Developing engaging and informative content for your website is the cornerstone of building consistently strong search rankings and a dedicated following. Whether it’s a knowledge center article, blog post or landing page, you need to keep a steady stream of information going on to your site to accomplish these basic goals.
But what if you’re struggling to come up with something to write about?
What if you just stare at that blank piece of paper, or in our increasingly digital world, that blank Word document and nothing comes to mind?
I must admit, the inspiration for this blog post came from my inability to come up with a good topic. After about 30 minutes of browsing other sites and jotting notes, I decided “…why not write something about the problem I was having – namely, writer’s block.”
You may be surprised to know that many of the world’s most celebrated writers have experienced writer’s block at one time or another. You can bet that at some point during the writing of A Farewell to Arms or The Great Gatsby, Hemingway and Fitzgerald had days where the words just didn’t flow.
With over 5 years of writing for a variety of websites, I can certainly identify with writer’s block. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve struggled to find the right words to discuss a particular topic, or even to formulate the topic in the first place.
With that in mind, I wanted to take a few minutes and share some tips on how you can overcome writer’s block when writing for the web. Here a few general tips that you can apply to any type of writing, be it for your website, an official document, or that novel you’ve always wanted to write.
Don’t worry about how your work will be judged
One of the biggest reasons we get writer’s block in the first place is we worry about how our final product will be received. If your confidence is low, it will be hard for you to write stellar copy. Therefore, don’t worry about writing the greatest article, blog, landing page or press release ever. Just start writing whatever comes to mind. Eventually, you will flush out the bad and keep the good, but be willing to either throw out the bad, or dramatically alter it.
Carry a pocket notebook with you
Here’s another I can relate to personally – you’re at the grocery store or driving down the road when you have a light bulb go off in your head. Problem is you’ll probably forget that idea in about an hour or so. Therefore, you need a way to write it down or record it for later reference. A small notebook can help, or if you have a cell phone with texting and email features, you can simply send a message to yourself.
Get out and move!
You may have heard how physical exercise can spur brain action – it’s true, physical exercise is invaluable for mental activity. If the ideas just simply aren’t there, get away for a little bit. Take a walk around the block, go shoot some hoops, play some tennis, or go to the gym – the activity will likely jar your brain from its slumber.
Start in the middle and come back
You may know what you want to say, but you’re struggling to come up with a good headline or intro. Forget about all that – just write the sections you’re ready to work on then circle back to your headline and intro. While it may seem counter-intuitive, this may be just the thing you need to come up with the perfect prose.
Again, these are a few ideas for helping you overcome writer’s block. Some other ideas specific to web writing include:
Develop topic ideas ahead of time
This is especially helpful for your blog and knowledge center. Most of my troubles with web writing stem from the fact that I haven’t found a good topic. One way to address this is to have a list of 3-4 blog posts with sources done ahead of time. This will ensure you always have a good topic on hand.
Set up Google Alerts, or keep close tabs on Reddit, Twitter and other social sharing sites
Another way to find good topics is to setup Google Alerts for specific keywords related to your business/industry. Each day or week, any and all stories on the web containing those keywords will be sent to your inbox. You can also consider skimming Reddit and Twitter, or joining different industry-specific forums. These can be extremely valuable for developing timely content.
If you’ve found yourself stuck in a rut, the first thing to do is to not worry. Writer’s block is a natural issue that every writer has to deal with.
Don’t beat yourself up as this will just exacerbate the problem…
Just take a deep breath and get away for a short bit. It could just be that you’re tired and need a break!!