Writing is all about] “enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well.”
… which is just about the last thing you want to hear when you’re pondering whether every word you’re writing is garbage or a linguistic gourmet.
Spending a few moments to understand, or even just contemplate your audience can provide a true moment of clarity. It doesn’t require saintly levels of empathy, or even thousands of hours spent on research. Sometimes in can be as simple as setting a personality type and seeing if your work would be read by that group. Maybe you’ll even enrich their lives a little.
Let’s take this post — you’ve likely been pointed here by a friend, colleague, or possibly in a fit of desperation, you’ve typed some variant of “how to write amazing blog posts when I can’t be bothered” into your search engine of choice. If it’s the latter, it means that: firstly our search engine strategy is working, and secondly, you’re frustrated, and want to read something which reassuringly points you in the right direction.
After you’ve developed a rough concept of the type of person who would read your work, think of everyone you know and see if you can find someone who matches that type. If you’re writing for 60+ people about pensions, then think of your parents… if you’re writing about the latest lawn mower, think of your proud, fastidious next door neighbour. The only thing which matters is that you know them well enough to say whether they would read your post.
Now it’s simple, you’re writing for them. No longer a nebulous blob. You’re writing for a real life human being. Next step is to make sure you don’t look silly for your new audience.
2. Not understanding your topic
Coming from a background in journalism, this is the part which always racks me with fear. It’s been an excuse I’ve used more than once to stop me from writing, a barrier I’ve put in the way, knowing that at worst I’ll have to make a correction, and at best it could start a great conversation.
Doing a little research, and getting some information down before starting to write can save a tonne of lost time, and sanity. Just a few quick bullet points to list out the core areas and facts can easily develop into the basis of a solidly structured post. You could number these points to give your audience a list, making structuring easier, and also creating breaks for your readers. Not only does this make your content easier to read, but is likely to have more people finish reading your post as well.
Fundamentally all quality posts have the same structure — If you were in education during the 90s you likely had PEEL hammered into you by your English teachers — a simple structure for making a written argument.
Point – Research and notes makes writing easier
Explanation – Use bullet points to develop your content and make structure clearer.
Evidence – This structure is often turned into list, or fleshed out, this is how many posts are written.
Link – Now I’m going to talk about how your managing time is as important as the content itself.
3. Not giving yourself time
It’s so easy to find the time to write if you’re enthralled by a topic. That time may be 3am, or the second after an event. If the topic really grabs you, makes you think, and makes you desperate to discover more, then time or place are not an issue.
But what happens if you’re not enthralled by your material? What if you need to just get it written and out?
Give yourself time and find a space which makes writing the post comfortable. Admittedly time isn’t always a factor you have control over, sometimes a deadline is final. Though when you have the luxury of time, make sure you use it, because time gives you the luxury of writing badly.
Peter De Vries was quoted as saying;
“Sometimes I write drunk and revise sober, and sometimes I write sober and revise drunk. But you have to have both elements in creation — the Apollonian and the Dionysian, or spontaneity and restraint, emotion and discipline.”
Just get something down initially, write drunk if you have to. Time allows you to just write, time to just get ideas down, and then time afterwards to hone your work into something which you’re proud to read. Some content just takes time, and writing badly does not make you a bad writer, it just means that your ideas need time to develop.
There has been a lot of research performed on developing ideas. Sometimes we just need the time to break a topic down subconsciously, giving ourselves the room to breathe, relax, and do other things.
Alternatively giving a poorly written post to an editor can be one of the most empowering tools a writer has at their disposal. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said “all the information is there, just please make it readable”. There’s a reason that editors are paid well in publishing, it’s a skill, just like you have a skill in writing, and the’ve likely been in the same panicked position as you. Passing your work onto someone, just to give it a read through and clean up the message can turn an informative, yet rambling post, into something which you’re both proud to have your name on.
All I ask is that you stick their name at the bottom of the post to give them credit.
4. Not being proud enough to post
Over the years I’ve seen fear get in the way of more published posts than I care to mention, with this fear often at its worst in people who’ve just left the academic world. It’s far too common to think that every word uttered online will later be cited as a mark against your name — for better of worse.
That goes against what are arguably the best features of the internet:
- Anyone can read your post, with almost no feedback, unless they feel the need to comment.
- Anything can be edited after the fact.
- Anybody who reads your post, has likely read hundreds of other pages that day.
Arguably, the last fact is as frustrating as it is liberating. Knowing that there are billions of websites, with trillions of pages, means that being lost in the sprawl of content is no longer a possibility but rather a burdening probability.
For now, let’s not worry about getting found, little steps after all, let’s just worry about getting out new posts and being more entertaining and informative than sites in your field. And remember above all else, this quote from John Campbell.
“The reason 99% of all stories written are not bought by editors is very simple. Editors never buy manuscripts that are left on the closet shelf at home. “