Sometimes as a writer, the well just runs dry.
When you first start putting together a blog, you may feel that you have enough ideas to last for years; that you’ll be able to crank out post after post without ever running out of steam.
Then, all of a sudden, reality sets in and you find yourself staring at a blank screen with absolutely nothing to write. How did you end up here, and more importantly, how will you get out?
Hitting a wall is completely normal in the writing process. Sometimes you just need a little push to get yourself back on track.
The key? An organized writing strategy.
Once you have a set of guidelines to follow, writing can become as simple as one, two, three. Here are my five steps to creating a blog post from absolutely nothing:
Find a Question
The best blog posts are those that answer a question. It’s a fairly safe assumption that if you have a blog, you have at least some amount of knowledge in the area that your blog centers around. Take a moment to think about some questions that may exist surrounding your “area”.
Whether it’s books, building, or bagels, it’s a guarantee that somewhere out there someone has questions about it. Some thoughts to keep in mind:
- Use Google and other search engines to find out what types of questions people are asking about your niche area
- Consider some questions you had when you first entered your field
- Don’t be afraid to pick a very specific question. Direct questions lead to direct answers
Once you’ve identified a question about your field you feel competent answering, you’re ready to move to step two:
Pick a Format
Now that you have your question, you need to decide what format best suits your answer. For myself, I tend to lean towards lists, or step-by-step guides (like this one!)
Choosing the right format depends mostly on the question you choose. Suppose your question is: “What are some great places to visit in Europe”? To answer this question, you may decide to go with a list format, breaking your post up with six or seven subheadings each detailing a different European vacation destination.
On the other hand, suppose your question is: “Should bloggers use Macs or HPs?” This question should probably be answered by a post with two major sections, one detailing the pros and cons of Macs, and the other section the pros and cons of HPs.
Whichever format you choose, make sure it is set up in such a way as to answer your source question as completely and efficiently as possible.
Now that you have your format, you’re ready for step three:
Choose Your Subheadings
Nearly all posts (including this one) employ headings or subheadings to break up the article into “information blocks” that are easier for readers to digest than a single block of unbroken content. Identifying your subheadings ahead of time will not only help your readers, they will streamline your writing process.
Again, your source question will ultimately dictate what you should choose for subheadings. Suppose you are answering the question “What were the best movies of 2017?” The very nature of this question dictates that your headings should consist of the films you choose to recommend. Some tips to keep in mind:
- Distinguish your subheadings from the rest of your post with color, text size, or style
- Maintain consistency throughout. If your first subheading is labeled “Tip Number One”, the next subheading should read “Tip Number Two” and so on
- Don’t overdo it! Remember: the purpose of subheadings is to break up content. Too many subheadings can become just as cumbersome as block text
Make sure your subheadings lend themselves to “scanability”. Your readers should not have to fish around trying to find the information they want in your article. Once you have your subheadings chosen, you’re ready for step four:
Fill ‘em In!
Now that you have your post broken up into workable “information pockets”, it’s time to fill in the blanks. Just take it a section at a time, filling in the gaps one by one. Don’t worry if you can only put together a piece at a time. Remember: your sections should be able to stand on their own two feet, semi-independent of the others. If your post has eight designated sections, consider each section its own separate writing project.
One of the beauties of putting together a post one section at a time is the freedom that it lends you as a writer. If you’re feeling hung up on one particular section, you can always skip down and work on another one. Identify the area you are feeling the most inspiration (or the least apathy) for and give it a go. You’ll find that what you once saw as a daunting task can be a very workable and stress-free project. A few things to consider:
- Don’t feel guilty taking some time to collect your thoughts. Sometimes you have to step away from the keyboard to sort out what you want to communicate to your readers
- As you put your post together, occasionally scan through what you’ve already written. Make sure that the information you want to share is coming through
- Check for readability. Get rid of anything clunky
You won’t get it right every time. Sometimes the words will come so fast that you can’t hit the keys fast enough. Other times, you’ll find yourself staring at a half-filled page, hating everything you’ve written so far.
Do the best you can do in the moment. You can always clean up the rough spots when you’re feeling more inspired.
Once you finally have your sections filled out, there is one more step you need to take before hitting “publish”, and it is perhaps the most important one:
Add Your Flavor
At the end of the day, readers don’t just want information: they want a connection. They want that unique spin that only you as a writer can provide. As important as professionalism is, don’t be afraid to let your personality spill into your writing. Try to share your knowledge in a way that is engaging, even entertaining.
Don’t be an encyclopedia: be a helpful friend.
Do you have a quirky sense of humor? Share it with your readers. Do you have an opinion on the topic of your post? Express it. Do you have a story from your own life that relates to your article? Go for it! Add that flavor that is distinctly you.
As difficult as coming up with new ideas can be at times, these five simple steps will go a long way in streamlining your creative process and organizing your writing. Taking things one step at a time takes the majority of the stress out of writing. Don’t be intimidated by the blank page or the blinking cursor. Just remember: it all starts with one simple question. Once you decide what that question is and how you want to answer it, you are already halfway home.
Jonathan Vars is a Christian fiction writer from New England, and founder of the writing website voltampsreactive.com. His latest novel “Like Melvin” is currently available on Amazon and Google Books. In addition to writing, Jonathan enjoys running, hiking, and trying not to freeze to death in the winter.