Stuck on What Content to Create? Here Are 7 Strategies for Getting Unblocked

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2.24.13_Content Strategies

Have you been tasked with writing amazing content for your business? Does the word “amazing” leave you feeling dry-mouthed and shaky? Don’t worry. You’re just suffering from a case of writer’s block.

Here’s how to overcome it.

1. Give yourself permission to be bad. The beauty of first drafts is that no one expects them to be perfect. The goal is to get your thoughts down, as messy and disorganized as they might be. Even if the doubt monkeys in your head are telling you how awful your content is, just know that you’ll get the chance to make the copy shine when you go back to edit it.

Need more evidence that it’s OK to write rough first drafts? Read Anne Lamott’s famous book on writing called Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. She provides a whole chapter on the importance of writing bad first drafts (although she uses a much more earthy term to describe these drafts).

2. Write somewhere new. It’s amazing what a change of scenery can do to your perspective. If you usually write in your office, try writing somewhere else, like a coffee shop or the library. If you can’t leave the office, try writing in a different area, such as a conference room or the cafeteria.

3. Use The Pomodoro Technique. This is something we writers here at Amsterdam Printing use. The gist of The Pomodoro Technique goes like this: set an egg timer for 25 minutes and write non-stop, fingers to keyboard (or pen to paper). Don’t edit. Don’t stare into space. Just run with your topic and write. When the egg timer goes off, take a five-minute break. Rinse, lather, and repeat. You’ll be amazed at the mountains of content that will stack up with each 25-minute session.

4. Read. Many fiction writers start their writing sessions by reading quality fiction or poetry (award-winning novelist Andre Dubus III is one of them). The idea is that it gets them in the zone and eager to return to the page. If you’re stuck, go and read something that will inspire and/or interest you. It could be a business blog, a novel, or an article or two from your favorite magazine.

5. Get a partner. Being accountable to someone can be a great motivator, especially if there are deadlines involved. Your partner could be a colleague or a friend. Tell the person when you plan to have something to him or her and ask the person to hold you accountable (and to check in on you if you don’t deliver).

A partner can also help with content. Brainstorm ideas or bounce ideas off the person and see how she or he reacts or what questions the person has. This is often enough to get the fingers tapping away on the keyboard.

6. When in doubt, revert to tried-and-true writing templates. If you’re producing content for your company, there are certain formats that can lend themselves nicely to articles, blog posts, email newsletters, and even white papers. These formats include:

  • Q&As
  • Before and After
  • Problem/Solution
  • Lists

HubSpot offers more format ideas in its post called “Which Format is Right for Your Next Blog Post?”

7. Walk away. No, not forever. But if the writing just isn’t happening, even when you try some of the other techniques we mentioned above, it might mean that your brain needs a break from writing—and everything associated with it. If you’re at work (and can’t leave), move onto another task you’re not dreading. If you’re able to get out of the office, do something you enjoy, like going to the movies, taking a walk, or playing a sport. Return to your desk the next day and try again.

What do you think? What other strategies do you use to unblock yourself from completing a task? Share in the comments.

You also might like reading this post: Content Marketing 101: Who Should Write Your Content?

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