Although I’ve already written, in this first week of Blaugust, on finding ideas for new blog posts, I think there’s more to say from a mechanical / writing process point of view.
Having an idea for a post is step one, and sometimes the post almost writes itself as it is so easy to turn that idea into a fully written piece. Other times you may struggle to get started, or find yourself loosing your stride partway through. These are the times I’m writing about here. As I mentioned at the start of the month, I spent years doing academic studies and so faced a lot of similar issues with that writing – tips and tricks I learned from that process have proved useful with blog writing as well.
So what if the idea isn’t translating immediately or easily into a fully fledged post? Well based on my own blogging experience and academic travails, I’d try one or more of the following to get the words flowing. None of these ideas are mine alone, but rather advice I’ve been given that I feel is worth sharing.
Plan it out
A generally good idea for any writing of more than a hundred words is to plan the skeleton first, I’ve learned this to be true for me. I can’t always keep to an imagined structure that well as I write. So I put keywords on the screen for each paragraph to guide the flow of the piece, and to remind me what I’m supposed to be writing in which order.
Go for a walk!
If planning it out isn’t solving the impasse then clearly the idea needs more thought. Time permitting, whenever I get stuck on anything I’ll go for a walk to get my energy levels back up and to give my brain some thinking time. I was advised that academics should practice writing in different places for this very reason – the travel to the other place gives you time to think or relax, and the new environment can really help inspire your writing. For this reason I often do blogging or at least blog idea generation in cafés (the caffeine might help too).
A second problem might be losing your way or enthusiasm for a post part way through, it can happen even on a short-form blog post, especially in these busy Blaugust days!
Let it rest
Sometimes I’m simply not in the mood to write, or to write that specific piece. I sometimes start one blog post, but end up writing something else entirely. Being flexible with any planned blog posts is healthy, don’t get too hung up on the order in which you write them. News-related items are very time-sensitive, but I wouldn’t say much else is. I usually have half-a-dozen draft posts waiting to be finished at a given moment; some I do complete, others fall off the front-page of posts in WordPress and languish for longer.
Other times a post that is lacking something, that I can’t complete or am not happy with, might need to wait until that missing element is found elsewhere entirely. More times than I can count now I’ve had a post half-drafted, but have read something related on another blog or news site and have morphed my post into a reaction post or a comparative post because of this new input. These posts are some of my favourites that I’ve written, be part of the conversation!
So, although I agree with Syp’s advice earlier in the week to just write ideas as you have them – I would add that sometimes that isn’t possible, nor the best outcome. If you have an idea fully formed get on with it as soon as you can, but if it needs more time then don’t force it.
Do you have any tips on how to inspire or unstick blog writing?
I’m a fan of freewriting for unsticking writing. Especially when it -has- to be done by a deadline. Word garbage on paper, digital or otherwise, that you assure yourself is not for public consumption or will never see the light of day. Repeat, timed or otherwise, until something vaguely promising or interesting appears and then keeping riffing off that to generate more stuff.
When the editor/critic is in full sway and one can’t even bear to look at words appearing on a blank screen, I have also been known to turn off the monitor and type thoughts directly into a word processor while staring at a black screen. It will be the most typo laden thing ever, but not being able to see any words during the process helps cut out the unneeded middleman during the creative/idea/content generation portion. They can come back and help out when it’s time to revise and paste the bits together in some semblance of order. But the bits need to be there first.
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