I’ve got two big secrets when it comes to writer’s block. The first is snark, and the second is to trick myself into writing. How dumb to I have to be to be able to intentionally fool myself? I don’t know, sounds more like a genius move. Yup. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
We’ll get into those later, because they’re more useful for after I have the seed idea. As it’s the first time, I wanted to start with idea generation.
Idea Generation and Development
First of all, buzzsumo is seriously your best friend. The subscriptions are a little pricey, but the tool has enough free features to make it worth a bookmark. You can search for trending and “most shared” articles in your niche, as well as breaking news items. This is a great way to brainstorm, either by looking at what’s hot and putting a new spin on it, or by using the tool to work out what topics might be too saturated to be useful and narrow down your focus.
Another great way to generate ideas this way is to take a look at your analytics and marry high traffic keywords with a trending topic. Pick out a phrase from your site’s keyword cloud that performs well, pick a topic from your favourite social media tracking tool, shove them together and see what happens!
Personal essays can perform extremely well, so journalling can also be a great way of coming up with ideas. Can you put an interesting twist or apply a difficult concept to something mundane, or even magical, that happened in your life recently?
Take a shower. Honestly this is my best advice to myself when I’m stuck. If I’m having trouble coming up with ideas, or I’ve got a general idea but no focus, the shower usually fixes my problems.
Change your scenery. This is one of the best suggestions I have when it comes to writer’s block advice. Moving to a coffee shop, a park, or even just into your yard can help a lot. I like to watch people, or take in the ambient sound of somewhere new. If you don’t wish to, or can’t leave your house, there are plenty of ambient sound tools online. Load one up and see if it gets the juices flowing.
Read stuff, whether it’s motivational quotes, articles (like this) about how to get the creative juices flowing and beat writer’s block, the book you’re reading, the newspaper, or anything else that inspires you. As writers, we absorb ideas, information, and inspiration through osmosis. So if you’re feeling stuck, read more.
Making Content the Best it Can Be
Here’s where we come back to my snark and self-trickery.
One of the first things I do when presented with a blank page and an idea, is write a few super snarky sentences about it. Just horribly, unforgivingly sarcastic notes that will make me chuckle when I read them back over. Even if they’re about how much I hate my idea or the thought of squeezing 800 words out of it. Because then it’s something. It’s not a blank page anymore.
The next thing I’ll do if I’m really struggling is trick myself into writing the article. How does that work? Well, I say to myself that I’m not going to write this article today. Nope. I’m just going to outline it. I gather up my research, find my external sources, write the subheadings and give each one some quotes or bullet points of the broad strokes of the article. Then I write an introduction, so that I know my theme or thesis when I come back to write the article tomorrow. Then, while I’m at it, I might as well place each quote and link in a paragraph with lead-in and summary sentences so that I remember what each source was for when I write the article tomorrow. Then I figure I should probably write the conclusion, so that when I write the article tomorrow I know where to end. Before long it’s done.
That sounds pretty silly, I’m sure. But it’s worked for me more times than I can count.
Good planning and good research are keys to getting the most out of your content. Sometimes it’s good to approach it like a journalist or author. Answer the key questions that drive creative writing and storytelling. Use the five Ws (who, what, when, where, why) to develop your post, and answer them for your target audience, too. If you know exactly who you’re writing for, why they’re reading and when they’re doing it, you’re more likely to generate a hyper-targeted content that hooks the audience.
What other tricks and tools do you like to use to get the best out of your content? Let’s chat about it!