Rest easy, ladies, gents, hamsters, and waterfowl. This section is going to be short because there isn’t a lot of smoke and mirrors when it comes to handling writer’s block.
Much of how you tackle writer’s block, however, will depend on when you’re experiencing writer’s block.
For example, if you’re struggling with a topic or knowing what to write about, your only step is to go to the first chapter of this guide and pick something from one of the 50+ title ideas I offered you.
If, on the other hand, you’re struggling to work through a blog article where you already have the topic, there are a few tips I can offer you.
#1: Don’t Wait Until the Day of to Pick a Topic
While I hate to tarnish my unblemished reputation of being a content machine, I can tell you one of the most common reasons I end up in a writer’s block rut with a blog article is because I wait until the day-of to pick the topic.
I know, I know. I sound like a parent not telling you to procrastinate because you’re only hurting yourself -- but in this case, mom and dad were right.
The good news is that if you’re one of those poor souls without a content calendar that’s built out in advance -- tsk, tsk -- I’m not asking you to do much.
All I’m asking you to do is pick a blog topic at least 24 hours in advance. That’s it.
Obviously, more than 24 hours would be ideal, with some outlining thrown in for good measure.
But, if we’re being honest, many of you put off blogging until the last minute and end up stressing so much about having to deliver against a self-inflicted tight deadline. So, we’re just going to deal with it honestly.
Here’s the beauty of this little trick though.
Your inclination when avoiding blogging is to not think about it at all -- you’ll pick the topic and get down to writing all in the same day, right?
If you just pick the title -- and if you’re anything like me -- your brain will passively process and consider the topic. Much like a little computer running an algorithm (or something else accurately computer-y) in the background.
By the time you sit down to write 24+ hours later, you’ll find it much easier to get started, because you’ve spent more than a day subconsciously planning at least some parts of your blog.
#2: Make a Roadmap for Your Blog Article
There’s a good chance I came up with this little trick because I am still mad at my eighth grade English teacher for making me do comprehensive outlines before I was ever allowed to write a full essay.
As an adult, I (intellectually) understand the importance of outlining. But, being the stubborn forever only child that I am, I can’t bring myself to totally succumb to the dark side of creating full outlines.
So, I invented the content roadmap. This is what it looks like:
I’ve talked about this blogging hack before, but it's worth talking about again.
To create my roadmap, I take a minute -- maybe 90 seconds, at most -- and plot out the general beats of an article with a single rough idea for each section. This helps me avoid a couple of things.
- First, I’m never mocked by an empty screen and a blinking cursor. There is always text on the page. That may not seem like a big deal, but it is. The unflinching, judgmental stare of a blank word processing screen is worse than my mother’s when I would wear plaid and polka dots together. (I called it "power clashing," and she called it "fashion cancer.")
- Second, I know exactly where I’m going when I’m writing at all times. I never have to panic that I don’t know where I’m going or won’t know what to say next. I have my map in front of me.
Hm, this section is going to be longer than previously anticipated. Whatever, I’m on a roll!
#3: Write the Easiest Sections First & Skip the Hard Ones
Another perk of the content roadmap method is that you can pick and choose where you want to start. The reason I mention this is that the biggest lie you were ever told about writing is that you need to write each paragraph or section in chronological order.
For some of you, that may make the most sense.
For many of you, though, you need to understand that there are no rules about what you do to bring your blog article together. There is no blogging equivalent of Zeus in some cloud with a lightning bolt, murmuring to himself:
“Just try to skip over that section and write your blog article out of order… I dare you.” ⚡️
So, when I start writing, I look at my roadmap and begin with the section where the words feel like they’ll come easiest first. If I ever get to a point where I feel stuck, I’ll put in some placeholder text with the general thought that needs to go in that place.
Then. I. Move. On. I’ll come back to it later... like so:
#4: Don’t Try to Be Hemingway on the First Try
There is an insidious myth in the content marketing world that you’re supposed to get everything right on the first try. Meaning, your first draft should be remarkable. You should get to the end of the last sentence and require little more than a passing proofread before hitting publish.
No. No, no, no.
Oh my god, if that were the expectation, I would not be employed.
Yes, there are some people who are content wizards, from whom perfectly chosen words and soundly formed ideas splash onto their computer screen with little to no effort.
But those people are not representative of the typical writing population.
So, if you’re really struggling to get the ideas out in the correct order and the right words, try this -- focus only on getting your ideas out of your brain and in the correct(ish) order in the first draft. Think nothing of spelling or grammar or syntax.
Just get the ideas out of your brain.
Once you feel you have all the pieces of your story on your virtual paper, take a 30-minute break. Then, sit back down and start shaping the raw materials of your blog article into your masterpiece.
That way, you’re not trying to ideate and showcase the linguistic fortitude of Chaucer at the same time.
#5: Listen to Ambient Noise, Not Music
The day I discovered Noisli -- the free ambient noise soundboard -- my life changed, and I’m not exaggerating.
I can’t work in absolute silence. (I have tinnitus.)
But I also can’t work with music. The lyrics distract me. Or, if I listen to my beloved classical (I’m an opera nerd), I get distracted by shifts in my own mood or unexpected changes in tempo or tone between arias, concertos or pieces.
Seriously, I love Mozart’s Don Giovanni. It’s my favorite opera of all time. But that first note of the overture -- one of the most exceptional musical compositions in existence -- makes me fall out of my chair without fail. Every single time -- even when I’m expecting it!
Ambient noise, on the other hand, is perfect. It’s relaxing. It fills the background. It helps me focus. And when I’m one of those goobers camped out at a coffee shop to get some work done, it helps me drown out the noise of the gaggle of preteens next to me, sipping on vanilla bean frappes.
Noisli is also available as a free Chrome extension. You don’t have to create a login to use it, but creating a login allows you to save custom blends of sounds.
#6: Finally, Don’t Mistake Needing to Actually Think with Writer’s Block
OK, now it’s time for tough love. But, once more with feeling, only because I care.
I love you all dearly. We’ve come so far together in this guide, and I know how wonderful and eager you are to be blogging rockstars.
However, some of you out there like to throw your hands up in defeat any time writing feels a little hard. As if having to sit and think to find the right words means you’re in a rut you can’t pull yourself out of.
Blogging and creating content requires effort. And thinking. And hard work.
I will say that writing does get a lot easier with time and practice.
“But Liz, writing is your job. Of course, it’s easier for you.”
Look, this content nerd was a consistent C student (at best) in English class for most of middle school and high school. I was not born this way. I fell into this passion of mine by accident. And even now, on my best days, I’ll have a point where I stare at my screen, mentally willing the perfect words to appear on my screen without me having to try too hard.