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How Compassion Cures Writer’s Block‏

This guest post is by Brandon Yawa of BrandonYawa.com.

If you are a writer, I don’t have to tell you how a dark shadow dubbed “writer’s block” hoovers over all your projects like Casper, but in the form of a not-so-friendly ghost. However, I assure you, this phenomenon known as writer’s block is not an apparition that needs a force like Ghostbusters to be removed. In fact, this phenomenon is not a phenomenon at all.

If you were a pro athlete in any sport…

You would know that you could only push the limits of your body so far before your body would give out. In a pro athlete’s world, people call this “overtraining.”

As writers, however, the heaviest weight we lift is our laptop, and our physique is never tested beyond hauling it from café to café. For that reason, we easily forget how overworked our mental faculties can be.

Writing is a mental treadmill that never stops.

The day you set foot on the path of being a writer, you have inadvertently placed yourself on a mental treadmill that has no end. Everything that happens to you, whether it is conscious or subconscious, speeds up or slows down this neverending treadmill.

If you have been writing for ten years, you have been mentally running, jogging and walking on your mental treadmill for 3,650 days straight. That’s enough mileage to make you the new spokesperson for Nike, and definitely enough mental mileage to warrant fatigue.

You are not blocked.

You are mentally fatigued, whether it be from worrying about living up to your last creation, living up to your own expectations, or just living a writer’s life in general.

I will repeat, you are not blocked, you are tired, and rightfully so I might add.

Humans need rest.

It sounds so clichéd to say you need rest, but you do. In order to rest, you have to figure out how to take yourself off that mental treadmill. You have to learn to separate the material you need for writing from the material you need to be human.

5 steps to get off the mental treadmill

1. You have to show yourself compassion

You have to accept that you are mentally tired of the process of writing. Just like you allow yourself to go to sleep, you have to allow yourself time away from writing.

2. Forgive yourself for being unable to write

You have not done anything wrong, and you don’t suffer from a life-threatening disease.

Instead, congratulate yourself on what you have accomplished thus far. Even if it’s only that you got out of bed, opened your laptop and pressed your fingers on the keyboard. Congratulate yourself for trying, and then congratulate yourself for having the compassion to know when you are passed your limits.

3. Don’t allow the outside world to affect how you feel about yourself

You are not a machine whose sole purpose is to produce. Instead, as a human being, you decide what your purpose is. If you choose writing, remember it’s what you chose on your own terms, and that’s how it should remain.

4. Find hobbies that take you away from the writing world

Sometimes just shutting our mind off isn’t enough. We need an object or objects to assist us in shutting off that mental treadmill. See the world, travel your city, play video games, or read books that relax you (not ones that inspire you to write).

5. Learn to love yourself whether you are writing or not writing

Whether you are producing Shakespearean material, or creating child’s play, learning to love yourself totally (the good and the bad) not only gives you an immediate place of refuge, it arms you with a sensitivity that knows when too much is too much.

True compassion starts with the individual before it is shared with the world.

Brandon Yawa is the author of BrandonYawa.com. A blog built to show you new ways to tackle the same old human dilemmas.

The Post-writing Rules I Always Break. Do You?

This guest post is by Kate Toon Copywriter.

I have an admission; I suffer from several deep-rooted blog-writing afflictions.

For years I thought it was just me, that I was the only one. Lately, though, I’ve realised that I’m not alone.

Yes, I’ve read all those “15 rules of blog writing” posts, but I just keep breaking them. I’m not a tween, I’m not a Gen Y; I am a fully (over)grown copywriting female. I have no excuses.

So let me be a voice for all those bloggers who, like me, are ostracised in this cruel grammatically correct, rule-driven world.

I share my story in the hope that it helps other writers.

How it all began

My parents sent me to an arty school—it wasn’t Montessori or Steiner, but we seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time playing music, dancing around with floaty scarves and learning italic handwriting. The teachers took the “enjoyment over correction approach” to reading and writing. So after several years of schooling I still could barely write my name, but when I did, it was in a beautiful mediaeval script.

Of course I loved it at the time; when you’re eight, who gives a jelly snake about conjugating verbs? I was happy enough making a human body (including organs) out of Play-Doh. But now I curse their stupid progressive schooling ways!

Here are some of the issues I’ve been left with:

I make typos

Although I have a rather good English degree from a relatively posh university and have been a copywriter for many years, I still can’t spell.

I struggle with even the easiest words and sometimes get complete “word blindness,” where I’ve written a word so often it just looks wrong. (Lawyer anyone?)

I often Google words before I enter them, just to be extra sure.

Writing a Facebook status update is fraught with panic as I post only to realise seconds later that I’ve spelt “realize” incorrectly.

If you’re in this camp with me, may I suggest the following:

  • Don’t write tweets or status updates when you’re in a rush. Take it seriously, or your readers will eat you alive.
  • Don’t send a status update from your iPhone as you’re more likely to make a mistake.
  • Do write your status updates in a text document first and then cut and paste them into whatever platform you’re using. Then at least the really obvious mistakes will be picked up by spell checker.
  • Do write a big batch of status updates at the start of the month and send them off to a proofreader to correct. Then you can safely upload one each day/week.

