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Free Writing – Battling Bloggers Block

3. Free Writing – Just Write – When I run out first sit down to work out what to say for a public speaking gig I often lock myself in a private room and just begin to speak (to myself) randomly on the topic that I’ve been asked to talk about. It feels a bit odd when you first use this technique but it’s amazing how quickly a talk begins to form in your mind as you do it. I find as I do these exercises that the first few minutes is generally pretty gibberish but that in most cases as I write whatever comes out that eventually I hit on an idea that is worth building on.

I also use this same technique with blogging. Some writers call it free writing and argue that it helps exercise your right brain – I’m not sure of the technicalities of it – but I find that it definitely gets the ideas flowing. One of the hardest parts of writing a post can be starting it – and this technique attempts to help with this.

Free writing purists say to start writing whatever comes into your head (any topic) – I do this from time to time but more regularly set myself a broad topic so that if I do stumble onto a good idea that I have some chance of using it on my blog.

It’s amazing to see what flows out of this type of exercise. Some of my best posts ever have been as a result of forcing myself to start writing. Quite often I’ll start writing on one topic and end up on another or will end up publishing only a section of what I write (having deleted the unordered gibber at the start) but on many occasions there is a gem or two in the mix that can be a post (or two) in and of themselves – or at least the beginning of a post.

This is part 3 in the series examining how to beat Bloggers Block

Idea Journals – Battling Bloggers Block

Idea-JournalThis is part 2 in the Battling Bloggers Block Series

2. Keep an idea Journal – I have a little Moleskine notebook (pictured) that I carry everywhere with me. I use it for all kinds of purposes but largely it’s for capturing random thoughts and ideas – often for speaking and blogging.

Idea journals are great in the short term as they are great for recording those impulsive ideas that flow through my mind all day everyday and for creating ‘to do’ lists for immediate action. However I also find them great in the long term and occasionally get my older idea journals out and flick through them to find unused creative ideas that I never go around to implementing.

It’s often when flicking through idea journals in this way that an idea leaps out. In fact the interesting thing I’ve noticed is that it’s often these discarded ideas that simmer away over time and seem to mature into my best posts.

I know I’m a bit old fashioned in writing my ideas down in a book – I know many of you use PDAs and computers to do the same thing – but I’m a bit of a visual kind of guy and like to draw diagrams, arrows between ideas and to doodle while I dream.

How ever you do it – an idea journal can be a valuable tool on many levels for bloggers.

Battling Bloggers Block – Change your Blogging Environment

On the weekend I got ‘speakers block’. I had to do two speaking gigs and a couple of times in my preparation ‘hit the wall’ when it came to creative ideas on how to make my presentations to the next level. Luckily I’ve been speaking in public for around 12 years and have developed a few techniques for breaking through such blockages – many of which are applicable to the dreaded ‘bloggers block’.

So I’ve decided to adapt what I do to break through the dry patches in my speaking to tackle the question of how to battle against bloggers block. I’ve come up with 20+ short tips which I’ll share over the coming week as a series. As I add them one by one on the main blog I’ll also add them to this central page so you can have one place for the complete series. Feel free to chip in in comments as we go with your own bloggers block busting tips.

1. Change your Blogging Environment

Put your Hands in the air and step away from the Computer!

On Saturday when I came to the end of my inspiration I got out of the house for a couple of hours and went for a long walk. I often find that when I change my environment that inspiration comes. I walked down to the main street near our place and sat in the sun for half an hour and ‘people watched’. Somewhere along the way the ideas began to flow.

Getting away from your computer and blog can definitely help but so can blogging from a new location. Some of the places I’ve blogged from in the last few months include:

  • friends houses - I have a mate’s house who I occasionally spend the day at so that we can work in the same room – it’s nice to have the company – even though he’s not a blogger I find our conversations lead me to try new things on my blogs
  • net cafes – I did this for a day recently when my broadband went down
  • public libraries – I did this for a week 18 months back and it totally gave me a new perspective on blogging – once I got past the frustration of having to book a computer and blog in one hour blocks of time
  • other rooms in the house – I have a bit of a daily rhythm now where I move rooms during the day to keep things fresh – bed, office, couch, kitchen table, back yard – wireless is my friend
  • local cafes – I have one cafe that i regularly take my laptop to. They don’t have wifi but I just write there (offline) and upload later. I find it’s a great place to blog without the distractions of incoming email and IM.

