Okay, so you’ve decided to start blogging, or to get serious about the blog you have. Congratulations!
So you sit down at your desk, rest your fingertips softly on top of your keyboard and…
What on earth should you write about?
It’s an old question. I have three answers. Three ways to overcome writer’s block. Pick the one that you like best, or collect the whole set.
Answer 1: Create an Editorial Calendar
Decide ahead of time what you are going to write about on each designated writing day for, say, the next month. Open up a new Excel document, or create a new Google calendar just for this purpose, and for each day that you plan to write, assign yourself a topic. Align your topics with upcoming events, with the changing of the seasons, with the day of the week.
If you sit down to write one day and you have a better idea for a post, no problem! Just toss your discarded assignment into a Word document or some other notepad or sidebar, and refer back to this file when it’s time to write your next month’s schedule.
Answer 2: Create a Topic Bank
In this method, you don’t worry about assigning topics to each writing day, but you do spend some serious time brainstorming topics. Make a huge list of things you might want to write about, and open this file every time you sit down to write. Be sure to cross things off when you’ve written about them, so that you don’t inadvertently repeat yourself.
Remember that you are writing for your audience (whether you have an audience yet is beside the point), so try to build your topic bank with them in mind. What do they need? What do they want? How can you help them? What do they come to you for?
If you’re a small business owner, try writing down topics that reflect every conceivable part of your business that a customer might be interested in. Look at the different pages of your website if you need help thinking in categories. Do you own a small inn or B&B? You probably have a page on your website titled something like “rooms” or “accomodations.”
You might write about:
- Each of your rooms
- The special items unique to each room (beds, vases, rugs, curtains)
- The story of how you acquired each item
- What customers have said about these items
Now do the same thing with each page on your website.
- Dining: Write about a dish a day. Make it seasonal. Share recipes.
- Directions: Write about different routes people take to get to your place. Fast route, scenic route, a route that avoids seasonal traffic, a route for shopping along the way, a route with things for kids to do, a route for romance.
- Things to do: Write about what’s going on in town. Interview locals. Take one lousy picture and write a couple of lines about it.
Break each topic down into small, bite-sized pieces. Just write one bite per day, and put the rest back in the bank for another time.
Answer 3: Create a Style Bank
This is really the secret weapon, if you ask me. Once you realize all the different ways in which you can create a blog post, you can free yourself from writer’s block forever. I’m not kidding.
Blog posts don’t always have to be long-form essays. Oh no. They can be:
- A bulleted list
- One photo with caption
- Several photos with captions
- A review of a book, a film, a product
- A How-To guide
- A How-NOT-To guide
- A short video
- A short audio clip
- An interview
- A profile
- A rant
- A rave
- A thoughtful response to somebody else’s blog post
And the list goes on. I find that the style bank helps me the most by far. Sometimes, you just don’t have an essay-form post in you. And frankly, sometimes your audience can’t stomach another wordy post, either. Grab a striking photo from your file of pictures or your Flickr photostream, post it, and write a line or two about it. Record a short video using your webcam and Youtube or Viddler or Seesmic. Record an audio clip using Utterli.
If you really want to make it easy on yourself, you’ll create both types of banks: a Topic Bank and a Style Bank. Each day when you sit down to write, choose one item from each list. Mix and match to keep yourself and your audience from getting bored.
Just remember: you’re not blogging for the sake of blogging. You committed to do this because you decided that it would help you achieve a certain goal, and you are trying, with every post, to serve your audience and to give them something that they value. Keep that in mind, and go forth and blog.