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Stimulate your Mind – Battling Bloggers Block

Blog Tip 12 – Stimulate your Mind

This bloggers block tip is really an extension of the last one on taking breaks – but I guess it’s about what you do on your break that can make it even more powerful for adding to your creativity.

The saying of ‘what goes in comes out’ is true – what you put into your mind has a direct impact upon what comes out of it.

I find that when I’m in a ‘dry patch’ in terms of generating content or coming up with ideas that I’m also often in a dry patch in terms of what I’m doing creatively in the rest of my life.

I purposely listen to music, go to the movies, watching the news, read a variety of books, magazines and newspapers, hang out with creative and innovative people, get out in the vegetable patch, do some photography etc to engage my senses and fill my brain with new ideas. When I do this I generally find that I come up with more interesting ideas and am more productive.

Particularly useful is to do new things – take yourself out of your comfort zone into a completely new experience can shake you out of that numb blocked state.

Take a Break – Battling Bloggers Block

11. Take a Break

It seems an appropriate day (with many of my US readers currently off eating Turkey and being thankful) to talk about having a break from blogging.

Whether it’s a longer holiday, long weekend, day off or even a lunch or coffee break – time off is probably one of the most essential tips I’d give Pro Blogger types. I got sucked into the 7 days per week 12 work life earlier in the year and it’s perhaps the quickest way to deteriorate your effectiveness as a blogger and the quality of your content. It can also be one of the major causes of bloggers block.

It’s just not worth it to work so crazily. I still work very hard at my blogging these days – but time off is essential and is a big part of being productive and building a sustainable blog.

On a personal level I try to build time off into my blogging in a number of ways including:

  • Holidays – this year we’ve gone away for a number of breaks (in June we were away for the whole month).
  • Weekends – in the later half of this year I’ve scaled back my weekend blogging. I still do it but only lightly and as a last priority.
  • Daily breaks – I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I’ve started a vegetable patch – it’s become a way that I regularly break up my day. I also go for walks, photographic expeditions etc during most days.
  • Friendship breaks – I’m regularly using lunch breaks and afternoons (when I’m not productive) to spend time with people. I found that being a solo business person meant I needed to be a bit more pro-active in my social interactions with people.
  • Breaks from Blogs – recently I’ve been taking days off from specific blogs. One of the challenges of running multiple blogs is that it’s easy to get a little burnt out and bored with some subjects (not ProBlogging of course….). One way to combat this is simply to take an intentional day off from time to time from a specific blog. I often find that when I do this I come back to the blog with a fresh approach and energy for it.

It’s pretty basic stuff really – I’m sure many people don’t struggle with the time off factor like I do but I tend to be something of a workaholic and so this post is probably more for me than anyone else.

I’m off for a coffee….

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Using Blog Deadlines to Defeat Bloggers Block

Deadline10. Set a deadline

When I was at school and then university one of the things that got my act together the most when it came to writing essays was a looming deadline. I work well under pressure (or maybe I’m just lazy and don’t work well when there is a lack of pressure) so deadlines work very well for me and I set them for myself in my blogging on a regular basis.

Deadlines need to be used with caution (they actually can be the cause of bloggers block for some people) but I find that having posting goals and deadlines helps me to keep fresh content turning over on my blog.

Deadlines can take a number of forms and can range from setting yourself a daily posting goal to starting a series of posts (ie tell everyone that over the next week you’ll write a post per day on a certain topic and you’ve suddenly made yourself accountable to writing something every day – other people waiting for a post can be just the motivation you need).

Another type of deadline that I know a few bloggers use is to have a blog buddy who they keep themselves accountable to by telling them their goals and asking the other blogger to check up on them. I know one blogger who does this same thing with his wife – she reads and counts his posts every night (quality and quantity check) – not to check up on him because she doesn’t trust him – but because he finds that it helps to keep him motivated to know someone is watching with that purpose in mind.

One note of qualification – deadlines suit my personality type but I don’t recommend them for everyone. Try them but if they cause you more stress then they are worth and they decrease the quality of your work rather than increase then give them away and find some other methods to keep you inspired.

