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Perennial Favorites: 4.5 Steps to Busting Bloggers’ Block

Feeling bogged down with a severe case of bloggers’ block? These tips will help you tap your way back to blogging bliss.

Blogging can be hard sometimes. There are days when you have a hundred ideas buzzing in your head, but can’t find an opening sentence. Or moments when you’re all pumped to write your Next Great Post, but feel uninspired the second you turn on the laptop. If you’re participating in our Blogging U. Writing 101 challenge, now at its halfway point, you may have hit a similar bump (or two) along the way. In this Daily Post classic published a year ago, Michelle guides blocked bloggers through these moments of crisis.

A blank page can be daunting — as can a blank screen. One of the biggest blogging challenges is also one of blogging’s most fundamental elements: what do you write about? Even bloggers who get off to a great start hit a wall at some point, watching days slip by with no new post. Sometimes, life just gets in the way. More often, “I have nothing to say!” is the culprit.

The thing is, you almost never have nothing to say. What you actually have are a whole bunch of somethings to say — you just don’t think they’re funny/clever/engaging/profound/whatever enough. The next time you come down with a case of I’m-Not-Interesting-Enough-itis, try these four-and-a-half steps.

1. Take a step back and look at the big picture.

The internet is pretty much one teeming mass of things that are only interesting to particular segments of people. Firefly fan fiction. Pinterest boards of mid-century modern furniture. Attachment parenting chat rooms. Fantasy rugby leagues. The internet is also full of things that you don’t find interesting — but lots of others do! That’s one of the beauties of the internet; it helps connect people with similar interests who might otherwise never find one another.

Furthermore, not everything published on the internet is a precious pearl of wisdom that shines a light on eternal truths (cough) BuzzFeed (cough) nor does it need to be. Some of it’s just funny, or kinda gross, or offbeat, and that’s fine; we turn to the internet for entertainment as often as we do for education.

It’s okay to write something niche-y. It’s okay to write something light, or to post a photo or two. It’s okay to rant, and it’s also okay to celebrate. No matter what you have to put out there, there’s someone online ready to receive it. (Finding that person is another matter entirely — let’s deal with one stumbling block at a time.)

2. Make a list.

Now that you’ve taken a deep breath and more fully comprehend the vast mysteries of the internet, spend ten minutes making a list of all the ideas you think aren’t good enough for a post. I did:

  • Why do people use the word “agnostic” when they mean “neutral” or “abstinent”? If you’re a nomad, you’re not “house agnostic” — presumably, you do believe in the existence of homes.
  • My dog is a little limpy and I haven’t done anything about it. I am therefore a terrible person.
  • I wish clothing manufacturers would put pockets in women’s pants.
  • It would be awesome if Tim Gunn were my uncle.
  • How long would it take me to get in good enough shape to climb a mountain? Not a really big one or anything.
  • If a library was just shelves full of e-readers, would it still be cozy? I’m not so sure.
  • I have nothing to say.

Why make a list? First, making lists is incredibly satisfying as an activity unto itself. Second, it gets the ideas out of your head. Third, gathering your thoughts in one place may help you see connections and themes. Fourth, it gets you writing, and that’s a good thing.

3. Check it twice. Heck, check it three or four times if need be; this isn’t a contest.

Take a look at your list, and ask yourself a few questions. First off, which idea are you the most drawn to? That’s a good place to start — the more engaged you are with what you’re saying, the more engaged we’ll be when we read it.

Second, which of these ideas have larger stories that will resonate with others hiding within them? Chances are, nearly all of them do. My list of ideas can turn into posts on:

  • The evolution of language.
  • How we care for companion animals, and the limits of that care.
  • Gender issues in clothing.
  • The kinds of support we seek from family members.
  • What it means to be “fit.”
  • Whether anything is lost as paper media is overtaken by electronic devices.
  • What it really means to have “nothing” to say. Is the brain ever truly empty of ideas?

Pick the idea you’re most excited about, spend a few minutes thinking about how your story connects to a bigger picture, and you’re off. This post spun out of the last item on my list.

3a. Spew without judgment.

What if you’ve made your list, and there are a few ideas you kinda like but can’t quite figure out how to shape into a post?

Just write. Don’t worry about a larger narrative. Don’t worry about engaging readers. Don’t even worry about your spelling. Just write — start describing and experience or sharing an opinion. You can edit or reshape later.

