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How to Change the World … from Your Desk

This guest post is by Nate St. Pierre.

There’s too much of the same out there. A hundred million blogs, most of them saying the same thing: “I’m boring.”

Yours should be better.

Your blog is a tool to break through the established structure of this world, a way to clear the existing landscape of monotony to make way for creativity and newness of thought. Your blog is a wrecking ball, and you should use it as such.

When a wrecking ball wakes up in the morning and goes to work, it’s not thinking about the number of links in its chain, the color of the paint on the cab, or how many hours there are until lunch. It just gets out there and starts swinging. It knocks into things. That’s its job.

Just for today, stop worrying about how many subscribers you have, how you’re using SEO, the conversion rate of your sales funnel, and your website stats. Just for today, sit down and write something amazing.

And guess what? You don’t have to worry about whether or not it’s the right fit for your audience if you create something that the world will love . . . and more importantly, something that you will love. If you can do that consistently, your perfect audience will find you, and the rest will fall into place.

I did this last month on my own little blog, something just to entertain myself because I was bored with all the same tired old articles shuffling across my screen. I told the world that Abraham Lincoln invented Facebook, and the world believed it for a day. I did it because I wanted to write something interesting and have some fun, and it turned out to be the biggest thing I’ve ever written.

Whether you agree with the concept of pranks or not, the point is that this article got out into the world and changed things. In this case, it made journalists think twice about the quality of the stories they write (or rather, share).

Your work should challenge the status quo and make people think. But that doesn’t mean you have to be controversial. It just means you have to be so good that the world can’t ignore you. And you can only be that good when you’re writing for yourself and the things you believe in.

The longer I write, the more I realize that if I’m not putting out stuff that I’m proud of, each and every time, I’m missing the point. I’m not going to hit it out of the park every time. None of us are. But we need to try, and even if we fail, at least we can be honestly proud of the attempt.

We all have the ability to use our platforms to help shape the environment around us. Wherever I am, when I sit down to write, I say to myself, “I can change the world from this desk.”

I have done so. And you can, too.

Nate St. Pierre is a web marketing consultant with a background in web-based philanthropy. His goal is to build projects that change the world. You can follow him on Twitter at @NateStPierre.

Quora: the Quality Solution to Blogger’s Block

This guest post is by Jeremy Brown of Varoonix.

Have you been using Quora as a tool to power your blogging efforts? No? You’re missing a boatload of content ideas.

In this post, we’ll discuss why you need to be using Quora as a blogger, and look at an example that shows the usefulness of Quora.

Are you ready to tap into a never-ending stream of content ideas? Awesome, here we go!

Why you need to use Quora

In case you’re not familiar with Quora, it’s a platform on which users can ask questions about any topic that’s on their mind.

For example, a blogger might ask a question like, What’s the best WordPress tool that optimizes SEO for a blog post?

Users who see your question can then answer it. This is where the social element comes into play. It’s not uncommon to see some great debates going on at Quora.

It’s important to mention that Quora is free and you can sign up using either your Twitter or Facebook account, or through the standard signup form.

So now that you have a basic understanding of what it’s all about, but why do you need to be using it? Well, most blogs have at least one of these three aims (some blogs hit all three effortlessly):

  1. to educate
  2. to inspire
  3. to entertain.

The majority of blogs aim to hit the first point: they seek to educate readers. Why? So they can build authority and trust.

An important part of educating people is listening to their pain points and crafting content that alleviates that pain. For example, if I run a fishing blog and notice people talking about how much of a pain it is when their lures get snagged on weeds, I can create a post that talks about the top ten weedless lures.

Quora allows you to see exactly what people are looking for in question form. Then it’s up to you to give it to them. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

Side note: other tools are out there for bloggers to listen in, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn groups, Yahoo answers. The list goes on. It’s time for you to start using them proactively.

But now, let’s see how you can use Quora to get content ideas for your blog.

Quora in action

Let’s say my niche blog covers freshwater fishing. I cover a range of topics using how-to and list formats, but I’ve hit blogger’s block. For the life of me I can’t seem to come up with anything fresh (no pun intended).

I don’t want to create content just for the sake of creating something. I want to craft something that will alleviate someone’s pain point.

Whatever shall I do?!

Quora to the rescue! First, I type “fishing lures for bass” into Quora’s search bar to see what questions people are asking, since I cover the topic:

Quora search

And the results pop up:

Quora results

Right off the bat, I have a spark for some new blog posts. For example, I can take these questions:

  • What is the best month for bass fishing in Florida?
  • What temperature range is best for largemouth bass fishing?
  • What is the best size hooks to use when worm fishing for largemouth bass?