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Blogger Collaboration – Battling Bloggers Block

9. Collaborate with other Bloggers

Run out of ideas? Find someone who hasn’t to work with.

One of the great things about blogging is the relational aspect of it. The ideas that come when you put your head together with someone else are often quite amazing. Collaboration can happen on many different levels including:

  • Guest Blogging - get someone in to write on your blog from time to time to freshen things up
  • Blog Swaps – swap blogs with another blogger for a day
  • Joint Posts – write on a topic together in a one off way
  • Interviews – interview each other
  • Joint Blogs – start a blog with someone – split up the work (and rewards) between you
  • Blog Network – one of the things I like most about networks is the companionship and new possibilities to work together that they can bring
  • Chatting on IM/email - just chatting about your blog, it’s goals and how you’re going with your blog can be a real motivator. If I have an idea for a new blog I quite often do a brainstorming session with another blogger or two around the idea.
  • Participate in discussion forums – there are many discussion forums out there which can not only be quite informative but which give opportunity for collaborating around ideas

Rubbing shoulders with other bloggers (and non bloggers) keeps me sane and is one of the main reasons that I’m able to sustain what I do. Without it blogging can become a pretty lonely existence.

Read more of the Bloggers Block Series

Flip an Idea – Beating Bloggers Block

Pancake18. Flip an Idea

Sometimes I get stuck on an idea because I’ve only ever looked at it from one angle. What about tackling it from another direction? Flip it!

One of the most memorable discussions I’ve ever participated in here at ProBlogger was the day I asked ‘What’s Wrong with Blogging?

What I didn’t write on that post was that the idea actually came to me on a day when I was trying to write a post on the topic of ‘What’s Good about Blogging?’ Sometimes when we flip an idea and start arguing a case that we don’t agree with we learn a lot and find new inspiration.

Another time I flipped an idea was back in March when I ran my first annual ProBlogger Underblogger Awards. Again the idea started as a normal Awards post but flipping it to be an award with a twist took it to a more unique place.

Read the rest of the Bloggers Block Series

Take Questions – Battling Bloggers Block

Question

7. Take Questions

This is a basic tip that can help you to identify the needs of your readers – simply ask them.

Once again this isn’t rocket science – but it’s amazing what results when you do it.

Start a Question File – I get questions on most of my blogs every day or two from readers wanting information on the topics I cover. Collect questions like this and put them in a file for one of those days when you can’t come up with a topic to write about.

Call for Questions – If you don’t get asked questions by readers normally give them permission to ask you questions. I tend not to do this much these days because the questions tend to come faster than I can answer them at the best of times – but when I first started blogging I actively sought questions with an ‘ask a question’ link on my blog. Of course if you do this you’d better be willing to answer them. In the early days I also occasionally would go as far as asking specific readers for questions by picking a few from my newsletter and emailing them the offer for me to do a free short consulting job for them as long as I could blog about my answers to their questions.

Ask Your Own Questions – If readers still don’t ask questions – ask some yourself! Some of the best discussions I’ve ever seen on a blog have been the result of the blogger themselves admitting a lack of knowledge on a topic and asking for help.

Creating an environment for questions and answers can really bring your blog alive – especially if you can create a culture where bloggers feel comfortable to ask even the simplest of questions and where bloggers get into the habit of answering the questions of each other instead of just leaving it all up to you.

Read the full Bloggers Block Series

Start with a Need – Battling Bloggers Block

6. Start with a Need

One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given by the person who taught me to public speak many years ago was to identify a need that those who are listening to you might have and to use this as the starting point for a post.

People buy into what you are communicating if they have a felt need that they feel you might be able to help them with.

Starting with a need not only helps your audience or readership but that it can also help in the writing process. I’m much more motivated to write if I’m communicating on something I need to learn about myself or something that I’ve found an answer to.

