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How to Write Smart Content on Days You’re Feeling Dumb & Distracted

This is a guest contribution from Pratik Dholakiya.

It’s Wednesday morning, you barely slept last night, missed your morning coffee because you were running late, and are now sat in front of your computer staring at a blank Word file wondering what on earth you’re going to write about. You know you should get on with the task but your hands don’t move and your brain refuses to boot up. You’re longing for Saturday already, but it’s only the middle of the week. 

Yeah, the world is a cruel place.

Especially for writers who need to hammer out reams of authentic material every single day of the week. 

The good news, however, is there are ways around even the worst of the situations. I should know, I write for a living. I must have written thousands of articles so far, many of which were produced on days I was struggling.

Along the way I have devised quite a few mind hacks to tackle the problem of focus and motivation. One of these always bails me out on the days focus is a scarce commodity.

Do Some Dumb Stuff

Well, you’re feeling dumb already, so this shouldn’t be a toughie!

Dumb isn’t always bad, especially if it’s the humorous kind of dumb. Humor is good. It cracks you up, brings you back into the moment, lightens the mood, and suddenly the morning doesn’t feel so bad anymore. 

When you loosen up and connect to the moment, ideas aren’t so hard to come by. 

The best part about this is that it helps you think out of the box.

So you have to write about synthetic carpets and you are bored as hell at the mere thought of it?

Your best bet is to let your imagination run wild. Think of everything one can do on carpets. Imagine a huge carpet flying up in the sky with Calvin and Hobbes sitting on it.

That’s your idea – best cartoon strips featuring carpets. 

Listen to Chants or Any Music That Helps You Focus

Here’s one brilliant suggestion, which really melts the distractions for me. 

Create a playlist for all moods. If you choose the right kind of music, you may find it easier to get your mind on the task.

Put on Earplugs

No, really. The kind that go in deep and drown out your surroundings. You will be surprised at how beautifully they work. 

This is a tried and tested measure which goes back to my university days. Any time I feel scatter-brained and unable to focus, I get out my earplugs (have gotten into the habit of carrying them with me). It’s eerily quiet when your ears are plugged. You don’t go deaf, but all noise loses its edge. Even the sound of your colleague on steroids jabbing away at his keyboard feels like it’s streaming in from somewhere far away. You can hear yourself breathing. You can also listen to your thoughts and follow them without any effort. The writing that this frame of mind produces, regardless of whether you have slept the night before or not, is surprisingly sharp.

I don’t exactly know why this works, but here’s my guess – shutting down one of the senses makes the rest perform even better. With earplugs on, the noise around you does not register, which means you automatically listen to yourself loud and clear. 

Unless you have tried this you will never guess just how much of our energy leaks to sounds and noisy distractions, even in seemingly quiet places. On days you are not feeling bright, this neat trick could make all the difference.

Watch a Stimulating TED Talk

One can feel distracted and foolish for a number of reasons. Sometimes it may have to do more with a lack of creativity than with your energy levels. If your enthusiasm for life is wavering or you need a dose of inspiration to fire up, a good TED talk may work better than coffee. For someone I know, watching old Seinfeld videos does the trick. It’s up to you to figure out what inspires you and refer to it when the need arises.

Create a Bank of Go-to Blogs 

Reading some brilliant writing (especially that which is full of play on words) gets me in the mood each time. My phone is loaded with apps that bring to me the choicest of writing from a variety of sources. You can create your own database of inspirational blogs (not necessarily the most popular blogs) and watch the magic rub off on you.

Pick Topics That You Can Write on in First Person

If you have the choice to pick your subjects, pick up the ones that present a greater scope for personalization.

It’s always easier to write something based on your experience, or even narrate a fictional episode, if you already love writing. That kind of stuff just flows because it comes from your heart, not your mind (which you don’t think is working), and before you realize it you have already put a few hundred words on the doc file.

Leave the research-heavy stuff for days you have slept well and are actually having a bearable morning.

Lay out a Structure for Your Posts

If you don’t have the luxury to choose your topics, and calling in sick is not an option, use your limited energy wisely.

Spend some of it in creating a solid structure for your post, something you can rely on to guide you through till the end. 

Let Things Come to You

Trying too hard is a recipe for failure. It’s worse on the days you are already suffering. Let go of laboring over ideas. Instead, take a 5-minute break to collect your thoughts. Just wait patiently, with a calm mind, no hurry at all. The ideas will come to you, and sooner than if you were to chase them. (If you make meditation a part of your life, it will prove priceless during such times.)

Get Moving

When the mind is stuck, moving your body can make it come unstuck. Go on a short walk and walk with a spring in your step. Tap dance in the bathroom for a couple of minutes. The mind-body connection is deep, and the rhythm of one rubs off on the other.

