You’re a freakin’ content marketing superstar — you have that list of topics for your business blog locked and loaded and you’ve even drawn up a fancy pants content calendar. You know exactly what you’re going to write about, when you’ll hit publish and where you’ll promote it.
You’ve carved out a bit of time in your diary, your laptop is open and your coffee cup is steaming.
You’re ready to go.
No, wait! Better just go and grab a biscuit first. Maybe two biscuits. Oh, and the dog needs a wee belly rub. Might just have a quick skim through the old Twitter feed before starting…
If this is starting to sound a bit too familiar, you’re either a lazy git…or you’re suffering writer’s block. And I don’t think for a minute that you’re a lazy git! Writing is hard work. Writing well feels like pushing a 10-ton boulder, uphill, in a blizzard.
Hell, I write for a living and my biscuit tin is empty and my office dog is sick of all the attention.
So how do you break through the frustration of the blank page? The trauma of that flashing cursor?
Before you chuck your laptop out of the window in a pure rage or binge on digestives, I have a few tried and tested tricks that might just work for you.
All we have to do is figure out what’s causing your writer’s block in the first place…
The problem: you haven’t done enough research.
If I’m struggling with writer’s block, this is the first question I ask myself: have I done enough research? Do I really know what I’m talking about here? Have I looked at this topic from more than just one angle? Have I explored it all in depth?
If you’re just starting out with your business blog, this might be less relevant. Most folks, sensibly, start off writing about topics that they know inside out — there’s so much to say the words flow freely, with minimal effort.
The problems begin when you start having to dig a bit deeper to come up with new and exciting topics to cover. You find yourself in less familiar territory and the words are harder to come by.
The best way through this one is to get online and start researching.
Google your topic (you should be doing this anyway to get an idea of which keywords you need to use in your posts) and have a look at what other people are saying about it. You may find some bloggers completely disagree with your point of view which would allow you to frame your post as a counter-argument. Some of them will have covered aspects that hadn’t occurred to you — putting your own spin on these is a good starting point.
Or try Quora or subject-relevant Facebook groups/online forums to find out what your typical clients are talking about in relation to your topic.
Take notes on everything that’s even halfway relevant and then use that to start writing. Once you have a paragraph or two in the bag, you’ll find the rest of it starts to flow more easily.
The problem: you’re hung up on the intro.
After the headline, the introduction is arguably the most important part of your blog post. Get that wrong and no one will bother reading the rest of the blog. You might as well down tools and get comfy with the biscuit tin and the dog.
That’s a lot of pressure for anyone so it’s no wonder that so many folks get hung up on nailing the perfect intro.
But here’s the thing: if you’re already feeling the pressure to get this crucial piece of your blog post puzzle right, the last thing you need is the added pressure of a blank page.
So forget your damn intro for now. Just concentrate on getting something down on paper. You may find that the perfect intro pops into your head as soon as you start to focus on something else or, more likely, a great idea will grow from the seeds you plant in the body of the post.
In fact, writer’s block or not, that’s a decent strategy to work with. I often have to rewrite a post introduction during the editing phase after the blog post has taken me in a direction I hadn’t originally intended!
The problem: you’re stuck in a rut.
Some people thrive on routine and consistency. They have a favourite time of the day for writing, a favourite notebook and pen, a favourite seat in their favourite coffee shop…
But if you find yourself sitting staring into space, facing a creative block, it might be time to switch things up a bit.
First things first, change your medium. I generally write all of my first drafts in a Word doc rather than using a notebook. But, when writer’s block hits, I find that changing to a good, old-fashioned notebook and pen is the way through.
It could be that your usual location is beginning to stifle your creativity. Grab your laptop and head out to your garden or the local park. Find a different café or even try writing from your bed.
And try a different time of day. If you’re usually at your most creative first thing in the morning, try writing in the evening for a change. Your brain is a contrary beast; sometimes surprising it with a new routine is enough to jolt it back into the creative zone.