Change up your blogging environment and you might just find that it gives you a fresh perspective on blogging that will unleash some blogging creativity.

Blog Hooks – Elements that Draw Readers Back

After my earlier post about linkbaiting I’ve been thinking a lot about ‘hooks’. The idea of a developing a ‘hook’ (or hooks) for your blog is brilliant advice.

I remember talking to a successful song writer a few years ago and he said the same thing – all good songs have some ‘hook’ to them – whether it’s a guitar riff, a memorable lyrical line or one of those melodies that you can’t get out of your head – a hook is what gets people both into the song when they hear it but that also draws them back to it over time.

This is what all successful blogs have also. They have something about them that stands out, that draws you into them in the moment but that also draws you back to them over time.

We are blogging in a context where there are literally millions of blogs, in some niches there are hundreds (if not thousands) of alternatives for people to read. Successful blogs do something that makes them distinct from the rest.

They are not ‘just another blog on ((insert topic here))’ – they are ‘the blog that….((insert ‘hook’ here))’

Blog Hooks can come in all shapes and sizes – they can happen on both a micro level (ie hooks within posts as discussed in the linkbaiting article at performancing) but also on a macro level.

Some of the hooks that draw me into blogs include:

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Linkbaiting with Attack

Nick writes an interesting post on The Art of Linkbaiting or on getting other sites to link to your blog – a necessary part of building traffic on your blog (both in getting direct traffic from the links and in building search engine ranking). Nick writes:

‘In order to bait a link, you need a hook. Hooks come in variety of flavors, some of the more popular would include:

* News hook
* Contrary Hook
* Attack Hook
* Resource Hook
* Humour Hook’

He goes on later in the post to expand upon each of them – with some excellent advice. I’ve especially found the ‘resource’ and ‘news’ hooks to be very powerful in the building of my own blogs.

I would give a word of warning though with the ‘attack’ hook (and even the ‘contrary’ one).

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Posting Goals

Rebelbagwan left a comment on my last post asking about posting goals. He writes that he intends to:

“write 5 posts of some quality a day , so far starting from zilch getting currently 60 uniques a day and will try and double this every week , do you think this is realistic and what is your reco for amount of posts per day ( 11000 divided by 3 years per day= 11+ per day in your case ?)”

It’s a good question and one that I’d like to take the opportunity to say a few things about.

  • I think it’s a great idea to set yourself some posting goals for your blogs. Goals give you something to work towards – they help keep you on track – they motivate and help you to be more disciplined in your task.
  • The number of posts that you choose as your goal will vary from blog to blog depending upon many factors including the topic of the blog (some topics naturally lend themselves to more content than others), the length of your posts, your available time etc.
  • I generally advise people to start with a goal of 2-4 posts per day when they are just starting out with their blogging and to gradually increase their posting levels over time. The beauty of starting out smaller is that you get into the rhythm of your blogging, you develop your research and writing skills and so then when you go for a larger number of posts as your goal it is a more realistic and achievable target. It’s like going to the gym for the first time – if you do too much too early you can end up burning yourself out.
  • Realistic yet challenging posting goals are very important – don’t set your targets too high – if you do you’ll either burn out or you’ll see the quality of your posts decrease. Set your goals too low and you’ll become lazy, lethargic and become undisciplined.
  • Don’t overwhelm your readers with posts. One of the pieces of feedback I had here at Problogger a few months back was that I was posting so many times a day that I was overwhelming some readers. I’d recommend that you consider starting a second blog if you’ve got the time and enough inspiration to write more than 4-5 posts per day.
  • Quality posting is just as important, in fact it’s more important, than the quantity of posts you do. Anyone can post 50 meaningless, low quality, unhelpful and boring posts per day – I’d prefer the bloggers that work on my blogs to post 3 original, engaging, witty and informative posts per day than 12 junky ones.

