If part of your job is to write on a regular basis, there will come a time when you just go blank. Or, you will have so much to do that you just can’t get your brain to write the way you want it to. And, sometimes even coming up with an idea is extremely difficult. There often comes a time when you think that you really have nothing left to write about, but you are paid to write so you have to. <- Don’t let these things make you panic though.
Since I have been doing this writing deal for a while, I have dealt with all the issues mentioned above. Over the past couple of years I have come with a few things that help me get articles done on time [most of the time, but not always :)]. I hope a few of them might help you out.
Understanding My Limitations
People give me ideas all the time. I used to take these ideas and write the articles, but the truth is I don’t write well this way. I think it is because I am not inspired in any way and because of this the article takes me 5-10 times longer than a regular article does.
An idea either pops and works for me or it doesn’t. For me to write I have to have the right amount of knowledge in my own brain to make the article happen. I know my limitations and I know what I should and shouldn’t be writing. I can get inspired by ideas, but I have learned when to let an idea go and/or when to adapt it.
Understanding your own limitations as a writer is really important. Knowing when you can’t succeed and walking away is important too.
On the Go Notes
Often I will be in the car, watching TV or even be at the store and I suddenly get an idea for an article. I instantly grab my iPhone and start jotting the idea down. I also try to immediately think of 3-4 key points I would like to cover in the article and bullet those.
The cool thing is that this ‘strategy’ almost creates a brainstorming session in my head and I may need to stop a few more times and jot down more notes. Typically if I have a title, 3-5 points to cover, and some other notes, I can come back a week later and have enough to easily write an article.
These ‘on the go notes’ are a lifesaver when I can’t think of what to write. It is almost like a backup database of ideas that work for me.
Tip: Sometimes I may have an idea or even a possible title when I am sitting in front of my computer, but I just can’t get inspired enough to write. If I come up with 3-4 points to cover, I write them right under the title (did it for this article). When I do this I can complete an article about 95% of time with no problem, typically in less than an hour.
A Writing Only Computer
I have a 27-inch Mac for work that I absolutely love, but I don’t write any articles on it. If I am going to write I pull out my 13-inch Macbook Pro and go sit somewhere else to write. I have a separate computer just for writing. Some people think that this is crazy, but I have found I am more efficient this way. Here are some reasons why this works for me:
- A 13 inch screen allows me to focus completely on the writing itself. I am not looking at other things popping up on the screen like I do on the larger screen. I don’t have extra space to distract me. It is me and the words and that is it.
- I can take my laptop and get really comfortable anywhere and this helps me focus and write. Sometimes sitting on the couch with a quilt and a cat on either side of me makes writing so much easier and faster.
- There are times I need to leave my current environment. I work out of my house and I have it all set up to work really well for me, but there are times when I just have to leave to complete an article. I need a laptop for that.
- With my laptop it is just the machine and me. Where ever I go to write I don’t have anything extra sitting around – things on the desk like pens, papers, electronics…stuff! These things can be a distraction for me.
I will be honest and say that in the past couple of years it has been brought to my attention that my children got their ADD from me. I was never given a diagnosis in the early years. They say my ‘perfectionism’ pushed me to find solutions and I adapted and made things work for me. This brings me back to the first point I made, even before I knew about the ADD I understand my limitations. I found a way to make things work for me and I think every writer needs to do this for themselves.
Scanning What is Out There
So I understand my limitations and I have a computer to write on, but what if I don’t have any back up notes? What if there really is nothing to write about? Well, I start reading and scanning. I read recent articles of interest to see if I find any inspirations.
Other times I scan social networks, bookmarking sites and websites. All I need is one idea to build off of. Often I will find something I completely disagree with, something that was incorrect or something that could be expanded on. These ideas help me, but the goal is to always create something different and unique.
Three good websites for ideation:
– > I don’t scan things to get ideas to replicate. I scan to find any idea that might inspire me.
Showers, Floods of Ideas
For years I thought I was some odd ball that would get in the shower and suddenly be ‘flooded’ with ideas. I have actually tweeted about this often over the years. Well, it ends up that there are scientific reasons why I end up having so many ideas in the shower (this article being one of them). I won’t go into them in this article because you can read about them here. The main point I want to make is that if you need an idea to write about a shower can often help.
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Remember when I said I took on-the-go notes? Well, I have to pause a shower often to write down ideas for later and if I don’t I will often forget it because I have so many other ideas that are rushing into my head. Obviously, be careful picking up your phone in the shower, using a real note pad is often a better idea 🙂
Writing is Not Easy…
…and writing for the long-term is not easy. If your job is to continually write you have to come up with strategies that support your creativity and your efficiency. Don’t feel bad about investing in computers or anything else that helps you get the job done well (plus they are tax deductions). Find what works for you, keep notes on your thoughts (because really the random ones are often the best ones), know your limitations and take showers 🙂