Five Cures for Writer’s Block

There comes a time in every writer’s career where he or she draws a total blank. Where inspiration is stopped dead in its tracks. Bloggers are not immune to this malady known as writer’s block, and in some ways we are more susceptible to it. The daily demands of cranking out new material make even the best blogger stay up late at night wondering if all the ideas spinning around in their head will one day simply dry up. Fear not! I have five proven ways to generate inspiration for articles. In fact, I used a couple of these to generate articles that appeared here on Frugal Dad just this past week.

Yahoo Has All the Answers

Well, not really. Yahoo does have a lot of questions, though. One of the best interactive features at the popular search portal is Yahoo!Answers. The idea is users sign up for a free Yahoo account and leave a question for other members. Those who submit questions review the answers and vote for the favorite. A point system was created to anoint power users, based on how many times they answered questions, and how many of those were voted as the “best answer.” How can Yahoo!Answers help you generate article ideas? By surfing the list of questions and answers related to your particular niche it is easy to see what people are interested to learn about. I recently saw a few questions asking about “credit card arbitrage.” People were curious to learn what it was, and if anyone was successful at it. It generated an article idea immediately and I was off to learn more about arbitrage myself.

Search Engine Query Results Are Your Friends

Most bloggers enjoy looking back through their site statistics to find out how people were referred to their site. I am no exception. It is often amusing to read the search terms people use to wind up at Frugal Dad. However, these logs are not just to be used for entertainment purposes. The real power from search engine query history is in helping us as writers determine what is popular at the moment, and what people are looking for on the internet. Armed with this knowledge we can begin to put together article ideas around those topics. This one recently worked for me as news of a possible economic stimulus package was being kicked around Washington. I started seeing some traffic on a tax related article with phrases like “is another tax rebate coming” and “will there be a 2008 economic stimulus package.” I quickly did some homework and published my own tax rebate story.

What Are Other People Writing About?

One of the greatest pages on any blog is the archives. Here you will find hundreds (sometimes thousands) of previously published articles on topics related to your niche. Look back at the previous month’s work – anything you could expand on? Anything you agree with or disagree with? Be sure to link back to their article and do your own homework, don’t just rip off their ideas. This technique also works well for your own blog. Look back at your own archives page for topics you could expand on, or plans you could update for your readers.

Listen to Talk Radio

Talk radio call-in shows can provide a ton of inspiration, particularly ones centered around your blog’s particular niche. I listen to The Dave Ramsey Show daily and frequently use a question from one his callers as the basis for an article. Even shows outside of your niche can generate ideas for peripheral topics. For instance, I was running an errand on Saturday morning and a local gardening show was on the radio. Someone called in to ask about square foot gardening. I had never heard of this concept, but was intrigued. I made a note to do some research when I got home. Weeks later, my How To Build a Square Foot Garden article is still by far the most popular article here at Frugal Dad.

Think Like a Blogger

Early in my writing career I read a great article at ProBlogger.net entitled “Learn to Think Like a Blogger.” The author wrote that one of the keys to coming up with ideas to write about was thinking like a blogger as you go about your every day life. When you start to think like a blogger you will find inspiration hits more and more frequently. One day I spotted some loose change in a parking lot and stopped to pick it up. A passerby made an interesting comment about my stopping to pick up money, and it motivated me to share the story with my readers.

Putting a combination of these tactics into practice on a regular basis may be the best preventive medicine available to avoid a case of writer’s block.

Comments

  1. Excellent post! I’m always looking for new ways to generate ideas for my blog. Can’t wait to try these out!

  2. I would add reading to the mix. Whenever I’m stuck I read read read! Once I relax and just read something interesting that’ll usually jump start my unconscious into coming up with a good idea.

  3. @Becky: There is never a shortage of article ideas on a Dave Ramsey appearance!

    @Writer’s Coin: Yes, reading is another great way to generate some article ideas. After reading and reviewing Your Money or Your Life I had about a dozen article ideas!

    @Jen: Thanks, hope these ideas help generate an idea or two. If nothing else, you could write a post about your own methods for coming up with blog ideas – see, there’s one!

  4. I would have never thought to look at Yahoo Answers- you are the man! Great ideas. I struggle with writer’s block and I will have to bookmark this post to remind me not to forget these great tips.

  5. Definitely some great tips outlined here. I haven’t tried Yahoo Answers or listening to talk radio to generate post ideas, but the other three I do on almost a daily basis:

    Going through search engine query results are definitely a great way to generate post ideas. Sometimes people will get to your site by asking questions through Google, Yahoo, etc., and that question may be one that you haven’t previously covered. So blog about it! Because now you know at least one person is interested to know the answer.

    Going through your own archives can help generate post ideas by allowing you to expand on previous posts. Look for topics that you covered that you think can be explained in more detail or from a different point of view. And as you stated, this can also be done with others’ archives within your niche.

    And finally, I totally agree with thinking like a blogger. You definitely have to keep your mind open at ALL times. Bring a notepad with you whenever you go out, because you never when you’ll discover something interesting to blog about.

  6. Great advice! I’ve noticed a real shift in my thinking now that I’m blogging. Since I’ve challenged myself to post everyday, I’ve definitely started paying closer attention to all my experiences with money and all the financial advice that’s out there!

  7. With the amount of newhounds that are on social media sites, the posting ideas that are likely to flow from sites like Digg, Mixx and Blogging Zoom can be overwhelming as well.

  8. I’d not thought of the Yahoo answers idea. I’ve been constantly blogging under a ‘when I’m inspired I’ll post’… which hasn’t been going all too well. The idea of searching for a need and filling it with a blog post is really good. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Maybe I could add your own offline bookmarks your SU stumbles. Or maybe reviewing potential startups and how to use them to satisfy your readers’ needs

  10. @Hank – I run into the same problem. Inspiration seems to hit at the worst possible time! I’ve got some ideas for capturing topics to write about coming up in this week’s “Be a Blogger” post.

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