Rebelbagwan’s goal of 5 posts per day is great. Over a year this will build his site to over 1800 pages of content – a substantial sized site. My own posting targets at present seem to vary quite a bit from day to day depending upon what other things I’ve got on. As I’ve taken on a number of projects recently that are not directly about me blogging (eg b5media, six figure blogging and two others that I’m looking forward to announcing in the coming weeks) I’ve found that it’s harder to consistently reach the goals I was working on a few months back. As a result I’ve taken on a blogger to assist me in this.

My own goal is for 25 posts per day on weekdays. Weekends I tend to relax more these days and only post a handful of posts. Keep in mind that I’m a full time blogger and that I have 20 or so blogs. Some of these blogs only get posts a few times a week – others are posted to multiple times per day.

I hope that answers Rebelbagwan’s question – feel free to add your own two cents worth in comments below.

Turning off Blog Comments

Steve Pavlina has taken the step of closing down his blog’s comments system because they were more trouble than they were worth. He writes:

‘The main factor in making this decision was the time and energy freed up by not having to deal with comments. No blog comments means no administration of comments, handling comment spam, legal liability for what people post in comments, having to decide whether to respond to questions or ignore them, people posting false information, commenters flaming other commenters, marketing abuses, tech support for comments (Can you fix my typo? Can you delete my double post?). These are minor problems if you only get a few comments a week, but with more than 10 a day — every day — it quickly adds up.’

So would you ever consider switching off the comments on your blog?

I would answer this question on a blog by blog basis and would make the decision largely around the topic of the blog and the voice in which it is written in.

I have a number of blogs that are focussed upon reporting news and information to readers. These blogs are not about creating community or interactivity – rather they present information. I’ve wondered a few times whether it might be appropriate to switch comments off on these blogs because they rarely get a genuine comment and regularly get spammed. Of course with the increasing effectiveness of comment spam protection features of the main blog platforms I find it is rare that spam gets through.

I have other blogs, like ProBlogger.net, which would suffer greatly by switching off comments. I cannot imagine this site without the discussion and community that comments helps create. This blog is read by some very wise bloggers and their opinion and experience is at times more central to what happens here than my own writing. If anything I’d like to find ways of elevating the profile of comments on this blog as they are quite often brilliant.

I guess all I’m arguing is that there are many factors that should be considered before switching comments off. Some of these may include:

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Smart Online Marketing

Yaro has a good post on his experiment to buy a 100×100 pixel ad on the Million Dollar Homepage. The results were disappointing for the investment of $100 – especially when he compares the results of the ad to the results of writing a quality post on his blog that brought in much more traffic for no cost except for the time it took to write it. Yaro’s conclusion might not be rocket science – but it makes sense!

‘The clear answer to successful online marketing is that content is king. We know this. Looking at the big picture content maybe the most important ingredient but without consistency content is not a long term strategy. If you do not continue to produce fresh content then you won’t build on your efforts in the past. You must commit to building an audience using each new piece of content as a building block placed on the previous piece of content. Only by doing this as a long term strategy can you hope to build and retain an audience that will keep coming back.’

Blogger Routines

BJ has decided that with the start of October comes the start of a new routine for her as a working blogger.

It’s got me thinking about the time in my own blogging journey that I made similar decisions to put a routine together in order to become more productive as a blogger.

I started by setting myself posting goals but also added a variety of others including:

- clearing inbox goals
- goals on how many other bloggers and contacts I wanted to network with each week
- setting time aside for non blogging projects
- setting time aside to read newspapers, magazines and other sites
- goals on starting new sites – adding features and tweaking ads on established ones etc

Out of the goals emerged a new routine that I developed to get the goals achieved.The result of this approach was that my blogging slipped into another gear – my blogs grew and I was slowly able to put more time aside to blog as the income increased.

So what is your blogging routine like? I write a day in the life of a ProBlogger which described mine back in April (its changed a bit since) but what is your blogging workflow/day like? You may or may not be full time – but share your routine.