So when you’re looking for that elusive topic to write about (this is after all often the hardest part of getting past bloggers block) ask yourself some questions to help you get in touch with the needs of readers in your niche:

  • What questions do I get asked most of all?
  • When I first started exploring this topic what was my biggest question or need?
  • What is my biggest current need in the area that I’m blogging about?
  • What words do people come to my blog having typed into search engines (you can get this from most stats packages) and what does this tell me about what people need?

Once you’ve identified the need you’re well on the way to writing a useful original post that should be popular with your readership – if you can find something worthwhile to say about it that is!

Read the rest of the Battling Bloggers Block Series

Combine Two Disconnected Ideas – Battling Bloggers Block

This is part 5 in the Battling Bloggers Block Series

5. Combine Two Disconnected Ideas

Regular readers will know that I like a Tangent – I love to take everyday situations, ideas and experiences that have no relation to blogging and find ways to combine make them illustrate a point.

Some of the best inventions and scientific discoveries come out of this type of thinking – bringing together two ideas that have not previously been connected to form something new and fresh.

Of course this type of thinking doesn’t just happen – it takes practice to be able to see the world this way.

Edward De Bono has many creative thinking techniques that help people develop this type of thinking. I’m not completely sure which of his books I read it in – but I seem to remember him suggesting free thinking brainstorming around a question like:

‘Think of as many uses as possible for a fork’

The challenge was to come up with as many answers as possible (no answer was too silly) in a short period of time. The answers are useless (unless you’re in the cutlery manufacturing business) but the thinking processes are valuable as you begin to learn the power of creative thinking and thinking outside the box when it comes to everyday objects.

This is the type of thinking that was behind some of my older entries on blogging like a goose, talking about blogging and parenting, blogging and marriage, starting the Blogger Idol meme, and blogging and Travelator users and their techniques (among others). Now it might just have been me who enjoyed the challenge of writing these posts – but I found them fun ways to talk about things I’d talked about many times before – with a twist.

Read Other Bloggers – Battling Bloggers Block

This is part 4 in the Battling Bloggers Block Series

4. Read what other Bloggers are Saying

Ok so this one’s not rocket science but it needs to be said. One of the strengths of blogging as a medium is the way that bloggers interact with one another and build upon each others ideas. Here’s five tips for using what others say (and don’t say) for creating original content:

a. Build on the work of others – As a result when I’m looking for inspiration for a new post I quite often look to see what other bloggers are writing about in my niche. What are they learning? What is the hot topic of the moment? What could you add as a fresh perspective on what they are learning? One of my recent popular posts on 13 Tips on Asking other Bloggers for Links came directly from this technique as I bounced off a short post by Robert Scoble. While his point was totally valid – I felt there was more to be said and so built a longer list around his original idea.

b. Look for the gaps in Conversation – Another useful question is to ask – ‘What are other bloggers in my niche NOT writing about?‘ It’s all very well and good to join a conversation – but look for the gaps in conversations also and you might just find yourself starting a whole new line of thought. Asking this question takes a little more discernment but is a skill worth developing as it has the potential to set you apart from the crowd.

c. Look outside your Niche – Don’t just limit yourself to reading bloggers in your own niche either – sometimes it’s when you look outside of your own niche to see what developments are happening elsewhere that innovative ideas comes. The Blogosphere is full many smaller blogging communities, many of which are doing incredibly creative blogging. Go exploring a blog neighborhood you’ve not visited before and you could just stumble upon an idea to bring back to your own.

d. Read Other Bloggers Archives – An area of blogging that frustrates me is that once a post slips off the front page of a blog it seems to lose it’s worth. The problem with dates on blog posts (and I see some positives with it also) is that it can make very relevant posts seem ‘dated’. The fact is that there must be an incredible wealth of knowledge locked away in the archives of some of your favorite blogs. Spend some time scanning them and you’ll probably find hundreds of ideas that you could bounce off with some posts of your own.

e. Credit where Credit is Due – One final thought – as always, be generous with giving credit to the bloggers who inspire your thoughts. While in bouncing off them you might create your own original content – but acknowledging the work of others who have gone before you in the conversation costs you little.