A cohesive story might start to emerge as you write. Articulating your thoughts might lead to a lightbulb moment that takes you in another direction. You might just tell a good story, no larger point attached. Start writing, and don’t think about publishing. Just get your fingers moving.

(You might also scrap what you did, but at least you were writing! It’s easier to keep up that momentum and move on to another post than it is jump-start your inertia.)

4. Remember that people read your blog for you.

You read blogs because you’re drawn to the personalities behind them, and that’s why others read your blog. If you publish something that’s a real reflection of you — whether it’s an in-depth analysis of a political issue or a series of haiku about your bicycle — your fans will read and like it. Give yourself some credit — people like you, they really do.

One caveat: okay, yes, there are times when you have nothing to say. This is meant to help you out of rut, not create pressure to publish constantly. Sometimes the well really is dry, and you need a blogging break. Totally fine.

The next time you realize you haven’t blogged in two weeks but think you have nothing to say, think again. You do have something to say — stop judging it, and let yourself write.

This is just one suggestion for facing down writers’ block. We’d love to hear what you do when the blank page looms.

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  1. It’s funny… She’s absolutely right. I’m in the process of writing a book. When I sit down with my pen and a blank piece of paper, it’s not that I have nothing to say… I have TONS to say. I just don’t know where to start. So, what I do is go to the chapter list I’ve created and decide which chapter jumps out at me the loudest. Which chapter do I have the most to say about? Then, within minutes, there’s usually smoke coming from my pen I’m writing so much, so fast.

    When I truly can’t think of something to write about, I come on here and look for writing prompts to get the creative juices flowing. That gives me a pretty good jolt and warms me up for the day of writing that lies ahead.

  2. Thanks so much for this post. I am a fan of lists. Having taught English, I always had my students keep a Writer’s Journal. It was their journal to do with as they please. They could write anything that could spark a future story. At the beginning of the year, I let students decorate their writer’s journal, a cheap theme book, and told them I’d never read it unless they asked me to look at something.

    I told students lists were great, and the artistic students were welcome to draw because I had students organize their journal in sections. I shared sections of my journal. Many times, students would flip back and look at a list or drawing, be inspired, and write. Again, thanks for your knowledgeable post. :)

    1. All the teachers that I had in high school that asked my class to keep a journal turned out to the best (and my favorite) English teachers! I think so much of the time it’s just getting the motivation to begin writing. Whether it’s literary gold or just a stream of consciousness, it always surprises me how many ideas I get just from simply writing with no clear predetermined direction. Also really cool that you let kids draw in the journals too! :)

      1. Thanks! We are all different, so I let my students who loved to doodle turn it into learning. It worked for them. :)

  3. Great ideas here. I’m a fiction writer and book reviewer. When I run out of ideas (as I do sometimes) I will look book pages in national newspapers or media websites and that usually gives me some ideas to launch off from. I aim to blog every 2 days or so and naturally, run out of ideas from time to time.

  4. Writer’s block, in any form, is a beast… Starting is the hardest part, typically once I’ve started I’ve found that it comes a lot easier, but the blank page will kick you when you’re down.

    1. I’m new to WordPress. Just so you know, if you go to Amazon, there’s a free kindle book on how to set up a wordpress site and what everything (Ping Backs, Tags, trackbacks, etc.) If you’re looking for a way to learn more about the site and how develop yours, there’s info out there to teach you. I got the e book a few days ago, but I haven’t managed to even open it yet… Just thought I’d share. Maybe it’ll help you (and me) get the hang of it. :)

  5. I agree with you Michelle, at times I get so caught up with other things that it gets difficult to find time to blog. I have taken the 101 challenge ; I must confess, I have missed many of them and I am guilty about it. But yes ,I will continue blogging, albeit on a slower pace….because I love to pen down what’s going inside me , love to express myself😃

  6. I love this! I’ve been doing Writing 101 and was wondering how I would continue to write regularly once I’ve finished. Prior to reading this, I actually made a draft with a list of things I could write about! I also have a few drafts that I could put a bit more work into to make into posts.

    I’d also recommend buying some books that could be used as writing prompts. For example, I got a copy of Old Friend from Far Away by Natalie Goldberg to use in a class. While I did use the book a bit in class, I realized that some of the prompts could be used to generate short memoir-type stories for my blog posts! You just have to get creative.

    1. I often keep a draft post as a placeholding for all the random thoughts — I dump them there and forget about them, and then look back every few months. Sometimes nothing comes from them, but sometimes, there’s a nugget of something in there.