I’m ungrammatical

I know my nouns from my adjectives, and my verbs from my adverbs, but I’m prone to bending the grammar rules, sometimes to breaking point. Fellow sufferers, here are a few grammar basics that I think it’s okay to break (but don’t tell my proofreader):

  • Starting sentences with “but” or “and”: Although you don’t want to overdo it, the occasional sentences that begin with “but” or “and” are, in my opinion, no big deal.
  • Ending sentences with prepositions: Occasionally it just sounds better to put the preposition slap bang at the end of your sentence. Compare, for example: “They don’t have a leg to stand on” with “They don’t have a leg upon which to stand.” Or as Winston Churchill wrote, “This is the sort of English up with which I will not put.”
  • Using fragments: As long as your fragment clearly communicates a complete thought, it’s a great tool to create pauses and give your ideas great emphasis.

My English isn’t all that plain

I like using odd and slightly unusual words in my blog posts; perhaps it’s the latent poet in me.

Is this a bad thing? Well, I’d argue a firm “No.”

You see, while I’m all for keeping things short and simple, I also believe that it’s important to inject some personality into your copy now and again. Too much plain English and your writing just sounds, well, plain (and possibly a little bit dull).

I think I’m funny

“Everybody thinks they have good taste and a sense of humour but they couldn’t possibly all have good taste.”—Nora Ephron

I often try to inject humour into my blog posts, even when they’re about really serious stuff like SEO. I’ve been warned against this time and time again.

“Not everyone will get it!” they cry. “You’re bound to offend someone!” they shriek.

Well, if I offend, I offend.

Not everyone is going to like your blog. But if you inject your own personal taste, humour and style, some people will love it (and, yes, others may well hate it). But I’d rather have 200 avid followers loving what I write than 500 people who were mildly interested.

I use slang

I’m a big fan of slang. In fact, I think it’s awesome.

I know that seeing some teen speak in a grown-up blog can often be the cringeworthy equivalent of seeing your dad drunk dancing at your 17th birthday party.

If you use slang carefully and in a slightly tongue-in-cheek way, it can add a certain je ne sais quoi to your writing.

However, if you intend to use slang regularly I suggest you hire a 13-year-old to read everything you write before you post it.

I get emotional

I like to write about things I’m passionate about. Subjects that annoy me. Websites that are woeful. Clients who are horrible. Things I find amusing.

Sometimes that causes controversy. I’ve been sent hate mail about a poem I once wrote and published online. I’ve been insulted on Twitter by a fellow copywriter who took offence to a blog post. (He thought it was about him—it wasn’t.)

While I never actively seek to offend, insult, or discriminate against anyone, the blog posts on my business website represent my opinions. They’re not a sanitised, client-friendly version of things. Again, what I write might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s my cup of tea and therefore I think my enthusiasm and passion shines through.

So there you go. If you’ve read this post and think you’re suffering from similar symptoms, you too could be a victim of blogrulebreakingitus. Please share your faults with us in the comments. It’s only by working together that we can get through these terrible afflictions. Blog rule breakers of the world unite!

Kate is an award-winning SEO and advertising copywriter with over 18 years’ experience. She’s also a well-respected SEO consultant, information architect, strategist, hula hooper and Creme Egg lover based in Sydney, Australia.

Get Creative About Your Content … Consistently

This guest post is by Pratik Dholakiya of E2M Solutions.

You’ve heard it a thousand times. “You need great, original content.” And it’s becoming increasingly obvious that “original” isn’t the same thing as “not plagiarized.”

There’s just one problem. Doing something truly original is hard.

How can you make original ideas happen? The answer comes from an unexpected source: psychological research.

Writer’s block is only half the battle

The solution to writer’s block is simple: keep writing. It doesn’t matter what. Just publish. Just ship.

This is where most bloggers give up. They get stuck on the belief that everything they publish needs to be gold. It won’t be. You need to make writing a habit. That’s all it takes to conquer writer’s block.

But it’s only half the battle.

If your content isn’t new and exciting to your visitors, most of them will leave. And since it’s very difficult for an individual blogger to come across a breaking news story before anybody else, most bloggers end up publishing well written and completely redundant material.

Creativity is the spice you need to keep your blog fresh.

Here’s where you can get it.

Are you afraid of creativity?

Consciously, no. But studies suggest that when we do have a fear of creative ideas, it’s subconscious, and we’re completely blind to the results.

One of these studies, led by researchers from Cornell, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of North Carolina, suggests that when we’re uncertain about the future, we reject creative ideas, even though we want them.

They discovered that if they paid participants by a random lottery, instead of a set fee, they would subconsciously associate creative words with negative words like, “hell,” and “vomit.”

In a second experiment, they found out that if the participants wrote an essay about how “there is only one way to solve a problem,” this also created a sense of uncertainty. Worse still, this caused them to rate ideas as less creative, rather than recognize their fear.