The problem: you’ve over-planned.
You’re the king or queen of note-taking. You like to plan the structure of each post meticulously. It’s a strategy that usually serves you well.
Until it doesn’t.
The problem might just be that you’ve bored yourself silly with all of that careful planning.
Somewhere along the way you’ve lost the fun (and remember, writing your business blog should be fun or you’d be better off finding another content medium or outsourcing your writing).
So ditch your plan — for now — and just write.
Write something unconnected to the post you’re struggling with: a poem, a dirty joke, the first chapter of that novel you’re secretly planning, a page in your journal. Just write something, anything, and have fun while you’re doing it.
Then, when you’re still in the flow, come back to that pesky post — and rock it!
The problem: you want it to be perfect.
Ha! Don’t we all. Listen, it’s time to shelve that notion for good. Your first draft is NEVER going to be perfect. That’s why we call it a first draft.
And if you’re all up in your own head about whether you should be using ‘who’ or ‘whom’ or whether you have a cheeky little dangling participle to deal with, you’re never going to get anywhere.
As long as you’ve scheduled in some editing time before you need to hit publish, you don’t need to worry about perfection. You don’t even need to worry about ‘good’. Just get something down and worry about style, grammar and spelling later.
The problem: you have stage fright.
Putting yourself out there in your business content is hard. What if everyone hates it? What if you accidentally offend a bunch of people? What if your post goes viral for all the wrong reasons?
Stage fright can be a huge cause of writer’s block — you start thinking of the thousands of people who might potentially end up reading your words and anxiety makes you clam up entirely. Lots of people find the same thing happens when they try to come up with social media posts for their business page too.
The solution? Forget the audience and focus on just one person.
You probably already have at least a rough client avatar in mind; that (real or imaginary) person that represents your ideal client. You might even have a name for her. If not, let’s call her Sue.
Sue’s lovely. She’s going to be an incredible client; she’s going to gladly accept your quote, ask for a reasonable turnaround time, give you all of the information you need to do your job well, pay on time and then give you a cracking testimonial afterwards. She’d never ever slag off your blog post, point out your dodgy grammar or be offended by something that wasn’t in the slightest bit offensive. You love Sue. We all love Sue!
Now, I want you to write your blog post just for Sue. She may share it to all of her own followers (Sue’s nice that way) but forget about that. For now, Sue is the only one who matters. What does Sue need to know? How can the information in your blog post help her?
See, stage fright gone. And you didn’t even need to picture Sue in her undies.
The problem: you’re burnt out.
Maybe the problem is that you’ve just plain had enough? You love sharing info about your industry but you feel you’re stuck on a content creation wheel and you’d far rather be spending your time doing other things. You’re sick of covering the same sort of topics and finding new ways to say the same damn thing.
If that’s the case for you, don’t sweat it. There are a few ways around this.
First, stop trying to reinvent the wheel.
Put your planned content strategy on hold and consider repurposing your previous content.
Have a look through your old blog posts and see if any of them could use an update. For example, if you once blogged about the things you learned in your first year of business, it might be worth adding some fresh insight to that original post now that you’re a few years further down the line. Refreshing older content in this way can give you a wee holiday from writing, which might be just what you need to overcome your writer’s block.
If you need a longer break from writing, consider outsourcing your writing work to a freelance writer. We’ve usually more than happy to take your planned posts and write them up for you, and because we’re coming to it fresh, we can help you spot any gaps in your content strategy or find new angles that you might have missed.
A lot of content writers want you to lock in for a certain period of time (say, a minimum of a 3-month contract), but there are plenty of us (myself included!) who’ll be happy to take on the odd post on an ad hoc basis, just to see you through your writer’s block.
You may well find that after a short break, you can’t wait to sit down with your laptop and coffee, ready to recapture the joy of writing…
Whether you have months’ worth of content planned out, or you’re scratching your head trying to come up with topics, I’m here to help you out — get in touch to find out how.