By Chris Taylor, The Forgiven Wife
Most bloggers have some way of tracking blog post ideas: a small notebook, a file on their computer, Evernote, or post-its covering the desk.
When it’s time to write about one of those ideas, your job as a writer is to transform a topic idea into a full-blown blog post.
Sometimes this is easy. You know exactly what you want to say and how you want to lead your readers through your post. Other times, though, you may encounter writer’s block. Even if you know what point you want to make about your subject, you’re stuck figuring out how to get there.
If you find yourself up against writer’s block, try some of these strategies for coming up with ideas and moving past writer’s block. Better yet, try them before you even start writing and you may find that you can bypass writer’s block altogether.
Brainstorming: This technique involves nothing more than listing every idea that comes into your head when you think about your subject. There is no judgment: even if an idea seems dumb, write it down. Set a timer for three minutes and jot down as much as you can. You’ll end up with a list. It doesn’t dig into a subject or help you figure out how your ideas connect to each other, but it’s a quick way of reminding yourself of what you think about your subject.
Mapping: Write your subject in the middle of a page and draw a circle around it. When an idea occurs to you, write it down, circle it, and draw a line to connect the new idea to the one that triggered it. Then take that idea and see what thoughts that triggers. A picture is worth a thousand words, so take a look.
Mapping does two important things that brainstorming doesn’t do: 1) it gives you depth, and 2) it shows you relationships between ideas. If you struggle with organization, this is a great way of showing yourself detail and how your ideas connect to each other. Each cluster of bubbles is a potential section of your blog post. Or maybe you’ll see that you have so much to say about different things that you decide to write a series of related posts.
If you’re a visual thinker, this is a great way to figure out what you have to say (as well as which ideas you don’t have as much to say about).
Freewriting: Set the time for five minutes, and start writing. Don’t stop. If something pops into your head that isn’t related to your subject, write about it anyway. The purpose is not to produce content that you will actually use in your blog post; rather, it is to open the connection between your brain and your fingers to help loosen that writer’s block. Sometimes, you may even discover that you’ve written something unexpectedly insightful that will work beautifully in your post. Many seasoned writers will tell you that it’s important to write every day simply because it disciplines your mind and puts you into a habit of “writerly” thinking—even if what you write is low quality.
Ask questions: If you’re sharing a story in your post, you want to be sure to give enough information that your readers can understand. Ask yourself the basic information-gathering questions:
- What happened?
- Who was involved?
- Where did this take place?
- When did it happen?
- Why did it happen?
- How did it happen?
Answering these questions will prepare you to tell your story.
Metaphorical thinking: Okay, folks, this is going to sound weird, but it can really work! Take any object and make a list of its constituent parts. For example, if you think of a tree, the constituent parts might be roots, trunk, branches, leaves, and birds.
Now, take your subject and think of it metaphorically:
- If [subject] were a tree, what would be the roots? The trunk? The branches? The leaves? The birds that live in the tree?
- If [subject] were a solar system, what would be the sun? The planets? The moons?
- If [subject] were an organization, who would be the leader? What would the workers do? What is the primary purpose or service of the organization? Who is on the board?
- If [subject] were a table, what would be the legs? What makes up the surface? What do we put on the surface?
Here’s an example: If you’re writing about argument in marriage and use the tree metaphor, you would essentially be asking yourself the following: What is the main thing that holds an argument up? What is the foundation for argument? How does an argument branch out into other areas of marriage? What fruit does argument produce? How does argument affect those who live nearby?
As goofy as this may seem, this strategy is wonderful in helping you see your subject from multiple new perspectives.
Draw a picture: You don’t have to be an artist for this to work. Simply draw what it is you’re trying to write about. Drawing helps you tap into different thinking processes than writing and this may be enough to help you move past the writer’s block. Even a poorly drawn image can show you detail and connections that you didn’t even know were in your mind.