How I prevent writer’s block and get topics for my blog

Published February 17, 2016   Posted in Blogging

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of blogging (and writing in general) is the dreaded “writer’s block”, which is a term that describes a motivated writer who is having trouble finding a topic to write about or otherwise struggling to proceed with their current writing assignment. Truthfully, it’s a pain in the ass.

How to prevent writer's blockBut, there are useful tricks that can be used to prevent this annoying phenomenon.

Although ThinkSaveRetire.com is just a year old, my blogging experience extends back several years. My past blogs have centered around everything from politics to health and fitness, technology to personal finance. In that time, I discovered several ways to keep writer’s block from standing in the way of my progress.

How I prevent writer’s block

Get involved in the community – The more integrated I get, the more people I wind up communicating with. These conversations almost always fuel the fire within me to write. I get inspired by the community and want to do my part to offer up the best content that I possibly can. This helps to get the creative juices within me flowing a little faster and very often sparks clever periods of extreme determination for me to bust out an awesome blog post.

Glean ideas from social media – Many of the topics that I discuss on the blog originate from somewhere within social media, like Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. With Twitter, I created private lists that I use to help narrow down the topics that I am looking for and I use tweets from those whom I follow for ideas on my next blog post. Facebook and Pinterest work largely the same way. I recently started to use Pinterest more actively and have added a daily stop off at my Pinterest boards for inspiration. It works almost every time.

Visit my favorite blogs – This community is filled with extremely talented bloggers, and it would be a waste not to use content written by other bloggers to get ideas from. I’ve actually said to myself, “I feel like writing…let’s go see what J$ from Budgets Are Sexy is writing about”. Seriously.

Just start writing – Although this goes against everything that we were taught in our high school English class, barreling into an article before you have it completely mapped out can help to spark creativity. Sometimes, I just write. I have a title in my head and maybe the first few bullet points that I want to talk about. And, through the process of starting the article and introducing the topic, ideas start flowing and my creativity gets amped up into overdrive.

Look for controversy – Sometimes, this works. Controversial topics tend to be very well-read – like my article about privilege in early retirement. Controversial topics tend to be easier topics to write about because our emotions very often come into play. While emotionally-driven blog posts don’t always come across well, they sometimes can spark activity on your blog, not to mention provide fodder for further articles.

Sometimes, life provides the answer – I don’t actively think about the blog when I’m out and about running errands, but I’d be lying if I don’t admit that the words “Wow, look at that – I should write an article about that” are occasionally uttered. Uttered a lot, in fact. I do not always follow up on these ideas, but very often I do. For example, Why your $80,000 car no longer impresses me was written after spotting a white Lamborghini being driven by some young kid. Yes, I lowered the price on that one a bit for the title of the article.

And then, there are the typical answers, like take a walk or remove yourself from the environment. Eliminate distractions. Read something. To which I say…”eh”. While there is nothing wrong with any of your more typical tips to avoid writer’s block, I found the techniques outlined above give me a much better chance at consistent and dependable progress.

What say you, fellow bloggers? How do you keep yourself from falling into the writer’s block trap?

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Comments

28 responses to “How I prevent writer’s block and get topics for my blog”

  1. Great list of strategies Steve! I’m definitely going to have to borrow a couple of these. 🙂

    I typically just start writing until something sticks. Occasionally I’ll write half of a post and then think of something else better to write. That leaves me with several half written posts which I will then circle back on at a later date (sometimes).

    I also enjoy taking inspiration from other blogger’s ideas or challenges they may have put out.

    Finally, I’ll sometimes write a post geared towards my younger self – sharing ideas I wished I had known 20 years earlier.

  2. John says:

    Thanks for the tips! It can be a challenge to come up with engaging topics each week.

    John

  3. Great tactics Steve. I always look to what’s happening in my own life first. Is there something going on that would make a good post or is a recent experience worth sharing.

    I agreed being involved in the community helps spark ideas as well as reading main stream media. I often like to breakdown some bit of data or report I heard or read elsewhere.

  4. I agree that life experiences, interacting with other bloggers, and sometime controversy all keep the ideas flowing. Readers’ comments have also fueled ideas as I want to respond to something they brought up. I used to avoid controversy but am starting to see it as one of the more interesting aspects of reading and writing blogs. Especially since most people seem willing to have a friendly dialogue about differing ideas.

    • Steve says:

      Appreciate it, Kalie! True, readers comments are often times a great source of motivation to write – no doubt about that. I’ve done that a couple of times in the past too.

