Even though most of you reading this blog no longer enjoy long, luxurious summers filled with sleeping in, chasing bugs, trips to the library and endless episodes of Power Rangers, you may find that your normal prolific writing pace has slowed a bit in the month of July.
(I think the real question is why AREN’T we sleeping in, chasing bugs, going to the library and watching Power Rangers?)
At certain times during the year, it is normal to get in a non-productive groove.
The only person I know who writes without fail five days a week is Seth Godin. And he does this while answering every email that comes into his inbox and writing about five books a year. Let’s just consider him in a special category of prolific grace, imagining that he has a slight genetic mutation that prevents him from spending hours lost on Facebook. If I was lucky enough to have that genetic mutation, I surely would do the same.
For us mere mortals, the no writing groove can be a sticky place, which gets worse the longer you stay in it.
To break the habit and get writing again, here are five ways to choose something to write about. Brainstorm:
- What’s going on right now that is newsworthy?
After watching the U.S. men’s gymnastics team flame out last night, I have about three posts in mind about the agony of defeat, and the importance of embracing failure. Not to mention a post analyzing my terrible codependence (I almost hopped a plane to London last night so I could go hug the whole team. I am settling on sending a box of chocolates with an inspirational note card and an open invitation to cry in my office the next time they are in Phoenix). If you can grab the coattails of a hot topic in the news, you will have lots of material, and built-in reader interest.
- What is your primary mission?
What are you here to help people do, believe or feel?
Do you want to help people make more money? Share one tiny tip that can increase their income by 5%. Do you want people to believe that human slavery is wrong? Write a post about a cool new social enterprise from Not for Sale. Do you want people to feel uplifted and inspired? Share a story of someone who recovered from tragedy or heartbreak and went on to do great things. The stories do not have to be huge or complicated or long, they just have to deliver a concrete thing to your audience that is part of your mission.
- What questions do you get asked on a consistent basis?
We are so close to our own expertise that we forget that a lot of people still don’t know what we know. You may have told people 100 times how to set up Quickbooks. Or how to set up a paperless office. But maybe they forgot. Or maybe they missed your blog that day. Or maybe they didn’t pay attention the first time you told them, and now they really need the information again.
- What have you written in the past that you could add something to/contrast/enhance? (tip to @ambercadabra for that idea) Look over your most popular posts or articles and see if you could make them even better. Maybe you can add an update to the story, or piece of research, or new perspective. This way you can refer to the original post, which new readers may not have seen, and not have to construct the whole idea from scratch. My Jon the Ballplayer series is a good example of this. (Side benefit — when people like your post, they usually tell you so in the comments. Reading positive comments gives you an endorphin rush. Us moody writers need all the endorphin rushes we can get.)
- Ask your friends on social media what to write about
It may not surprise you to know that yesterday I was one of those poor, stuck souls who had not written a blog post in weeks. I turned to my wise friends on Facebook to ask for help, and got over 35 ideas. The reigning winner? “Since you are stuck not knowing what to write about, write about what to write about when you don’t know what to write about.” Now that is meta.
With your handful of topics in mind, set a timer, open your browser and just start writing. I know you can crack out a post today. If you feel stuck like I did yesterday, I challenge you to write one post and publish it by midnight tonight, in whatever time zone you reside. Paste the link here in the comments, and we will all go read it, and congratulate you for being so smart and helpful.