  7. At the moment, I opt for the ‘spewing’ and ‘making a list’ option. Because I’m in the process of writing a play, and have no intention of stopping the blog in the meantime, it allows me a bit of mental space for the play. It’s also quite reassuring not to be in the space of “Crud, what will I talk about now?” and then see I already have a plan for the next 5 or 6 weeks. I actually did the plan thing by accident earlier in the year, just to clear my head, and I’m now having to do it again because I finished the list a fortnight ago :)

  8. The first time I was published was 12 years ago. Writing has taken a back burner to raising my son as a single mom. He’s 11 now; I’m out of work indefinitely; I have an amazing boyfriend who actually helps around the house (completely foreign to me)… I am so happy to say that I’ve dived right back into writing. I don’t have writer’s block. I have the exact opposite! I’ve got 12 years of notebooks filled with ideas, a head full of mental ideas. I’m overwhelmed! But blogging has gotten me into the habit of writing everyday and THAT’S what I needed.

    Happy blogging everyone!! :)

  9. Thanks for the look back. Need this reminder–that just writing (whether good or bad) is what will create more ideas than we could ever, ever have time to write.

  10. Great ideas here. I keep a list of blog/article ideas so I have something to refer to when I need a topic. I scheduled my blog to post only once a week, as that is what I knew I could manage when starting out, and if I happen to put in an extra I call it a “Blog Bonus”. I have to say that I have found coming up with ideas easier the longer the time goes by that I have done the blog. I am no longer intimidated by that blank screen.

  11. As a new blogger, I found this post very helpful. It is so easy for me to get ahead of myself and think “nobody cares about what I’m saying” before I even type anything! Thanks, Michelle.

  12. Thanks Michelle for this inspiring article. When blank page looms i just go on tour, reading what other bloggers are writing.

  13. Thanks for this. I blog weekly and often find myself out of topics until the moment I am up against my deadline. It helps to have that deadline and know that ‘Tuesday is posting day’. I’ve only missed it once in 6 months (posted Wednesday instead) :)

  14. Sometimes thinking ‘I have nothing to say’ seems way better than thinking ‘where to start’. We should really just start anywhere anyhow.
    Thanks Michelle

  15. This is great, thank you! I particularly like point 3 – I think that this is something I feel is on the periphery when I’m thinking about or planning my writing, as I tend to daydream my way through the process quite vaguely, but I like developing my frivolous ready thoughts into a more universal, fundamental context, and simply seeing that done clearly has really helped.

    I would also love to see a post about a library full of e-readers, being a recent newb to that area (previously strongly sided with the opposition).

  16. Here is an old writer’s trick to add to that: Write an opening sentence you have no intention of using. Make it horrible, trite, but introducing the topic of the day with no regard to grace or style. Write the rest of your post without worrying about recovering from that first line, and delete it before posting. Basically what you’ve just done is take all the pressure off the first sentence, which is the hardest for most of us!

  17. I just started my blog and then stumbled into this blog.It is really a good advice for starter like me to find idea for my blog.I hope i can see more tips from you and i really grateful for that

  18. Michelle! I loved getting that creative glimpse into your head (with concrete examples from list to possible post!) and I do that too, only in a much more abstract way. I list nonsense, gibberish word(s) and then free associate from there to a post topic. Sorta like when a shrink asks you to say the first thing a Roshak ink blot test reminds you of.

    But when I have extreme writer’s block, one thing I do that others might like to try is write out a dialogue with my Muse. I posted one here –
    http://thequotegal.wordpress.com/2014/05/16/has-your-muse-taken-a-snooze-or-worse-blown-a-fuse/

    I give my Muse a name, I rail at her, I ask her why she’s holding back on me, I threaten her, I bribe her, I compliment her on past blogs. She always responds. And there’s always something there – - some tiny thread to start weaving her and I back together again, so we can get to our quilting once more.

    Thank you for this!

    1. You are right but I started to fall behind and gave up completely. Interesting name for your blog site. How did you come up with it?

  19. Great advice! I’m trying to get into the writing game (at the very least to practice getting thoughts out in a concise manner) and being scatter-brained and excessively particular about my word choice have definitely been my biggest challenges. Guess I just got to embrace the scatters!

  20. Cool advice. But in my defense, I did write but no one read my work and I feel discouraged. If you guys could give me a push, I would be very grateful.

    1. how do you know they don’t read your work? is it your stat? or people are neither commenting nor liking? try copromote and some guestblogging