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You (Almost) Never Have Nothing to Write About: 4.5 Steps to Busting Bloggers’ Block

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. I needed this so much today. Thank you. I’ll be using these tips tomorrow morning when I sit down to write my 1000 words, a habit I’m breaking back into now that summer is winding down and I will soon send my kids back to school. Thank God.

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  2. Great ideas. I’m actually on a writing “high” right now. I’ve been making lists and notes like crazy because I know at some point that this burst of writing energy will wane and I’ll need to look back at those lists for inspiration. I even thought about elaborating on one of your ideas and picking a tv celebrity I’d like to have as a relative. My imagination is runnng wild. There are so many…

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  3. When I realize that I have writers block I read over my previous posts until either a spin off pops into my head or a completely new Idea pops into my head. It almost always works for me.

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      1. Oops! Put wrong bit on. Sorry:
        When the blank page looms and lurks, threatens your sanity and sneers at your talent, it is tempting to crawl into a hole, cover your eyes and shut out the world of writing.

        It seems such an admission of failures, does it not? Being unable to think of something to write, I mean…

        And this is why posts like the one I have just read – so human and down-to-earth and accessible – are such a boon.

        We are not alone. Even those who are professionals suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous writers’ block!

        What do I do? I’ll tell you!

        I conjure up the elves, pixies and fairies of the senses. Any and all of them who happen to be flitting by!

        I put on evocative music, or stop the costiveness caused by non-writing and play a spritely Irish jig upon the fiddle; something about the immediacy of music often acts as a literary laxative and flushes thoughts and ideas straight through the blocked system!

        I take a walk, and look, listen, touch, smell. Within reason, of course. Those of you familiar with my oeuvre will know that I am regularly accompanied by Jumble (named after Just William’s dog!) upon my peregrinations – and will also be aware of his fondness for using the demised badger/fox/stoat as combined rolling mat and canine deodorant. Under those circumstances, I tend to avert my nostrils!

        The other thing which works brilliantly is something I used as a teacher, and which I called the Imagination Exercise. Very close to guided meditation, it takes you on a journey, with eyes closed, through an inner landscape – and can be wonderfully relaxing, yet stimulating.

        Sometimes, what is needed most is the sifting of the lumps from the creative flour. I use my journal for this, and am usually pretty frank. Often start with, ‘Oh bugger! Stuck for ideas!’ or similar.

        Once all the detritus is out-of-the-way, clean fresh water can flow unimpeded.

        I do hope these ideas will help people!

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  4. When I ‘think’ I have nothing to say, I change the format of my blog from paragraphs and a cohesive post to point forms… Sometimes what you have to say is a bunch of unrelated things and the block is not being able to make them all sound related. When I stop trying to relate them and just let them each be their own mini blog all on the same page together, it helps…

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  5. Going to use this to break my non-blog fiction writing block that has been going on way too long. I’ve tried all sorts of things and rummaged all over for inspiration and still zilch. And yet I have hope. I like that this list is 4.5 steps. It makes me believe that it will work. Thank you!

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  6. Fabulous ideas – and a few good chortles too! I make lists as well, and try to find a moment to sit quietly and relax – usually lines start coming to me quickly. Not full pieces, though, just lines which I write down and turn into something later. And I’m working on letting my brain rest when it needs to, too. It’s always good to be reassured that one doesn’t *need* to blog every day, that it’s ok to take a break.

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  7. This was actually really helpful today . . . Someday inspiration just isn’t that easy to come by, but it’s a good reminder that we all started these blogs for a reason. We have a voice and really, there is always something that I can say ;).

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  8. When I get to the point, when no amount of brainstorming or list making, will generate a writing idea, which is, thankfully, a very rare event. I lay down my writing tools, and go do something else. Not a ground breaking or revolutionary technique, I grant you, but redirecting my mind down other “pathways” often times, helps to free up the blockage. Besides, if all else fails I can always come back and write about where I went and what I did there.