The implications are clear:

  • Take actions that make you feel more secure about your future.
  • Embrace the mindset that there is more than one solution to every problem.
  • Write down all of your ideas when you brainstorm, and be open minded. You might be rejecting creative ideas because they scare you, not because they are actually uncreative.

Are you being too closed … or too open?

A study led by Ella Miron-Spektor of Israel, along with researchers from Harvard and Carnegie, suggests that paradoxical thinking plays a part in creativity.

In one of their experiments, they asked participants to read an article about an experimental new toy, and then they read comments made by “judges” of the product. The judges said one of four things:

  • The toy was creative or cheap.
  • The toy was creative and cheap.
  • The toy was creative but too expensive, because cheap is the opposite of creative.
  • The toy was creative and cheap, and those are usually opposites.

Out of the four groups in the experiment, only one group stood out on a creativity test: the last one.

In other words, it wasn’t enough to be open to the idea that something could be creative and cheap at the same time. It also wasn’t enough to realize that creativity and low price were opposites. Creativity was only boosted by recognizing that two things could be somehow different and complimentary at the same time.

What does this mean for you?

  • Be open to ideas and concepts that don’t seem directly related to the subject of your blog.
  • But don’t be so open that you fall back on “everything is related,” without being able to see the differences at the same time.

Again, you have to be able to see how things can be different and complimentary at the same time, not just one or the other, in order to get a boost in creative thinking. The “idea mashups” that result from this are some of the best blog posts on the web.

I like to think of it like this:

  • If you’re too closed, you won’t see interesting connections that result in new ideas.
  • If you’re too open, no connection stands out as interesting or new, because “everything is already connected,” so who cares?

Are you in the right mindset?

There is a belief among many intellectuals that in order to be creative, you need to be a tortured soul. But a meta-analysis of studies on the subject revealed that out of 29 experiments, only nine suggested there was any truth to this, and those studies had a flawed design.

In one example demonstrating just the opposite, Alice Isen and others tested the impact of mood on people’s ability to solve a creative problem, called the candle problem. They asked one group of students to watch a funny video before solving the problem, and the other group to watch a math video. Only one in five of the people who watched the math video solved it, but an amazing three out of four solved it if they watched the funny video.

Was this because of laughter, or just a positive mood in general? In another experiment, they gave the participants a decorated bag of candy. The results were similar, but not as dramatic.

It turns out maybe you don’t have to be depressed and self-loathing in order to be creative after all.

Vincent Van Gogh may have cut his ear off, and history does seem to favor the tragic stories about creative people, but the psychology is clear. At least when it comes to everyday creativity, positivity is the answer.

Are you too focused?

This is a weird one, so bear with me. I want to be absolutely clear here. It takes focus and dedication to complete anything you start. If you don’t stay focused on your goals, you’re likely to wander aimlessly for a long time before you get anywhere near where you want to be.

But when it comes to creating the ideas in the first place? In that case, focus may actually be working against you.

In one experiment, participants were asked questions like this:

Two people are born on the same day of the month, on the same year, to the same mother and father, but they are not twins. How is this possible?

The experiment was led by Mareike Wieth and Rose Zacks, and it was based on people’s sleep schedules. Your sleep schedule determines which time of day you are most and least focused (which is not necessarily the same thing as being alert and sleepy).

People who were brought in during their least focused time of day actually did best on these types of creative solving problems.

(If you couldn’t think of it, the answer is that they’re triplets.)

And this isn’t the only experiment to suggest this. Another experiment demonstrated that people who have frontal lobe damage do better on these kinds of problems, and still another suggested that alcohol had the same effect.

Now, I’m not advocating drinking on the job or taking a hammer to your forehead, but we can’t ignore the implications. So here are a few ideas to take advantage of this knowledge:

  • The best time to brainstorm is during those “off” times of day when you can’t seem to focus on anything and everything is distracting.
  • If you’re struggling with brainstorming, this is probably the best time of day to work on something that requires focus or something more routine, such as reading and research.
  • Consider brainstorming during times when you are sleepy.

As a simple example:

  • When you can’t read: brainstorm.
  • When you can’t brainstorm: read.
  • When you have the right combination of knowledge and original ideas: write.

Putting it all together

Here is a sample creativity “plan” that you can borrow from and adjust as you see fit, based on what we’ve learned.

  • When you brainstorm, don’t reject any ideas that come to mind. Write them down. You can sift through them later.
  • Define the problems you are trying to solve with each blog post, and write at least two different solutions to those problems.
  • For each article, pick a “parent” subject, and write down several other subjects, almost at random. Pick the other subjects you find most interesting, and write down how each is similar to and different from your parent subject.
  • Research a few different things at the same time, and write a list of reasons why they are the same and why they are different.
  • Get yourself in a positive mindset, and make the creative process as fun as possible. Use humor and stick to the subjects that you will enjoy learning and writing about.
  • If you simply can’t brainstorm, you’re probably doing it at the wrong time of day. Try reading instead. It’s when you find yourself reading the same sentence over again five times that you should probably get back to brainstorming.

So there you have it: a plan for creating original material, based on solid science. You’ll find that when you have an unlimited number of ideas to work with, the whole writing process gets easier, and your quality levels will start to improve.

Have you tried using methods like these? What else has helped you come up with original content ideas? Tell us in the comments.

Pratik Dholakiya is a Lead SEO Strategist at E2M Solutions, a full service internet marketing company specializing in Organic SEO, PPC, Local Search, Social Media, Reputation Management, Content Marketing and more. He recently started an Interview platform TalkWithLeaders.com where he’ll be interviewing various industry leaders. You can contact him on twitter @DholakiyaPratik or by email.

Writing the Truth of Your Own Experience

This guest post is by Sean M. Madden of Mindful Living Guide.

The cornerstone of my teaching is to write the truth of our own experience.

They’re fine words, which roll off the tongue with ease. But I needn’t tell you how gut-wrenching it can be to put them into practice.

For when one shares the results of such writing with the world at large it is very likely to anger at least some folk—no matter how clear, how unassuming, and how well-intentioned is what you have to say. And of course, it can be daunting to commit one’s truths to paper.

But the good news is that there’s a flipside.

Write the truth, and others—perhaps only a relative few—will appreciate beyond words that you’ve dared to express what they’ve longed to say, but perhaps couldn’t quite articulate.

Rilke, in his Letters to a Young Poet, advises his correspondent thus:

Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.

This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write?

I’ve many times asked myself this question over the course of my writing life, and have reconsidered it afresh whenever I revisit Rilke’s Letters, either on my own or with a group of students. My initial response tends to be, no, I mustn’t write—my life could be well-lived without the act of penning words onto a page. And yet I do write, often as if my life does indeed depend upon it.

Eleven years ago, I participated in a meditation retreat in which I had to relinquish any and all writing (and reading) materials for the course of a week and a half. No problem, I thought. Until several days into the retreat when I found I had something I had to express. So I liberated a blue permanent marker from the men’s toilet area and wrote my then nearly ten-year-old daughter a letter which spanned the full length and width of the fitted sheet I’d brought from home to sleep on. A letter she slept with for a very long time, until—ever so slowly, wash after wash—it finally faded from sight.

And how many times, since, have I resolved to give up writing in response to the egregious crimes of state we witness on a day-to-day basis, only to find myself in the most silent hour of my night writing an article for publication, a blog post, or page after page of handwritten diatribe?

Why, if time and again I tell myself I needn’t write, must I?

At times I write to release my soul from the burden of silence in the face of monstrous lies. Other times I write in response to witnessing the wonderment and beauty of this world. Either way, I write to express the truth of my own lived experience, and am infinitely happier for regularly doing so.

10 Steps to write the truth of your own experience

  1. Jump in headfirst. As with entering a cold sea or swimming pool, it’s much easier to plunge in, headfirst, than to wade slowly cursing the cold each step of the way. Once you’re in, you’re in, and you’ll acclimate yourself much more quickly. Ditto with writing.
  2. Courage grows in the doing. Fear and self-doubt, on the other hand, fester in the not-doing.
  3. Write with pen and paper. Make it a physical act, involving your whole body, your whole being, not just your mind. Thoughts are more likely to come in the doing than in the thinking up of things. Certainly, write on your computer as well, but get comfortable with putting pen to paper.
  4. Write first and foremost for yourself. While you might eventually like to share your work with others, write firstly for yourself without concern for your readers. Remember, too, that the acts of writing and sharing your work are wholly distinct. Share your work only when you’re ready.
  5. Trust wholeheartedly in the process. Simply write down whatever comes up. Trust in this process until the need to trust is replaced by an experiential knowing that the process works.
  6. Be patient and supremely gentle with yourself. Remember, too, that a thousand-mile journey begins with that very first step. Keep walking, and writing, and every once in a while look back to see how far you’ve traveled, and how much you’ve accomplished.
  7. Write with no expectations. Rather, nurture a sense of letting go of the notion of writing well. Good writing will come of its own accord, all the more so when you write regularly and truthfully about your own life experience.
  8. Begin a daily, or near-daily, writing practice. Commit to a three-month daily writing practice as a means to recognize, firsthand, the benefits of doing so, and, thereby, to develop it into a habit.
  9. Recognize that writing topics abound. They’re literally everywhere within you as well as in the world around you. Begin to notice the rich, inspiration-packed details of your day-to-day life.
  10. Write down your inner truths with great courage and honesty. You’ll thereby find your voice. This last step is a repeat from an earlier, closely related article I wrote for ProBlogger which you might find helpful to consider alongside this piece.

What strategies have you found to be helpful in writing the truth of your own experience? Please leave your comments below so that we can continue to learn from each other’s experience as well.

Sean M. Madden is a Creative Writing & Mindful Living Guide who is slow-traveling on a shoestring in Europe with his partner, Mufidah Kassalias. In addition to leading courses and workshops, Sean also works one-to-one with clients worldwide via Skype, email and telephone. He invites you to contact him via email or to follow him on Twitter (@SeanMMadden), Instagram (@SeanMMadden) or Facebook (Mindful Living Guide).

The Biggest Lie in Blogging and How to Disprove it

This guest post is by Ryan Biddulph of Cashwithatrueconscience.com.

You lie to yourself. Every day as a blogger.

Okay, maybe you don’t. Maybe you don’t buy in.

But you probably do. If you moan about struggling to blog.

Writer’s block

The lie is writer’s block. You have no ideas. You can’t write.

So you don’t write. Lose leads. Miss creative practice. Feel comfy cozy in your excuse zone.

The worst part about the lie? You can disprove it now. And ten hours from now. Or whenever you pen your next post.

But you need to a few things to attack, disarm and disprove the lie.

Abundance

Abundance exists. Lack and limitation is a human concept. No shortage of ideas. Only an infinite flow.

You tap into that infinite flow any time you write a blog post. You choose to block the flow any time you surrender to writer’s block.

Both are choices. You choose to snag the idea or block the idea. Own this choice. You disprove the lie.

People buy in

People tend to buy in. Why? Any crutch supporting their limiting belief sounds great to them. No need to own stuff. Or succeed.

But if you can own your life you can become the master of your fate. That’s not a bad deal, I know.

Because ownership precedes acceptance, and acceptance precedes happiness. How’s that for a triple play?

You can’t buy in to writer’s block. You must reject the idea, when people note it, or use it as an excuse.

You are unlimited

You are unlimited and remain unlimited until you accept the idea you aren’t unlimited. Accept this. Where you at now, writer’s block?

Life follows your belief system. Writer’s block just made a hasty retreat. No more low energy handcuffs. You are free to write!

Practical tips

Do these things to dissolve writer’s block.

Meditate

Meditation dissolve blocks—or limiting ideas—from your being. Once the block dissolves you tap into the infinite flow of creative ideas.

Read blogs

You generate many creative ideas by reading relevant blogs. Read, take notes, write your own posts. Love that jingle.

Surround yourself with winning bloggers

Winning or successful bloggers rarely make the writer’s block excuse. So you follow their lead.

Step away from the computer

Eureka! You have experienced the moment many times, and it was likely when you were away from the laptop. Detaching opens up you to creativity.

Your turn

Do you buy into the writer’s block lie? How do you overcome this block?

Please share your thoughts in the comments section!

Ryan Biddulph helps entrepreneurs create value and build connections to grow their home based opportunity. Please subscribe to his blog Click Here.

The Commonsense Approach to Fresh Post Ideas

This guest post is by Ryan Shell of Fashables.

If you’re a long-time blogger, you, at some point, have inevitably looked at a blank document on a computer screen and thought to yourself, “I have no idea what I’m going to write about.”

And if you’ve never been a blogger, it’s likely you haven’t even fathomed the idea of, you know, sharing your thoughts with all of “those” people on the internet, let alone knowing what to write about.

What to write about

This is a topic I’ve addressed with a number of individuals during the past few months, and imagine it will continue to come up time and time again.

When the “What do I write about?” question comes up, I quickly start brainstorming and, within minutes, can develop a number of topics for the individual to write about.

My method isn’t rocket science.

It’s also not some wildly colorful secret that you’ve not been told.

It is one thing though, and I’d like to share it with you.

Common sense

Everyone’s an “expert” about something. What we fail to do is realize that what is easy and common sense to Person X (you) may not be common sense to Person Y.

What happens is that people inventory the knowledge floating around in their brain and eventually—due to their expertise—think, “that’s nothing special” or “everyone already knows that.” And that’s a big mistake.

I recently built a website for someone and the following exchange happened via text message.

Her: “Is my site mobile phone friendly?”

Me: “Yes. Very.”

Her: “Cool! How did you do that?”

What immediately came to mind after seeing her question was, “It really isn’t that big a deal. I simply customized a mobile responsive WordPress theme.” When I look at that short thought through a different lens, I can quickly see two blog posts develop: one about the importance of creating a mobile friendly website, and another that discusses mobile responsive WordPress themes and how they easily make mobile friendly websites.

That simple exchange, followed by what came to mind for me, is a great example of how we constantly take knowledge and our life experiences for granted.

What’s simple for you very well may not be simple for someone else.

Ryan Shell is the Senior Manager, Online Communications for a global communications firm. He is also the founder of the fashion blogFashables and recently created a t-shirt line, The Home T, that helps raise money for multiple sclerosis research. He can also be found online at RyanShell.com.

Kickstart Your Stalled Blog Content, Part 3: Let Your Publication Inspire Your Next Post

Over the last week, we’ve been kickstarting stalled blog content. We’ve worked through the process of planning, writing and editing a post, and I hope that by now some of you might have published that post.

At this point, I hope you’re thinking that kickstarting the content on your neglected or burdensome blog hasn’t been such a challenge after all. We’ve taken a pretty pragmatic approach to the challenge‚ and if you’re feeling inspired, you could certainly go ahead and refocus your content strategy now, for example.

But I’m going to assume that, while you’re feeling positive, you haven’t miraculously found more time to dedicate to your blog, nor have you rediscovered a hidden passion for it that makes you want to take the breaks off and hurl yourself into creating content for it.

Instead, I’m assuming that you want to keep the blog going, to see where it leads, and that after some time publishing quality content, you might reassess your priorities and see if it’s something you want to keep going with.

So what we need here is a process for keeping your blog content rolling in that time.

Our first post described a process for sparking ideas, and of course you can certainly repeat that now. But today I wanted to show you another way to build directly on the success of your most recent post—something you can do whether you’ve only ever published one post, or you’ve only published one recently.

Check the stats

As a first step, check the stats on that post.

Maybe you have barely any stats—maybe only a handful of people visited it. Okay. If you haven’t already, share it with your social networks and promote it any other way you have. This might give you a few more pageviews or shares to work with.

The aim here is to have some figures for the post, so you can compare it with past publications—however old—on your blog. Ideally, you’ll be able to see if it attracted many readers, and be able to gauge if the visits it attracted were engaged—so bounce rates for the post would be helpful.

This information leads directly into our next assessment: comments.

Review the comments

Did anyone leave a comment on your most recent post? I like to balance comment counts against visitor stats and shares, and also look at the quality of comments that are left, since that’s a good gauge of reader engagement.

If your post only received three visitors, and each of them left a comment or shared the post, that’s good news. If, on the other hand, your post attracted 100 pageviewss, but no comments or shares, you may have some work to do to reengage your readers.

So consider your post’s visitors and actions, and see how you feel about this information as a measure of the post’s “success.”

Consider the niche

Finally, look around in your niche. If you followed this series to the letter, you probably published this post because it filled a gap in the information available in the niche.

So now’s a good time to check the main sources of content in your niche and see if any of them have either followed your lead and responded to your post, or published something that covers the same topic in the same timeframe.

You might also do a few keyword searches for the topic of your post, and related topics, to get an idea of what’s been published on the topic beyond your niche. This, too, might spark ideas for posts that you hadn’t considered before.

Your next post

Whatever the answer to these questions, this quick analysis should present you with somewhere to go with your next post.

You either know that readers did or didn’t find your last post engaging. You know others in your niche either have or haven’t taken the topic up.

Perhaps that other coverage (or lack of coverage!) suggests that you should (or shouldn’t) write a follow-up piece. Perhaps the feedback or lack of interaction indicates that there is—or isn’t—more demand for content on this topic, or a related one. In that case, start researching, using the advice from the first post in this series to plan the post, if you like.

If the answers are all negative—no comments, few views, no coverage by others in your niche—then you might feel a bit lost for where to go next. In that case, you could also repeat the exercise from our first post in this series. Or you could instead look at past posts that did well with your readers, and have a think about why that was—was it the topic? Format? Timing?

If you can identify some elements that may have had a hand in making past posts popular, you can try to tap into a parallel concept or approach now, and see how that resonates with readers.

And if you’re really stuck, take a look at our posts on bloggers’ block.

Keeping committed

From this point forward, it’s up to you. But the first post in this series should give you a good template for planning, writing, and editing you posts, and making the time to get those tasks done.

And the second post provided some tips for fitting those tasks into a busy life.

So hopefully you’re in a good position to follow this process and keep your blog going a bit longer—long enough for you to see if you’ve still got the passion and push to revamp or reinvigorate the blog properly.

If you have any questions, or tips or ideas you can share, we’d love to hear them. Tell us in the comments.

Curb Your Blogging Frustration in 8 Steps

This guest post is by Marc Ensign of MarcEnsign.com and NotAnotherSEOBlog.com.

That last blog post was really good. It was supposed to be the one. The post that launched you into blogging stardom. Right into the spotlight. Making you an overnight success.

That post was supposed to change everything.

But it didn’t. Instead, it received the usual handful of tweets, smattering of likes and a gaggle of comments. Barely enough traffic needed for a respectable flash mob. And a majority of the traffic you did get either came from you or from people that share your bloodline.

It’s frustrating, isn’t it?

Frustrating enough to make you question what you are doing. Or if you are any good. Frustrating enough to make you wonder if blogging is even worth it. Or if anybody even cares about what you have to say.

Frustrating enough to make you want to give up. Stop writing. Quit.

Now, before you fold your arms and stomp off into the sunset never to blog again, there is something you should know. This is normal. Every blogger that has had an ounce of success has been here. At this very same fork in the road. Staring down the same choice of whether or not to give up. Lucky for us, they chose to keep going.

And you should too.

So, before you throw in the towel, let’s talk about how to curb some of that frustration a bit so you can get back to striving for blogging fame and fortune.

Step 1: Stop whining

You are not working in a coal mine. You are not living in a third world country. And you have not been sentenced to life in prison for a crime you did not commit. You are writing. Put it in perspective. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and making things out to be worse than they really are.

I get it. You have something to say. A message to share with the world. And nobody is listening. Or at least that’s how it feels sometimes. But whining about it is not going to make it any better. In fact, it’s only going to make it worse. Stop getting caught up in creating a meaning behind the numbers. Dig deep and rediscover the reason that you started your blog in the first place. Find your purpose.

Step 2: Find your purpose

There was a time early on when you woke up in a cold sweat. You had an idea. A way to help others. Sure, you thought you might also be able to make some money at it along the way, but it wasn’t originally about that. There was a greater purpose behind it. Something you were passionate about. Something so strong that you were willing to put the work in early on even though you didn’t have a single visitor or make a single penny.

And now it sounds like you have lost sight of it. Not on purpose. It just took a backseat as you started to value other stuff more like the number of visitors or how many people are sharing your posts. You need to rediscover your purpose. It’s easy to do. To start, just change your focus.

Step 3: Change your focus

If you are frustrated over your blog’s performance, take a look at where you are focusing your attention. Chances are that it is on the numbers—how many hits, Tweets, Likes and Pins. When you are too focused on the numbers you tend to make bad decisions. You begin to focus on what you can gain from the relationship versus what you can give. It affects the quality of your writing. It affects what you write about. It affects how often you write. It affects the tone you take in your writing. And your audience will notice.

If you have to focus on numbers, start focusing on different numbers. Numbers that you have more control over. How often you publish. How many words you are writing each day. How many other blogs you are reading and commenting on. It doesn’t mean you should turn a blind eye to the number of visitors you are getting, just stop checking your stats so often.

Step 4: Stop checking your stats so often

We’re all guilty of it. You publish a post, Tweet it, count to ten and then log into Google Analytics to see how many people have read it so far. Stop it. Seriously. You are going to drive yourself mad. Keeping the window open all of the time so you can hit refresh after every Tweet is going to get you more and more frustrated.

Try checking your stats only once a week. Maybe once at the end of each day if you are really neurotic about it. Staring at your stats ten times a day isn’t going to make it better. If your writing is good and your message is powerful, the visitors will come. You just need to have faith.

Step 5: Have faith

If you don’t believe that you have something of value to share. Something the world needs to hear. Than we as your readers aren’t going to either. It comes across in your writing and how you share your posts. Do you do enough or do you go above and beyond? Do you care about your subject matter or are you passionate about it?

You need to feel strongly about what you are doing and where you are going and have faith that you will get there. Having faith will help you get through the times when no one is reading. When you are up at 2am working on a new post. When you know it can be better. With a little bit of faith, you can accomplish just about anything. As long as you set realistic goals.

Step 6: Set realistic goals

Frustration often comes from having unrealistic goals. Goals that are too far out of reach for you to get excited about. Goals like having 100,000 subscribers by the end of your first month. Or making $1,000,000 in advertising without any traffic. Your goals need to be attainable. Just a hair out of reach. Enough to make you stretch but not too far that it seems unreasonable to keep going when it gets tough.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not trying to squash your dreams. I am just suggesting that you not set yourself up for failure. I once met a guy who whose goal was to be the first trillionaire in the world. He’s going to fail. It’s too far out of reach. He is not going to surpass the valuation of Apple from his Moms basement with no ideas and no prospects. Set goals that are reasonable. Win a few along the way. Get excited about them. And stay committed.

Step 7: Stay committed

You have come this far. You have developed a blog. You have been posting regularly. You have a bunch of readers. You have a purpose and reasonable goals. See it through. Stay committed to it. Don’t lose sight of your dream. Make sure that you write your absolute best stuff every time. Post consistently on the same day(s) every week. Wake up every morning at the same time and write for an hour or two. Create a religion out of it.

If you are asking your readers to commit to you by reading your blog each day than you need to commit to them and yourself. Being committed means giving your best. Not missing a post. Even when you don’t know what to say. Even when it gets tough. And when it does get tough (which it will), look to others for inspiration.

Step 8: Look to others for inspiration

You aren’t the only one that has been here. Struggling to find an audience. Wishing a post would catch on. Disappointed by the numbers. Every blogger goes through this and the best ones are the ones that make it out alive. Stronger than how they went in. Read their stories. Find solace in their struggles. You are not alone.

Chris Brogan wrote a post not too long ago about how it took him eight years to get his first 100 subscribers. If you were to ask him, I’m sure he felt like giving up a bunch of times throughout those years, but he didn’t. And that seemed to have worked out pretty good for him. It’s inspiring. And there are plenty of stories out there just like his. Make sure that yours is one of them some day.

Still frustrated?

After all that, if you are still frustrated, there is only one thing left to do about it. No, not quit. Write. Write about how frustrated you are. Maybe it’s a post. Maybe a private journal entry. Maybe a comment below on this post. Whatever it is. Leverage your ability to write about it. Get it out of your system. You will feel better and then you can get back to doing what you do best.

Marc Ensign is not a Guru, Jedi, Rock Star or a Ninja. He’s just a guy that knows an awful lot about a bunch of stuff and likes to write about it on his blogs MarcEnsign.com and NotAnotherSEOBlog.com. His stuff is good. It’s different. It’ll make you think (in a good way). You should check it out. You never know, you might learn something. If not, it’s a great way to kill a couple of minutes.

Kickstart Your Stalled Blog Content, Part 1: Six Steps to a Fresh Post

Just starting a blog? Longing to revive an old, forgotten blog? Or just feeling guilty because you’ve let your blog languish without a post for a little too long?

Typing a post

Image courtesy stock.xchng user tikideputy

If your blog’s fallen behind your ideal post frequency, you’re in luck. Today, I’m going to give you a six-step plan for kickstarting stalled blog content. The work we’ll do today takes just 40 minutes in total, but you can split it up in to five- and ten-minute blocks if that’s all you can fit in.

Then, over the coming week, I’ll check back in with you periodically to see how you’re going—and provide some more tips for staying on track along the way. Are you ready to kickstart your content? Let’s go!

1. Take stock: readers, niche and blog: 10 minutes

First up, let’s take stock of what’s going on on your blog, in your niche, and with your readers. A good way to do this is to start by looking at the leading sites in your niche—not just blogs, but all sites and other media (press, for example) that your target audience might use.

Look closely at:

  • current news, events and trends
  • what readers are linking and sharing
  • what readers are worried or concerned by
  • where your niche seems to be headed in the short- to medium-term.

Do this now, and in ten or fifteen minutes’ time, you should have a pretty clear picture of what’s happening in your niche—an essential step if you’re reviving a blog you’ve left to languish for a while.

Next, visit your own blog. What topics have you covered most recently (even if that was a while ago)? Where does your blog sit relative to the competition, and to readers’ interests?

Hopefully, this review will give you a clear idea of some gaps in niche coverage that you can fill on your blog. It might also spark your ideas or opinions on topics that are important to your niche and audience right now. We’re off to a good start!

2. Think of three questions readers are asking: 5 minutes

After step 1, you’ll probably be fairly clear about the kinds of things readers are trying to learn or get information on.

Take a minute to write down three questions they’re asking. You might like to write them as if they’re questions you’re tying into Google or some other search tool, or you might just narrow down to fairly specific topics.

These questions don’t have to be actual questions you’re seeing readers ask in blog comments. They might be suggested through the interactions your audience is having on social media, or questions other leaders in your niche seem to be asking, and which are getting some attention from readers.

What you’re really looking for here are audience needs that aren’t being fully met by the content that’s available in your niche right now.

3. Write answers to those questions: 5 minutes

You’ve got a list of three questions; now answer each one in a sentence or two.

In those answers, make sure you’re 100% clear on the meaning of what you’ve written (it’s all too easy to jot down a one-sentence answer and find out later that it was full of holes!), and that you know why you answered the way you did.

Being able to rationalise your points of view will be essential when it comes to writing your next post!

4. Choose one Q&A to expand on: 10 minutes

Hopefully, you’ll find at least one of the questions you’ve identified really interesting. Pick that one, and note down a bit more about it.

You might get into the reader question in a bit more detail, or jot down the logical components of your answer—perhaps just in bullet points or using keywords.

The object here is just to get clear about the nature of the question, and the key elements of your answer. You might also have a think about some of the content you’ve seen on the topic online (if you have seen any) and identify what’s missing from that content. Should you cover those points in your post? Where would they fit?

You might notice now that you’ve got a brief outline for a post. You have a topic, a question for the post, and an answer split into a number of elements. Not bad for a half-hour’s work!

5. Write down what’s different about this advice: 5 minutes

You might be tempted to skip this step. Don’t.

Here’s where you clarify for yourself what your post will provide that no other content on the topic does.

This isn’t just an informational question—though of course knowing what advice or detail your post will offer uniquely is important. But let’s not overlook what you bring to the equation as well.

Perhaps your post will hinge on your own personal experience of the topic, and will provide unique insight from that experience.

Perhaps the approach will be different—maybe all the coverage so far has come from one side of the industry, or of a debate. Perhaps you’re going to provide another perspective from a completely different viewpoint.

Or maybe you’ll use a different format from the rest—one that makes the issues more approachable and digestible, and helps readers understand the topic more easily.

6. Schedule writing time, editing time, and a publication date: 5 minutes

This is the last step for today! You’ve just created a plan for a unique piece of content that responds directly, and uniquely to readers’ needs.

All you need now is the time to write it.

Check your schedule and set aside three blocks of time:

  1. 40 minutes for writing
  2. 30 minutes for editing, on a different day
  3. a publication date.

Commit to these dates and times—make them non-negotiable. Tell us when they fall in the comments, if you like. What I’d love is if you could fit them into the next week, because I’m planning to check back in with you on Tuesday and Friday to see how you’re going.

On those days I’ll be providing tips to help you keep your content kickstart on track, so it’ll be great if you can work along with us. If not, that’s fine—I’d still love to hear when you’re planning your writing, editing and publication in the comments.

Don’t forget to check back on Tuesday, when I’ll reveal some of the tricks I use to blog when I have no time in my schedule. Hopefully, they’ll put you in good stead for keeping the content rolling on your blog long after you’ve kickstarted it back into action. See you then!