Create a Mind Map

Images come to rescue when words fail us. Take out a pen and paper, or your smartphone, and start drawing. For something related to home décor, draw a home, then a garden, the windows, and the like. 

Alternatively, create a mind map with a pen or a stylus in your hand; I find this works better than doing so on the computer. Both these methods will very likely give you a few breakthroughs, which will make your assignment easier for you.

Finally, get a perspective.

If nothing works, it’s all right. You are allowed to have a bad day.

Pratik Dholakiya is the Co-Founder & VP of Marketing of E2M, a digital marketing agency and OnlyDesign, a creative design firm. He’s passionate about start-up marketing, entrepreneurship & all things digital. You can find him on twitter @DholakiyaPratik to discuss on any of these topics.

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Comments

  1. Nitin Singh says:

    Hey Pratik Dholikiya,

    Thanks for sharing this article, Many time it happens with me. I don’t feel like writing instead i go to sleep and then found myself in the bed the whole day, i will try these things to write content.

    Thanks for mentioning!

  2. Kevin Duncan says:

    Hi Pratik,

    “Create a Bank of Go-to Blogs” is my favorite tip of the ones you mentioned. There are so many great, inspiring blogs out there. Keeping a list of go-to ones on your “dumb” days (or any day for that matter) is a great tip!

    I have a list of about 50 blogs which inspire me. Most all are in the “blogging” niche. All get my creative juices pumping, which comes in very handy on days where I feel uninspired to write!

    Great guest post, Pratik. Hope you have a great week.

    - Kevin

  3. DNN says:

    And some of us content creators thought it happens to just one or 2 of us that we feel dumbfounded when writing content for our blogs and websites. DrewryNewsNetwork is totally in agreement with you when you talked about creating a mind map and writing freely about things that come to mind. Sometimes, that’s the best way to do things, so people will not only know you’re human and get writer’s block, but also, no different from them.

  4. Jinny says:

    Ear plugs help me so much when I have to focus on writing even if i’m experiencing a bit of writer’s block.

  5. Keiran says:

    I haven’t visited ProBlogger for a little while, but I was stuck today and thought I would have a look to see if there was anything to inspire me.

    I couldn’t believe the latest article was about what to do on days when you’re feeling dumb and distracted, which is exactly how I was feeling.

    Thanks for the great tips, and more importantly a reminder that it’s not just me that’s feeling like that.

  6. Ulises C says:

    Thank you so much for this article. All those tips are dynamite! seriously.., I have used some of them, gotta road test that with the earplugs…, hmm listening to my own thoughts and chase them effortlessly.
    keep up the good work!

  7. I’ve read hundreds of similar articles, but I still am a sucker for these kind of posts :D

    The points still stand.

    I especially like the point about writing posts in first person. A similar technique is to use a voice recorder and just record whatever comes to your mind by speaking it loud.

    I’d also suggest to save all the topic ideas that come to you mind in a notepad or any similar online tool. If you’re running short of ideas, you know what to write about then. By the time you’ve finished writing the article, I’m sure you would have come up with a couple more ideas.

  8. You summed it up perfectly with: “If nothing works, it’s all right. You are allowed to have a bad day.” I have many days that I feel distracted and I just let it go. Inspiration usually comes back after a while :)

  9. Jenny says:

    Love that music, it is really calming. I will definitely be using that. I like mind maps too but I need to stick to just a lead pencil and paper. I started making them pretty once by using colour and then I spent waaaay too much time making the mind map look good.

  10. Jane says:

    Interesting post :) And you are SO right! Dumb days usually occur during the middle of the week and the crave for weekend would already have set in :)

    Love all your tips. I do the earplug thing. I also have a list of “go-to” blogs – surely they can spark some creativity and give a helping hand at tough times.

    Mindmapping is something I usually do while brainstorming; but I never used images. I usually write down the ideas in text – and right, I have experienced boredom (as mentioned in the Lifehacker post). I will try out the images technique :)

    Thanks again for all the wonderful tips!

  11. Aaron Diaz says:

    Thanks for sharing your opinion its great information for every blogger. Really helpful for me and I decide I’ll follow your tips on my blog.

  12. Anni Hart says:

    I used to make a mind map to help me focus on what I’m writing

    Thanks for the tips

  13. John says:

    Good tips, I however always end up getting burned out if I write for too many days in a row. Quite ironic, thinking writing is where I started out in internet marketing.

  14. Well, there is some perverse comfort in knowing I’m not the only one who occasionally feels that my mind has stepped out for ice cream and left me behind. All good suggestions. If I’m writing during daylight hours I find getting outside for a walk with my dog usually gets the creative juices flowing – in fact I’ve learned to have a handheld recorder with me because my brain always seems to kick in on the route back home. If I’m writing at night or on the rare occasion that doesn’t work I just make myself sit and start writing – it may take longer than usual but once I start going through the motions I’ll eventually break through the fog.