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  9. Interestingly, I just made a post about having nothing to say last week – and got more compliments on the writing than I’ve seen in ages! Maybe I get more lyrical when there’s relatively little content to convey?

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  10. Thanks for these useful tips.

    Lists are really helpful. I feel like I have achieved something if I manage to make a list. And usually it serves as a building block. If I’m struggling to find inspiration, a list post can serve as a good fallback too, as long as it is interesting and not just a list. In fact, I have a couple of half-written list posts sitting in my drafts folder right now which I really should get around to finishing.

    A while ago, Robert over at 101books.net published a really helpful blog post about what to write when blogger’s block strikes: 8 Generic Blog Post Ideas that Usually Work. That post is also, incidentally, a list post. 🙂

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    1. Yes! I kind of fixated on that part. It was a great post, but my thought was, “Finally someone else feels that way! Having just seams instead of real pockets is AWFUL!”

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  11. Okay. Got it. Write. Just write. It’s like exercising. You don’t have to sign up for a marathon and do all the planning that goes with said marathon. You just have to get up and start walking. I like the idea of the list. That helps. Thanks!

    Actually the weekly writing challenge last week was very helpful – the I Remember one. It was a relief to be given a topic and a timer. The pressure to produce was not there. I certainly will use that method often, along with the list idea.

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  12. Great ideas! When I am stuck, I look around my desk or house or purse for an OBJECT that is important enough to me that I keep it around. Then I unpack the story that is contained in the object. I’ve written about a murdered policeman’s family because of a safety pin a woman loaned me at the funeral procession. I’ve written about traveling solo to Paris after my husband died thanks to the boarding pass I keep in my coat pocket. A yellow plastic sugar dish that makes me feel like we have enough. A scrap of security blanket that my nephew gave me years ago.

    As the poet William Carlos Williams said, “No ideas but in things.”

    Meditate on the word “talisman” then look around for the objects that you have assigned important meaning in your life. Gets me writing every time!

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    1. I really like this idea. Now, what can I see… Doll made of sticks and plants, dressed in a bit of denim, a bell that you hit on the top to go ‘ding’, Spice Girls tea tins, pottery vase that I made when my daughter was a baby, decorated with imprints of nuts and bolts… All have stories attached, and I can see them all from where I’m sitting. Mmmm. Thank you!

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  13. “I wish clothing manufacturers would put pockets in women’s pants.” YES! THIS! I end up working out with my ipod in my bra most of the time! (The other thing they don’t make? One of those armband thingies that will carry an ipod within it’s OtterBox…and the OtterBox is a giant PITA to take off. Bah!

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    1. Thank you!!! I always have to work out with my iPod in my bra! Mod podging the whole case with glitter seemed like a good idea the time, but now the case is permanent and it doesn’t fit in anything. It’s the only place tight enough where it won’t go flying out across the gym!

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  14. Reblogged this on Brown.Babee and commented:
    Sometimes us bloggers need to read things like this to remind us that it’s just a blog. We’re not obligated to write on it everyday, sometimes you need a break to recharge your batteries when you start running out of ideas. Sometimes you just need a break to find new inspiration.

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  15. I haven’t done it yet but I had an idea to work off of my kids’ spelling lists. This would be great for some quick and cute poems when the spelling words happen to rhyme. If not, some short fiction might work, too. School starts again next week…maybe it’s time to try this out! 🙂

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    1. This is a cute idea — I hope you try it! In general, giving yourself a constraint, like having to use a certain list of words, can jump-start your creativity.

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  16. Reblogged this on urbanwhizz and commented:
    This is fantastic and inspirational!! I had no time to write today because of work commitments but tomorrow is a blank canvas that will be filled words, pictures and videos. Thank you.

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  17. Great post. I know I’m new to this, but I would still add one thing. Listening to instrumental music while you sit in front of the blinking cursor. Especially if you a bit written, but you get stuck mid paragraph. If you feel distracted, just skip to a new tune. Music is very inspiring for me.

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