And I can turn those ideas into these blog post headlines:

  • Want to catch more bass? Fish during this month
  • Why I fish in freezing water and catch more Bass
  • Worm Fishing for Bass 101: The Best Hooks, Weights, and Sizes

Get the idea?

The general rule of thumb is, if someone has a question, most likely someone else has the exact same problem. You’ve heard that before right? So it’s worth answering questions!

Here’s the best part: you can fuse Quora and your SEO strategy together to form a pretty efficient way of figuring out people’s pain points.

The result? Some killer blog posts that actually help people.

Now you have an understanding of Quora and how it can be weaved into your blogging strategy. All that’s left is for you to go and use it!

Now it’s your turn

Just like most digital platforms, Quora is a tool. What other tools have you used to find out people’s pain points to create new blog posts? Share your favorites with us in the comments.

Jeremy Brown is a self-proclaimed social media dissector and is the creator of the video game review site, Varoonix. Throughout his digital life, he’s been a blog starting, social media junkie. He may or may not need to go to a BA meeting (Blogaholic Anonymous). Connect with him on Twitter: @socialjeremy

Set Up Social Media to Give You Great Post Ideas

This guest post is by Douglas Lim of The 10 Habits of Highly Effective Social Media Marketing People.

Finding articles and ideas for blog posts is an important skill for bloggers to master—and one that can now be leveraged through the power of social media.

High-quality content is tweeted, liked, bookmarked, and shared around. That’s why social media is fantastic for sourcing great content: we know even before we look at it that it’s probably of high quality, since people are sharing it with their friends and followers.

Spend just five minutes setting up your networks of choice to send you great content, and you’ll have no trouble translating and leveraging that inspiration to create your own blog post ideas.

Twitter

One of the nice features of Twitter is that it gives us the ability to create Lists of Twitter accounts.

For example, you can create a List, call it whatever you want, and then add to it all the Twitter accounts that tweet about a particular topic. It could be thought leaders in your field, or it may list brands that regularly write about your topic.

When you load that List in Twitter, you’ll only see tweets from thosepeople—it’s a perfectly curated suite of informationon your topic. Even better, Twitter allows you to subscribe to other people’s Lists. So you can get the benefits of someone else’s work—look especially to the Lists of thought leaders in your field, who know other people who provide great information.

Twitter lists

To create a List, simply go to your Twitter homepage and click on the head-shot icon as in the image below. To complete your List, follow the prompts as directed.


Facebook

Facebook is another fantastic social network for sourcing great content. Similar to Twitter, you can create an Interest list and include Fan pages in it. Then, you can view that list and only see page updates from Fan pages you’ve included.

Many brands are now on Facebook, so you can source some great information. To create an Interest list, go to your Facebook home page, and on the bottom-left side click on Add interests, as in the screenshot below.

Add interests on Facebook

Next, click on Create List and follow the steps to create your curated list.

Facebook list

Google+

Google+ also allows you to curate social content through its Circles. On Google+ you can create a Circle (of friends, colleagues, thought leaders, etc.), adding Google+ profiles and brand pages to that circle. Then, when you need inspiration for a post, go to the Google+ home screen, and choose only to view a certain Circle by selecting that Circle’s tab.

Google+ circles

LinkedIn

This is one of my favourite places to hang out and access great content. If you navigate to your LinkedIn home page, you can click on “See all Top Headlines for You” as in the screen shot below.

LinkedIn headlines

Here, you can customize your news according to what you want to read. You can follow industries such as Accounting or Entertainment, or sources such as CNN. LinkedIn will also send you email containing content from these various sources.

The great thing about these top news stories is that they are also tailored to you on the basis of what your connections, industry peers, and the wider professional audience are reading and sharing on LinkedIn. I have found that, with LinkedIn, you get a different spin on the content that’s shared, because most of your connections on LinkedIn will be professionals. This means you can find some real gems that you would not normally have found through Twitter and Facebook, which tend to have broader market appeal. I highly recommend LinkedIn.

Pinterest

At the time of writing, Pinterest doesn’t offer filtering of boards. But what you can do is set up a separate account, search for your blog’s topic, and subscribe to their boards through that account. Then you can view all their pins in a focused way.

Paper.li

This is a really fun way of tying all of the networks we’ve just talked about together. Paper.li is great for pulling in content from Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, as well as YouTube and your RSS feeds. Paper.li displays all your selected content in a newspaper-style format; you can also find other people’s papers and subscribe to them.

Curating inspiration

There’s lots of great content that’s constantly being shared on each of the different social media channels. This information will hopefully assist you with sourcing and organising this information so you can curate and share the most relevant content with your followers—and get great inspiration for posts on your blog. Best of all, it’ll only take you a few minutes to set up!

If you have any suggestions or other great curating tips and ideas, do share them below in the comments section.

Douglas Lim is a social media marketing and search engine optimization evangelist. He is also passionate about business and owns his own web design company servicing thousands of clients. Douglas regularly writes about these topics on his blog at The 10 Habits of Highly Effective Social Media Marketing People. Alternatively you can find him living on Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn or Facebook.

What to Do When Your Posts Aren’t as Good as they Seem in Your Mind

This guest post is by Amit Sodha of Unlimited Choice.

Have you ever had an idea, a thought, or a burst of inspiration that, while it was still in your mind, sounded amazing? But, when you tried to articulate it on screen or paper, or in speech, it didn’t sound nearly so good?

I’ve found that effectively conveying my ideas is not only critical for my blog, but also for writing comedy and creating links on my radio show. One of the biggest challenges for me has been to get the ideas out of my head sounding just as good as they did whilst they were still cocooned in my grey matter.

The question, then, is how do you become less like Frederick Spindal (Who? Exactly!) and more like Aaron Sorkin (we love you Aaron!)?

It’s easier said than done, but if you look around at most successful bloggers, writers, comedians, and even successful business people, you will find that they’ve mastered this skill, coupled it with passion, and used those ingredients to excel them to the top of their field.

When your written expression doesn’t emerge as clearly as the initial idea, it can be incredibly frustrating and disheartening but, if you’re ready to take some steps with me right now, I can help you put an end to those blocks.

The importance of instant action

Have you ever seen a stand-up comedian performing on stage? They all have scripted material that they’ve meticulously rehearsed and polished. Most comedians will break their sets and engage with their audience; ask them questions, and very often they come out with hilarious responses to the answers. Those parts weren’t scripted … so where did they come from?

They vocalised their thoughts almost instantly. They didn’t question whether what they were about to say was funny or not, they didn’t worry about what people were going to think, they just reacted.

That’s what your finished article should be. It should almost be a reaction to an idea. Speed is critical. If the idea isn’t acted on instantly, or it becomes tainted with any kind of derogatory self-talk, then it will never come out with the purity with which it was conceived. Editing and polishing only come later, once the core idea has been laid out.

I also remember hearing a DVD commentary by Joss Whedon, who recently co-wrote and directed the box office smash, Avengers Assemble. He said that when he gets an idea, he uses it instantly and rarely does he deviate from the initial concept.

Any hesitance, and a million-dollar idea may become shelved permanently. Thoughts like, “What if people don’t like what I’m about to say; what if it’s wrong, what if people don’t agree with me?” stop our natural flow of brilliant material.

Over-thinking and perfectionism are two of the biggest culprits in this matter. The good news is there are two wonderful techniques you can employ as a writer (skills transferable in other fields also such as comedy and speaking) which will help you to present the ideas you had as equally clear on paper.

Here are two wonderful techniques that have helped me immensely, which you can utilise to become a more articulate, clear writer.

Technique 1. Un-edited thinking

The first of the two methods is a technique I call un-edited thinking, or naked dictation. I think some people also refer to it as “free-writing.”

The principle is relatively simple. Take a dictation of all the thoughts going on in your head right now. No matter what they are, write everything down. Imagine you’re a secretary and your mind is the boss telling you what to write. Go on, do it. Do this on a regular basis.

The purpose of this exercise is to ignore the blocks you might normally put in place. If you override them, and allow your thoughts to flow, your ideas will also come out—and be expressed—more naturally.

The more you practise this, the easier it becomes to capture the fresh ideas in the way they sounded in your head. Why? Because you’re ignoring all the things you may have done in the past to taint them.

Technique 2. The 30-minute deadline

The second technique is a pressure technique using a timer. My preferred method is to use a countdown timer on my phone. I set it for 30 minutes and make it a goal to complete the blog post I had in mind within that time.

I enforce it as a strict rule. Rarely do I complete the editing within the 30-minute limit. But this method puts the pressure on, ever so slightly, and enough that I negate blocks, and get the main essence of the piece completed.

When you do this, you’ll find that you spend less time faffing around re-reading, or worrying about perfecting it, and be more focussed on getting it done. It’s not about rushing to complete the finished product; it’s about rushing to get the idea out as as quickly and clearly as possible.

Practising expression

Practise both and combine these techniques to produce a more refined piece of writing. Make these exercises part of your daily writing routine and you’ll find that your finished article will be more pure and succinct.

Above all, remind yourself regularly that not every piece will be a masterpiece. Some ideas will be awesome, and some will be mediocre, but your audience will decide that. That’s not your responsibility. It’s your responsibility as the writer to put your work out there, to welcome critique, and most importantly, to write those ideas so they sound as good as they did in your head.

Amit Sodha has been blogging for over 6 years, is a life coach, stand-up comedian, and a radio presenter. To find out more you can connect with him on twitter.

The Only Blog Post Idea List You’ll Ever Need

This guest post is by Stephen Pepper of Youth Workin’ It.

There are so many articles out there on how you can come up with new blog post ideas, but do any of the suggestions actually work?

We started our youth work blog in September 2011 and have posted six days a week ever since, so we’ve had to come up with over 200 posts related to youth work so far. Needless to say, it’s been tricky coming up with this many ideas.

I’ve read all kinds of different suggestions on how to overcome blogger’s block, but each person’s experience is different. Here are 20 techniques we’ve used to help counter blogger’s block.

  1. Embarrassing stories: Think back to moments of your life when you were really embarrassed. Use that situation to craft a post relating to your niche—there’s a good chance it’ll entertain readers (as did our post on how being asked to rate the first time with your wife out of 10 on a BBC gameshow watched by millions can relate to youth work).
  2. Choose subjects for each day of the week: This has probably been my single most helpful way of deciding what to write. Each day from Monday to Saturday has its own category—Mondays are for posts on youth work activities, Tuesdays are youth work Q&A, Wednesdays are program administration, and so on. This means our focus can be more defined each day, rather than having to come up with a random topic every time we write. You can do this even if you only blog once a week—the first week of the month could always be based on one subject, the second week on another, and so on.
  3. Use special days as inspiration: Use special days and public holidays as post idea prompts. For example, we have a Spotlight on Youth series where we focus on a certain young person based on certain public holidays. For example, we wrote about the former child soldier Ishmael Beah on Veteran’s Day. On National Pirate Day, write your post in Pirate language. National Pancake Day? Work your post around that.
  4. Cell posts: Can you divide your posts into two, like a cell divides? You might start writing a post and realize that you’re starting to talk about two different things. For example, we recently started wrote a series about parents’ involvement in your youth work. When working on a post about unsupportive parents, we realized there were actually two types of unsupportive parents—one who’s unsupportive of their child, and one who’s unsupportive of the work you’re doing with their child. These are completely different issues, so we were able to get two days’ worth of posts out of one original idea.
  5. Change of scenery: Changing your location can have a big impact on your creativity. We’d started getting stale with our idea creation recently, so we went and sat on Virginia Beach for an hour to come up with future topics. After an hour, we had over 100 new blog posts ideas.
  6. Write for sub-niches: Youth work has a number of specialized areas—urban, rural, faith-based, LGBT, gangs, foster care, mental health, sexual health, young offenders, etc. There’s a good chance that whatever niche you’re in has many similar sub-niches. Make a list and use it to inspire further ideas.
  7. Use Google Analytics: Take a look at the keyword searches that are bringing people to your site, as this will give you a great idea of what information people are looking for. You may think that the fact that they’ve arrived at your site means you’ve already written about what they’re searching for, but that’s not always the case. We did a series on preparing young people for job interviews (including what they should wear), but we’ve had many people arrive at that post having searched for what youth workers should wear to job interviews. It’s a completely different topic, but we can now create a number of posts about youth worker interviews.
  8. Likes: What do you love in your niche? Why are you blogging about it? What was your favorite moment relating to your niche? These questions can all be turned into posts for your blog.
  9. Dislikes: Similarly, what do you hate about your niche? What practices wind you up? Let these frustrations become passionate posts.
  10. Consider opposites: By looking at an issue from opposite directions, you can get two new blog post ideas. For example, we recently gave advice on how to come up with good youth group names, but also wrote a subsequent post on how to avoid a lame youth group name.
  11. Be inspired by social media: On Twitter, are there any hashtags specific to your niche? Keep an eye on these as they’ll give you a good idea of questions people may want answered. On Facebook, are people leaving comments on your page that you could address in a blog post?
  12. Solicit guest posts: Try to build up a bank of guest post submissions from other bloggers. These can then be used when you’re feeling dry of ideas.
  13. Search research: Use Google’s keyword tool to discover what people are looking for, as opposed to what you think they’re looking for. This is also where your sub-niches can also come into play. For us, instead of searching for “youth work,” researching a sub-niche like “youth retreat” uncovered a number of keyword searches like “youth retreat themes,” “youth retreat ideas,” “youth retreat games,” etc.
  14. Compilations of your own posts: Introduce your readers to some of your most popular posts by making a compilation list. If you’ve covered a number of sub-niches, you could even have a series of compilations based on each of those sub-niches.
  15. Compilations of other bloggers’ posts: If you want to become an authority in your niche, you’ll need to read other blogs relating to the same niche. Show them some love by creating a compilation of the best posts you’ve read recently and linking to them.
  16. Take training … and share it: Have you had specific training relating to your niche? My wife (the better half of Youth Workin’ It) has an MA in youth work and community development. She’s therefore able to share her learning from her Master’s to youth workers who don’t have that qualification.
  17. Consider current affairs: Are there any popular news stories not directly related to your niche that you could write about by giving your niche’s take? For example, after watching the Stop Kony video, we provided a youth work session plan idea based on the Stop Kony campaign, as well as an opinion piece on whether youth groups should support the campaign.
  18. Use other people’s ideas: Don’t plagiarize other people’s blog posts. Yet there’s nothing wrong with taking their idea and improving on it, or offering a different opinion.
  19. Explain jargon: Are there phrases in your niche that wouldn’t make sense to an outsider—or even an insider? Write a series of posts explaining words or phrases that would be jargon for most of the population.
  20. Run competitions: Are you selling ebooks or any other resources? Hold a competition where readers get the opportunity to win a copy of one of your books. This is not only an easy post idea, but also provides another opportunity to promote your resources.

There are 20 items in this list. What tips can you add to build on these? We’d love to hear them in the comments!

Stephen Pepper is insurance administrator by day, youth worker & blogger by night. He and his wife run Youth Workin’ It, which includes a youth work blog and have started producing their own youth work resources to help youth workers worldwide.

3 Quick Tips to Get Your Next Post Out On Time

This guest post is by Tor Constantino of Thedailyretort.com.

The old cliché, “time is money” is particularly true for any professional writer—especially when you’re on deadline. The consequences of missing deadlines are lost money, work, and credibility.

As a former journalist (a.k.a hourly deadline writer) for more than a decade, I know that deadline writing is a skill that can be enhanced. Here are three unconventional tips I learned from the newsroom, which might just help you meet your next post deadline.

1. Treat every writing assignment as a project

Most of my journalism career was as a radio news anchor and TV reporter in Rochester, NY—the home city of five different Fortune 500 companies.

Most of the news in that market had a business focus, and I enrolled in business courses to help sharpen those skills. The course that most improved my ability to write to deadline was not a writing course at all—it was a Project Management class.

Every writing assignment should be viewed as a project with actionable tasks, milestones, resource needs, time management requirements, and a final deadline.

While each writing project plan will vary based on its specific needs, they all have some common steps to help organize your writing.

Steps such as developing timelines, identifying content experts, listing story dependencies, and task prioritization dramatically helped me become a more disciplined and deadline-driven writer.

2. Create an interview log

Eventually, every writer talks to another person or expert to gain information regarding a writing project. A digital recorder is a very useful time-saving tool in this regard.

The time-saving trick occurs when you jot down the time code, listed on the device’s display, each time your expert gives a great answer. That written interview log will save tons of time as you select quotes for the writing project.

Another tip is that, since every state has different wiretapping and recording laws, it’s useful to have your expert acknowledge the fact they’re being recorded on the actual recording itself before you start asking questions.

Also, when you’re up against a deadline, it’s useful to capture your own thoughts on the recorder since the average person can talk nearly three times as fast as they can type. Dictation while driving or standing in line helps transform “dead time” into “deadline-driven” time. You can then transcribe your recorded thoughts later, and create that post much more quickly.

3. Enhance your ability to focus

Your ability to focus is the single most important aspect of writing to deadline.

Every newsroom I’ve every worked in has a large bank of Bearcat-type scanners monitoring hundreds of specialized frequencies for police, fire, ambulance and rescue activity to track breaking-news emergencies. On top of that is the auditory barrage from the block of elevated TV screens to keep an eye on competing news outlets. Plus, there’s the obligatory newsroom noise from 20-30 reporters, editors and producers clattering on keyboards or chattering on phones working toward their respective deadlines.

The ability to focus and write meaningful content in that cacophony was a necessary skill for deadline writing that extends beyond the newsroom.

Even if you never set foot in a newsroom, you can practice your ability to focus.

Start by turning up the volume on your television to a distracting decibel, as well as a nearby radio, while someone is simultaneously vacuuming the living room. Do it, really.

