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.