Content marketing, content writer, digital marketing, creative writing, creative block, writers block, writing advice
We’ve all been there. You’re sat at your desk with every intention of writing up a new piece of content, but your idea reserves have run dry. Each time you reach for some inspiration you find that you can’t quite grab it... and the page remains woefully blank.
It can be tempting to keep putting it off, to wander off for that third tea-break of the afternoon instead, but doing so means you risk missing out on opportunities to engage your audience.
With that in mind, here are six quick and easy tricks that can get you through your writer’s block:
1. Use an online tool to generate a starting point
Sometimes all you need is a topic to get you started, and there are plenty of online tools available to help with this. Tweak Your Biz Title Generator, for example, allows you to input a general subject and then offers you a variety of title suggestions based on that idea. The suggestions are also divided into different formats, such as listicles, best of’s and how-to’s, that can give you a good idea of how to structure the post.
Another tool that’s useful for involving more audience research is Serpstat. All you need to do is enter your subject of choice, and it will show you the most popular keywords associated with that word or phrase in Google searches. There’s even a ‘Search Questions’ tab available on the left that will refine the results down specifically to questions people are searching with your keyword in. This should give you a good idea of what your audience is interested in, allowing you to construct your post around their needs.
You could also consider searching for your field in online question and answer forums, such as Quora or Yahoo answers, to see what your audience might be seeking clarification on.
2. Source ideas from your audience
Your personal audience are going to know better than anyone exactly what they want to read more of, so it’s also worth engaging with them directly to garner some post topics.
You could post on your social channels to invite questions, and then construct your post as an FAQ session based on what your consumers comment to ask. Alternatively, asking them directly what interests them and what they’d like you to cover is perfectly okay too.
The great thing about this method is that you’re not only developing a list of more engaging topics to talk about, but you’re also improving your relationship with your audience, boosting your credibility, and building a loyal customer base.
3. Write a response piece to a recent article
Take time to do some extra reading of the latest news and articles in your field. Feedly is a particularly good tool for aggregating your favourite blogs and publishers into one stream for an easier browsing experience, and it allows you to divide your stream into sub-topics to refine what you’re looking for.
Once you come across an article or piece of news that really interests you, write up a response post to it. Why was this piece so interesting? What thoughts do you have on it, and are there any counterpoints you might offer? What does it mean for the industry as a whole? If you don’t have enough detailed comments to create an entire post out of this, you could pick your three favourite articles and make a streamlined review of the latest top reads instead.
This method demonstrates that you are tuned in to what’s going on in your industry and that you have valuable insights to share, which can be a really effective way of establishing yourself as a thought-leader in your field.
4. Use some in-house inspiration
If you’re struggling to find inspiration in your wider field or audience, why not turn to an internal source? You could conduct an interview with a colleague where you discuss their work process, what’s going on in the industry, and any useful tools or tips they have to share with your audience.
This approach might be especially interesting if they’re a new addition to the team - something we’ve enjoyed doing before at Ember - as this allows you to talk about what new insights they’re bringing to the table and how this will inform the company strategy. If possible, it could also be interesting to talk to the head of your company to find out a little bit more about the philosophy that leads your brand.
The bonus of writing pieces like these is that it can really help to humanise your brand, introducing your audience to an approachable team of people rather than just an impersonal company logo.
5. Try some quick creative writing exercises
Sometimes you might have a topic you want to talk about in mind, but getting into the flow of actually writing it is what’s causing problems. One technique I really love to get past this is to look up some quick creative writing exercises. You might not think that these would be helpful for writing factual-based content, but they’re perfect for encouraging creativity and getting you into the rhythm of writing.
James Altucher, author of The Ultimate Guide for Becoming an Idea Machine, also notes that in order to come up with ideas more naturally, you need to exercise your ‘idea muscle.’ The more you practise at writing fresh and interesting content, the more readily you’ll be able to do it in future.
You’ll be able to find a plethora of different exercises to try just by doing a quick Google search, but here are some of my favourites that you can do in 10 minutes or less:
Write the passenger safety instructions card for a time-travel machine.
Which is the oldest tree in your neighborhood, and what has it seen?
Write the ad for an expensive new drug that improves bad posture. Now, list the possible side effects.
What one invention would you uninvent if you could, and why?
Imagine the museum of your life/year/day: what are the exhibits? Jot down a list of about 5-10 and then choose one and write the museum blurb that appears next to it.
Aloha! You’re a lost tourist on a locals-only beach in Hawaii. Talk your way out of a night mugging, using only surfer slang and sea turtle metaphors.
Open up the nearest book to you and take the first sentence on the page. Now, spend two minutes continuing on from it to create a story.
Write a diary entry from a famous figure or someone you admire.
Write about a piece of advice you are most often given and least often follow.
6. Allow yourself to write a really rubbish first draft
This might be the most important tip of all. Sometimes, no matter how much research you’ve done or how many exercises you try out, the words still won’t flow out in the way that you want them to. That’s okay, just write them anyway.
Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird, wrote a great essay on why writers ought to start out with horrible drafts. She notes that “I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident. Not one of them writes elegant first drafts. All right, one of them does, but we do not like her very much.”
Allow yourself the freedom to write a piece that is entirely terrible, take a break, and then come back to it with your editing hat on. It’s a lot easier to fix something that’s already on the page than it is to write something perfect right off the bat, and quite often it’s only through a few re-drafts that your best work will reveal itself - block or no block.