Then give yourself 30 minutes or so—in the midst of that noise—to write a blog post that you fully intend to use, or some other writing project you’re working on.

If you do this focus-challenging exercise once a week your ability to focus, think, and write under extreme circumstances will improve—as will your ability to write to deadline.

Bottom-line: deadline

These deadline-driven tactics can result in real time-saving benefits for virtually any writing project or writing ability.

If you practice them, they could be the difference between making or missing your next deadline‚ and when it comes to blogging deadlines, the time and money you save is most often your own.

Tor Constantino is a former journalist, bestselling author and current PR guy from Washington, DC with 23+ years experience as a professional writer. He writes regularly at his blog, http://www.thedailyretort.com. You can connect with him on Twitter and on Facebook

The Simplest Way to Write a Unique First Draft

This guest post is by Stefanie Flaxman of Revision Fairy

Do you have 45 minutes to work on your blog?

If so, I can show you how to write the first draft of your next blog post.

First drafts are messy. This blog post originated from five unrelated words on five separate lines, double-spaced, in a Microsoft Word document. That might not sound like a draft, but without that foundation I would have never created the article that you’re currently reading.

Each lonely word just needed friends to complete my thoughts.

Drafts help you express information that can be crafted later. Writing isn’t a linear process—it’s normal to not know how the finished draft will look. Think of writing as constructing a building. You can’t build the structure in a day. You have to first acquire the proper machinery, excavate the land, install a supportive skeleton, etc.

If you don’t write because you think everything comes out wrong, or you can’t get enough done, that’s like saying building construction isn’t worth the effort because you won’t have a completed product by sundown.

You don’t have to perfectly communicate your intentions right away. That’s not necessarily how a great writer creates words that move you. Writing only becomes natural when you practice. To start, you can train yourself to work in short periods of time.

Here are four simple construction tools to help you write your first draft.

Set the timer

Press the start button on a timer set for 45 minutes. Once the clock is ticking, ignore everything but your draft.

I like this time frame because it takes a bit to get into a writing groove. When I give myself 45 minutes, I actually write for about 30 minutes.

Now, it’s time to ask yourself a few questions.

1. Who’s your reader?

Write down your ideal reader’s characteristics.

Is your reader busy? Does he need fast, short tips or detailed, lengthy research? What’s bothering him?

Once you answer this question, write every sentence of your blog post for that person. You may not put any part of your answer in your final draft, but when you clearly define your audience, you get a better sense of what you want to write and why you’re writing.

Frequently reference the answer to this question throughout the writing process. If your ideal reader would not understand certain information, rewrite or eliminate it.

2. What’s the point?

Write your main message in 25 words or less. You can extract a succinct headline from this statement.

Does your headline describe a specific topic? Does it contain appropriate keywords? What will the reader learn if she reads your post? You will need to spend time fine-tuning your headline during future writing sessions, but you should still begin with a precise focus.

Your headline doesn’t just grab a reader’s attention; it helps you summarize your blog post.

3. How can you help?

Write the information that the reader wants to know.

How does your content solve a problem? Don’t waste sentences alluding to answers to a reader’s questions. State them. You don’t have to use complete sentences with eloquent transitions yet, but your ideas should provide immense value.

Share details that support your blog post’s headline. Thoughtful responses to these three questions shape your intentions.

If you write broad answers, you’ll produce a generic blog post that is similar to writing on other websites.

But if you answer specifically, you’ll write the first draft of useful content that gets shared because there’s nothing else like it.

What’s your process for writing first drafts of posts? Is it anything like this? Share your secrets in the comments.

Stefanie Flaxman created Revision Fairy® Small Business Proofreading Services with your editing needs in mind. Follow @RevisionFairy to keep up with Stefanie’s philosophy for writing and editing your life.

A Legendary Copywriter’s Secret to an Unending Stream of Ideas

This guest post is by Josh Sarz of Sagoyism.com.

I’m in love with blogging.

If you’re like me, you marvel that you have your own website. It may not be huge for a lot of people who’ve been in the blogging biz for years, but it’s huge for me.

My first few months of blogging flew by so fast, it seemed like only yesterday when I started writing online.

My first blog was about everything under the sun. Tech, Social Media, Health, Entertainment and turtles were just a few of the topics my first blog covered. I was prolific. Writing two or three blog posts per day was normal for me. I had so much to talk about.

Then came the scourge that a lot of people call writer’s block. I started fearing the blank page. I couldn’t think of anything else to write about. Social Media? I’ve written about it a lot. Entertainment? It was getting really boring really fast. I ran out of ideas.

Sound familiar? I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only one who has experienced this before. Coming up to your blog, facing a blank page and wondering for hours on what to write about. I’m also sure that a lot of people will be experiencing this in the future.

That’s why I’ll be telling you about the secret I learned to getting an unending stream of knowledge and ideas. With this in your creative arsenal, you won’t even have to worry about what to write today, tomorrow and the day after that.

The secret is incubation

This isn’t my idea, by the way. I read about it in a book by legendary copywriter Joseph Sugarman. If you don’t know him, then you should. I’ve learned a massive amount of knowledge from his book. I know you will as well.

Joe talked about how he gets creative ideas for his copy. Want to know one of his secrets? He got off his butt and did something else.

“What’s this ‘incubation’ that you speak of?”, you might ask.

It’s the process of getting your mind out of your work, and giving it time to rest. To make it even more simple, it means you get out of you chair and do something else. Don’t even think about what to write for your blog.

“How am I supposed to know what to write if I don’t think about it?”

I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but it works. It really does. The logic behind it is that your mind is always at work. No matter what you do, whether you’re brewing your favorite coffee, or watching Disney’s Up, or even when you’re out partying, you’re brain is constantly absorbing everything that you see, hear, feel, taste and smell.

So don’t worry if you’re not burying your face in your computer. You’re still working. Trust me.

I’ll tell you the reason as to how this will work for you later. But first, let’s talk about the two kinds of knowledge.

  1. General knowledge: This is simply the basic kind of knowledge that you get from experiencing everything in your life. When you’re watching the Discovery Channel, or seeing how your mom cooked dinner back when you were a kid, or the time when you were learning how to draw your favorite superhero … all this would account to growing your general knowledge.
  2. Specific knowledge: This type of knowledge is what is also called ‘niche’ knowledge. This is the knowledge that you get from studying how to write great copy, or how to perform open-heart surgery, or the specific temperature that cooks the perfect fried chicken.

The difference between the two is: general knowledge comes as you experience the world and what it has to offer, while specific knowledge, on the other hand, is something you learn when you have to study or do a certain amount of research.

Have you guessed what kind of knowledge the incubation process can give you?

The power of general knowledge

This is the backbone of your creativity. While specific knowledge will give you the info you need to be an expert on a topic, general knowledge gives you the ability to be flexible with just about anything.

This is also the driving force behind an unending stream of knowledge and ideas. Growing your experience with a variety of things outside your blog will add up to your creative arsenal.

Never again will you have to worry about what to write. Never again will you worry about how you want to portray your next big idea. Never again will you have to fear the blank page.

Now I’ll tell you how you can use your general knowledge to your advantage.

Putting it all together

We know how important taking time off from your blog is. We also talked about general knowledge, and what it can do for your creativity.

Now let’s put it all together and get those creative juices overflowing. This is another tactic that I’ve learned from Joseph Sugarman’s book. It’s not his idea this time, but it’s brilliant nonetheless.

We’re now going to apply what we’ve learned through our everyday experiences to think of unique ways to write your next post. If you think that you don’t have enough general knowledge to work with, think again.

You know more than you think you do. A lot more. So don’t worry.

The technique that I’m talking about is called Lateral Thinking. It’s a process of solving problems using indirect and creative means, usually with ideas that seem totally unrelated to the main topic.

Joe talked about how Edward de Bono’s device, the “Think Tank”, can help you with your creativity. You pick three random words out of a huge pile, and relate them to your topic.

Now let’s apply this to your blog post. This is where it gets interesting.

You have to write you next post while incorporating those three random words. What a challenge! And a fun one at that. This will force your brain to search your vault of general knowledge. You don’t have to be an expert at these random words, you just need to know how to tie them all in to your topic.

Why is it fun? What does it do to help with my blogging?

  • Your blog post won’t sound dry, so your readers will have a better experience reading your posts.
  • It’s going to attract another type of reader aside from the usual ones, growing your audience in the process.
  • The exercise trains your brain to be more creative, so you’ll get better and better every day, and won’t have to even worry about what to write about.
  • The entire post will generally sound better with a story. People love reading a story. It captures their attention, and if done right, would compel your readers to read your entire post. Not bad.

But wait, isn’t using three unrelated words a bit too had?

I admit, it’s a little shocking to do at first, but it gets easier in time. Don’t worry, because you don’t have to go “by the book” and use three words. You can choose to go use the Easy mode, and just pick out one unrelated word. As you get used to applying this technique when you’re brainstorming, you can move on to Normal mode (two or three words) and then finally to Hard mode.

