Writing is hard.
There's no way around that.
Everyone gets stuck at least once in a while and needs a little nudge to get them going.
I'm going to share a few ideas that I use frequently to help bust through writer's block. But, first, why should you even care about blogging?
Why Your Business Should Blog
There remains one tactic that reigns supreme over all other digital marketing, content marketing, inbound marketing, whatever-buzzword-comes-next-in marketing tactics.
Your blog shouldn't be the beginning and end of your inbound marketing strategy. But if you're going to invest in ONE thing it's the one thing I'd recommend.
We've written about the importance of blogging a bunch of times (handy-dandy links at the end of this post). Basically, frequent blogging improves the ability of search engines to find your website and present your useful content to potential new customers. A blog turns you into a trusted resource of information and provides opportunities to turn traffic into leads with calls-to-actions on your posts.
But still, most of us are afraid to write.
- What if no one likes it? Or, even worse, what if no one reads it?
- I'm not a writer.
- Where do you get ideas?
- How do I start?
Entire forests have been felled to publish books on writing. However, they all agree on one thing – to get better at writing you have to write.
Professional writers experience writer's block. When it's not your job, it's easy to freak out and either quit or simply not begin.
Everyone starts with a blinking cursor and an empty screen (or a blank page and a pen). Just start typing.
Stephen King has many great quotes on writing. One of my favorites is this one:
Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.
Don't be an amateur.
Go to work.
The ideas below will help you get started.
Document Ideas – Constantly
Keep a notebook. I have a Moleskin notebook I carry around with me. When I get an idea, I jot it down. I use my phone too (and then generally move it over).
Online, I'll use Evernote (and starting to experiment with Trello) to pull ideas together into a single spot, with research.
You could use Pinterest, Listly, a Word document – you get the idea. Whatever you're most comfortable with, use that.
I write down stupid ideas, titles, fragments of images, sketches, literally anything that comes to mind as something to write about. Most of it . . . meh, once you look at it again, they suck. OTH, some of those random ideas end up being quite good. Or you'll even see an originally bad idea that you've crossed out in a different light because you just read an article, watched a movie, or are just looking at the idea from a different angle.
The brain works in weird ways. Don't question, just roll with it.
For copier dealers and MNS providers, a great resource for blog ideas is anyone customer-facing. Ask your sales team what customers are asking for and questions they have. What one common maintenance issue are your service reps constantly dealing with? Answer the questions your customers have (be brave enough to actually talk about price, it'll be worth it) and you'll be a step ahead of your competition.
Create a List
Everyone suggests this because it’s just good advice. Even better is creating a regular list around a topic and create a publishing schedule for it. You can combine the list idea with curation (top 5 tweets of the week, 10 tastiest bacon recipes of the month) and also with recycling your old content – top 3 posts from March, top 10 posts of 2017.
Everyone loves a list. They are usually quick to write and if you steer away from over complicating it (something I have a hard time with), also take minimal effort.
A quick and easy way to curate a list of articles is to clip Listly to your browsing toolbar and add to a list as you read throughout the week. By the end of the week you have a curated article list that you can add to, comment on, and cut and paste into a blog post. Storify is also a fantastic tool for list creation – ESPECIALLY from social media, I’ve found it useful for Twitter.
If you don't schedule it, it won't happen. Create a blogging calendar and add reminders for yourself in your calendar. We use a tool called Teamwork to keep all of our client work on schedule – including blogs.
It'll take you some upfront time to plan and create the schedule, but it'll save you more time in the long run. Just do. I find that I'm actually more creative with a good schedule, which is really messing with my mental image of myself as a spontaneous dude, but it is what it is.
Recycle Old Posts
Once you've blogged for a while, you can start to rip yourself off. Review older posts that have been successful (lots of reads or CTAs, for example) and update them.
You can also pull related posts on the same topic together into an ebook, but that's a topic for another day.
Your audience is always changing, so updating will give a new group of folks a chance to read something that your audience has already identified as working for you.
If any of the vendors you partner with have infographics or whitepapers, use them for inspiration as well.
You're constantly reading to keep yourself up-to-date professionally. Make lists and then write a curated article from that list. Storify and Listly are two tools I find useful. Curata sells curation products and services, but they also have solid resources available (they do a good job of content marketing too). Good old curation can help you smash through that writer block or should that be blogger block? Add value; provide your own perspective on the posts/links you’re curating. Don’t just cut and paste – and ALWAYS reference the source!
In my old role as a community manager, I created Member of the Week articles to always have at least one post in my back pocket. As a membership organization, it was also a good idea to talk about our members!
They are relatively simple and straightforward to do; and they produce great results.
You could turn questions around and “interview yourself.” What was the best thing I did this week? What major problem or business challenge have you overcome this week (What dragon did you slay)? What’s the most challenging news you’ve heard and how did it change how you thought about your career? 3 (or 4 or 8 or 12; whatever the number) tips that you’ve learned to make whatever technology you are an expert in work better? What has been your favorite success story – yours or someone elses'?
You could also interview someone you’ve read or heard speak and admired what they said: send them 5 questions and see what happens.
Of course, interview your customers for case studies and testimonials – use video AND the written word when you can for these.
Find an Infographic and Write About it!
Infographics are everywhere. When you find one you like, embed it in your blog post and give your spin on why it's important/interesting.
Still no good ideas?
Sometimes you'll have a good topic idea, but no great angle. Enter online idea generators. Stick in an idea or topic and the tool will give you some variations to work with. Some are hilariously awful, but generally you'll find at least something that makes you go “AHA!”
There are more, but those three are simple to use and useful.
I need to write an essay!?!?
Thanks, English teachers in grade school. Nope, you just have to write something that's useful for your audience. Odds are, no one is reading your blog for fun – provide information that makes your readers' lives easier and you're golden.
Blogs CAN be a 2,000 word essay. They don't have to be. 400 words is fine. Sometimes 200 words is fine. I generally shoot for 500 words – sometimes it's shorter. Sometimes, like this one, way over.
Write until you've said what you wanted to say.
I hope these ideas will help you break through writer's block.
Here are the "why you should blog" posts mentioned aboe, and an extra link to more tips: