Since I started blogging over at Beyond the Rhetoric, I’ve written and published nearly 4,000 blog posts. Right here on John Chow dot Com? That number is right around 1,000. That doesn’t include the mountain of other content I’ve written on a variety of other websites over the course of freelance writing career. Remember when I used to write for John’s tech site back in the day?
Based on these numbers, you might assume that I’m constantly filled with a treasure trove of possible ideas across a broad spectrum of topics.
Well, let me let you in on a little secret. While I do try to maintain a list of potential blog post ideas, many of those ideas never see the light of day. Truth be told, some of the ideas just aren’t very good, so I choose not to explore them. As a result, and this may or may not surprise you, I’m just as prone to writer’s block as anyone else. There are few things more tyrannical than a blinking cursor on a blank page.
As you sit there struggling with blogger’s block, what can you do to get those creative juices flowing? How can you get fresh words to come pouring onto the page? Here are a few ideas to get you started.
1. Perform a Physical Activity
Let’s be frank. Blogging is a largely sedentary activity. You literally sit in front of the computer, possibly for hours at a stretch, and the only part of your body that’s actually moving are your fingers. You’ve got to get that heart pumping and blood flowing!
I’m not saying you need to get in a full-on workout or go run a marathon right this instant. But studies have shown that just a bit of mild physical activity can help boost creativity. Get up from your seat and do a bunch of jumping jacks. Jog up and down a flight of stairs. You’ll find that when you do, you’ll be just a bit more alert and the increased blood flow to your brain can be remarkably beneficial.
2. Be Productive in a Totally Different Way
In the world of neuroscience, there is this concept called the default mode network. Also known more simply as just the default network, this is a network of interconnected brain structures. We don’t need to dive down the deep rabbit hole of brain function, as that would be a whole other discussion.
The key takeaway for our purposes is that our brains are never completely inactive. Whenever you’re working on something consciously, something else is brewing around in the background. And that background activity has been linked to creative thinking and problem-solving.
Do something productive that has nothing (or little) to do with blogging. Fold some laundry. Sweep your floors. Take the dog for a walk. You just might be surprised when inspiration seemingly strikes out of nowhere.
3. Play with Something Physical
This is related to the previous point. You might even say it’s almost the same point, but considered from a slightly different direction. What I’ve found is that if I try to clear my head and “distract” myself with activity that involves looking at yet another screen — like playing video games or watching a movie — I don’t necessarily enter a state where blogging ideas come rushing into my head.
But the very act of “play” can be very useful in activating the more creative centers in our brain. Maybe you want to play around with one of those fidget toys. Maybe you want to build something with Lego or draw something in your sketchbook. These aren’t “productive” like in the previous point, but they’re creative exercises that could lead you down a more creative pathway.
4. Change Your Environment
When your working environment gets stale, so can your thinking. While it’s probably not the best idea to completely rearrange your home office every time the idea well comes up a little dry, you can make smaller alterations to introduce some novelty into the same tired routine. Something as simple as changing some of the default colors on your desktop can be a fresh change.
Better still, pack up that laptop and go work somewhere else entirely. This can be another room in your home, at a coworking space, or even the local park on a nice day. Depending on where you end up, the lack of an Internet connection can actually be beneficial, as it forces you to focus on the task at hand without distraction.
5. Just Write
I know. Easier said than done. But here’s the miraculous thing. We humans are built on inertia. The hardest part is getting started. Don’t worry about whether what you write is perfect (or even any good at all). Allow yourself to write freely and, if it turns out to be utter trash, that’s okay. Discard it. But just keep writing. Eventually, you’ll hit on something worth pursuing further.
And yes, there are some great online tools for coming up with ideas too. Realistically, the best way to overcome blogger’s block is through sheer will and experience. The more you write, the easier it’ll be to keep coming up with new ideas.