I used the same technique to brainstorm a topic to write this guest post on Problogger. I only picked two random words (I chickened out of using three), which were “love” and “sleep.”

You don’t need to have your own Think Tank device to do this. Being the lazy guy that I am, I just searched on Google and found a site where I could generate up to eight random words.

Get those ideas flowing like crazy

It’s going to be so easy, I promise. And fun, too. You now know that in order to get an unlimited amount of ideas, all you have to do is stop working and do something else. Go watch some TV, read a book, train your dog how to sniff out firecrackers, go swimming, hang out with your family—do just about anything.

You’ve also learned how to apply lateral thinking when brainstorming ideas for your next blog post. I’ve given you a link to a page where you can get up to eight random words. You now know how to get creative and search the vault in your brain for ideas.

The best thing about this is: it’s totally free, and you can start doing it right this instant. So get out there and do something else. Forget about your blog for a while. When you come back, so fresh and revived, you’ll be ready to take on that blank page.

This is what I’ve learned to do, and it has helped me tons.  I hope it will help you tremendously, as well. But this is just one idea, and there are lots more out there. What do you do to battle the  blank page? Has it worked for you? What else can you add to this topic?

Josh Sarz is a freelance copywriter and the founder of Sagoyism.com where he talks about Copywriting and Content Marketing for the Digital Entrepreneur. Click through to grab the ‘Lowdown on Content Marketing‘ free report right now.

Overwhelmed? Put Some Boundaries on Your Blogging

This week we’ve been looking at some of the numerous issues that bloggers have to deal with on a daily basis—particularly those who are just starting out.

It’s little wonder that so many bloggers wind up their blogs so quickly after they start. It’s easy to run out of steam when you’re trying to work on so many challenges at once. Even experienced bloggers tend to focus upon certain aspects of blogging, to the detriment of others—I know I do.

Over the years, we’ve dealt with issues like blogger burnout, or “blogger’s malaise” several times, and looked at burnout in terms of specific issues, like social media.

The one thing I’ve found really helpful as my blog has grown, and required more and more (and more!) of my time, has been to put boundaries around what I do. I explained some of those boundaries in the post How to Be a Ruthless Blogger and Become More Productive and Focussed, so I won’t go over them again here.

What I do believe is that if you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the things your blog requires of you—all the things you “need” to do, a good place to start digging yourself out of that hole is to set some boundaries. Today. Right now.

You can’t do everything

Accepting that you can’t do everything is the first step toward overcoming that sense of being overwhelmed. The next is to realise that there is no “best” way to do anything in blogging. Don’t worry about what you “should” be doing, and instead look at where you’d like your blog to go in the short- to medium-term.

Then, of all the things you could do to work toward that goal, choose one or two to focus on today, and tomorrow, and perhaps for the week or month. If you keep at those tasks, and track the results you achieve over the week (or month), you’ll probably learn something that you can apply to improve those results next month.

Perhaps one of the tasks you choose to focus on won’t work well at all. That’s fine: if something doesn’t work after you’ve put in a decent effort over a reasonable period of time, cross it off your list and try something else. Forget about that tactic that didn’t work—at least for the moment. You may find that it’s something you come back to down the track. But if you’re feeling overwhelmed, cut your losses where you can, and focus on what works for you and your blog.

By doing this you’ll free up more time to dedicate yourself to particular tactics, and give them the energy they deserve. You’ll also be less likely to spread yourself and your efforts too thin.

Starting points for longer term solutions

While putting boundaries on what you need to do—and what you expect of yourself—today can help you move past those feelings of being overwhelmed right now, as you continue blogging you might find yourself facing other challenges around getting things done.

The Productivity Problem Solver that we put together to accompany our latest ebook, Blog Wise, was designed specifically to address those challenges. It has specific questions around motivation, making time, keeping track of ideas and goals, blogger’s block, and so on, and it provides solutions that our panel of 9 pro bloggers use themselves, to overcome those issues.

The thinking behind that tool is simply that I found that it’s good to have a repertoire of solutions to the most common types of blogging fatigue. If you have a grab-bag of solutions to blogger’s block, for example, you don’t have to waste time worrying about how you’ll solve that productivity problem: you can just reach into the bag and pull out a solution.

Whether or not you pick up a copy of the ebook, I definitely encourage you to develop your own repertoire of solutions to productivity problems, starting today, with solutions for feeling overwhelmed. If you have a trick you use to get past feelings of being bogged down by all you have to do on your blog, please add it in the comments, and help others in the same situation.