  5. Great list and timing Steve – I have struggled lately with topics to write about other than our darn downsizing and remodeling projects that are consuming our lives!

    This is one of the questions I asked you when we met last year. How the heck do you continue to crank out the volume of excellent content you produce? Personally, I think you are a natural and it is part of your DNA.

    One thing that has helped me is to formulate an idea is to go on a 1 hour solo hike to kick around my thoughts of how to express my point. Some of my best thinking and articles have formed on hikes. I come back to the house and hit the keyboard while it is fresh and I am motivated.

    • Steve says:

      Hey Bryan – yup, I do the same thing from time to time with getting away and doing something more active, yet repetitive. I’m painting our iron fence this week, so that gives me a lot of time to…process! 🙂

  6. I read and read and read some more. When I have something extensive to say back to something I’ve read, I go and write.

  7. After almost 8 years, I’ll take inspiration wherever I can get it. Sometimes it’s news, sometimes it’s another blogger’s posts. More often it’s just random musings from my brain that I need to get out so they’ll stop bothering me. Or updates/explanations on what’s going on in life. I think too few bloggers remember that your audience is okay with the occasional post telling them what’s going on in your life. And in writing about that, you might discover a deeper topic for another post.

    • Steve says:

      Yup, your most dedicated bloggers are as interested in your life as they are with what you’re writing about, especially in this community. Definitely agree, burning a few posts that just talk about what’s going on in your life is never a bad thing. Sometimes, in fact, it can be good!

  8. Stockbeard says:

    I particularly appreciate the “social media” and “controversy” suggestions here. Will give those a try for future articles 🙂

  9. These are great tips. For me, reading is a huge idea generator, so I try to read as much as I can, but based on your “eh” about it, that could be a personal thing. I also keep a running list in Evernote of potential topics, and skim that often. Sometimes something that didn’t spark the creativity two months ago when I wrote it will speak to me later on.

    • Steve says:

      It’s true, the techniques that work the best do tend to change from time to time. And truthfully I do get ideas when I read, but I’ve found that more of the content on this blog is motivated by other areas, especially personal observations of reality and American society. There’s a lot of fodder there. 🙂

  10. These strategies are great, Steve! I have a running Note in my phone, that way if I run across any quotes, situations, conversations, etc. I jot a quick note in my phone. I often find that a vast majority of my inspiration comes from books – all types! I dabble in fiction, to non-fiction, personal finance, to some cheesy romance/beach read. Whether it’s timeless, or “why did I pick this up & now I can’t finish it” generates more writing ideas. The trap I find myself falling into is when I have too many things to write about, and can’t select just one at the moment (because the time I have only allows for one written piece). I guess that falls into the time management category!

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Alyssa. Reading books seems to be the prevailing theme – I appear to be in the minority with that one for sure! But, I can see where reading can help tremendously in coming up with ideas; truthfully, I’ve generated an idea or two after reading, too! 🙂

  11. I’m afraid I’m way too much of a newbie to worry about writer’s block yet. It’s more like trying to carve out time to write about the things I’ve brainstormed. Still, I’m bookmarking this! So far, my favorite blog post topics have come from conversations about money and finance with my students. I wish I could incorporate it into the curriculum more regularly! They come up with some really fun nuggets.

    • Steve says:

      Appreciate your comment, Penny! There is a very common progression, especially early on with a particular blog. I began with a ton to write about as well, but now I am beginning to dig around a bit so I can cover subjects that I haven’t yet covered – or at least cover them from a different angle. It takes some patience and creativity.

  12. Tawcan says:

    Great tips, I definitely follow some of these. Social media is a great place to find topic to blog about.

  13. DA says:

    Nice points to get ideas. I started thinking about DIY investing. I love the work i am doing. It is not a high paying job. We lived within our means all the time. While looking for ideas to make more income, I stumbled on MMM and many other blogs. I haven’t find that side kick yet, but able to invest some money this year. Thanks for sharing ideas.

    • Steve says:

      Living within (or below) your means is critical – congrats for having the discipline to maintain that kind of lifestyle. It’s not easy this day and age with all the negative consumeristic influences in our society.

  14. […] of this photograph. This is something that came to me on a hike today as I was struggling with writer’s block about what would be interesting to discuss with our […]

  15. Rosie says:

    Love this post! I sometimes wonder what I will write about only to find myself thinking, “wow, I should turn that into a blog post.” And sometimes the most trivial things become the best stories.

    • Steve says:

      Ha, thanks Rosie. It’s true, some of the most random things in life turn into blog posts for me as well. I can build a respectable blog post around almost any subject nowadays. It’s fun!

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