  15. Pete Boyle says:

    Hey Pratik,

    Awesome article.

    I’m already a huge fan of some of the tips you’ve recommended, particularly the bank of go-to blogs (that’s why I’m here) and inspiring videos (have to be careful not to waste too much time on youtube though!).
    I’m going to have to try the earplugs out. I’ve never tried using earplugs but i can definitely see how it could work in helping focus attention.

    Thanks for the great tips!

    Pete

  16. Marcie Hill says:

    Another suggestion is to find a video or slide presentation that fits your topic and post that

  17. Sanjeev says:

    Ear plugs help me so much when I have to focus on writing even if i’m experiencing a bit of writer’s block.

  18. Humor and ted talks are so important. I would add motivational inspiring youtube videos/movie scenes. These help me get outside of myself and become less stressed which in turn help me focus in a more creative way.

    I also find that laying out a structure is highly beneficial. If I can break it down into subparts then it makes it much easier.

  19. Claudiu C. says:

    Thank you for the great advice. Sometimes I’m also having problems coming up with a subject, or specially getting down to business and writing something.
    I’m already using inspiring TED Talks and focus music playlists, but will try the other methods in the future.

  20. Thanks for sharing this article, Many time it happens with me. I don’t feel like writing instead i go to sleep and then found myself in the bed the whole day, i will try these things to write content.

    Thanks for mentioning!

  21. Hi Pratik,

    Letting things come to you is the greatest piece of advice on the writer’s block front.

    I like meditating. Sitting in quiet, patiently watching my blocks, and simply staying with my frustrations, has helped me largely conquer writer’s block. When you sit and watch, the Universe will supply you with all the ideas you need.

    Exercising works. Doing anything which raises your level of vibration is simply the way to go.

    I dig all of these tips. Also, posting off of a set schedule works really well. If you’re posting 3 days weekly write your posts 1-2 days ahead of time. This helps you to avoid the last minute rushing and other frustrations which lead to writer’s block.

    Write ahead of time. Set up a blogging schedule to ease anxieties and to write from a calm, relaxed and prepared space.

    Thanks for sharing Pratik.

    I’ll tweet in a bit.

    Ryan

  22. wasim says:

    Love all your tips. I do the earplug thing. I also have a list of “go-to” blogs – surely they can spark some creativity and give a helping hand at tough times.

    Mind mapping is something I usually do while brainstorming; but I never used images. I usually write down the ideas in text – and right, I have experienced boredom (as mentioned in the Lifehacker post). I will try out the images technique :)

  23. wasim says:

    umor and ted talks are so important. I would add motivational inspiring youtube videos/movie scenes. These help me get outside of myself and become less stressed which in turn help me focus in a more creative way.

  24. wasim says:

    This is really a wonderful post. While doing this you are in win win situation. You play and enjoy and

    earn money while playing. If you fail to earn money even then you are enjoying by playing online. Your way

    of describing the facts is really awesome. Thanks for sharing

  25. Hi Pratik, Those days you describe in the opening lines are the worst! I think the main point you are getting at here is that if we feel like we cannot get the words to come then the best thing to do is to distract ourselves from the writing! The activities you suggest are all great ways to stimulate the mind and I think that when you distract yourself like that it allows you to come at it again from a fresh angle

  26. rishitha says:

    It’s always easier to write something based on your experience, or even narrate a fictional episode, if you already love writing.Dumb isn’t always bad, especially if it’s the humorous kind of dumb. Humor is good. It cracks you up, brings you back into the moment, lightens the mood, and suddenly the morning doesn’t feel so bad anymore.

  27. Pooja says:

    Hey Pratik,

    Great to see your post here! My fav. bit? Lay out a structure for your post. I do this all the time.

    It’s like chiselling. Takes off the pressure because the big-picture is ready.

    Oh, and Calvin and Hobbes sitting on Alladin’s carpet? What’s not to love about it!

    A tough one for me is to let ideas come naturally. At times. my love for productivity can convince me that doing “nothing” is bad — although I know it’s the best thing I could do.

    Thanks for the share Pratik.

    Pooja

  28. marty says:

    I needed this ! I have just finished school and I have been distracted from my blog for a long time .When I get back to it my brain is so blank. These are some interesting tips. I think reading other blogs for inspiration is a great idea

  29. Eshan says:

    Hey Prateek Its A Nice Article It Some TImes Happen With Me That I Feel So Bad That I Go And Take Some Rest, I Will Try All Things You Mentioned In This Post To Write A Good Post When I Feel Lazy And Thanks Once More Brother. :)

  30. Nitin mohan says:

    this article re energised me to write again for my blog….till now what i do..i have hired paid writers and now i m thinking to remove them

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