10 Best Tips to Getting the Words Flowing
Have you ever been trying to get a story flowing in your head, when the words just aren’t flowing? Are you frustrated that it’s taking so long for your stories to come to life? Are you frustrated that you aren’t getting the words flowing from your mind into your stories? If you’ve ever found yourself running out of words, don’t give up. It’s OK to have some thoughts and ideas, but if they are not coming to life in your words then it is time to start writing some.
When you write, your words are what you have written down, and they create a story, which is very powerful. Your words do matter, because you are the writer. Your words affect your thoughts and beliefs. When you write about something, it is because you had a thought, and it can even be as simple as a thought, or it could be as complex as a thought-patterns, which can form when a thought goes through your mind. The very thoughts that form your stories in your mind are what you need to develop, or change, if they aren’t moving. Sometimes they are moving, and it is time to make them move.
You are the one who has the power to move your thoughts and belief systems, so it is time to use your words. When you’re creating a story, you can use your thoughts, or patterns, to form the story. That is how you get the words flowing from your mind into your words. That is how you get the words flowing in your life. That is how you are being creative. And that is how you’re in charge of your own mind.
1. Mix your environment
Now this will mean different things for different people. I like white noise, so I went to a nearby café quite often. I found the clink of glasses and the conversations nearby helped me get into the flow of writing.
But I understand that may sound like your worst nightmare and you need a much more controlled (and probably quieter) environment. My wife Vanessa liked to go to our local library not only to leave the house but also to escape the noise and distraction of our children. (And I probably do.)
So if you have trouble getting the words where you are, try creating a different environment. That can mean everything from a change of location to music or even television in the background.
This can also mean that you create a distraction-free environment by disconnecting from the Internet and silencing your phone.
2. Try freewriting
I don’t do a lot of freewriting, but it’s still a great way for me to get the words flowing again when I’m stuck.
I get up early in the morning (so I don’t have distractions) and just write about anything that comes to my mind. It could be work or business. It could be personal. It could be silly and make no sense at all. It could be my kids or the movie I saw recently.
You could write about similar things. Or you write about something completely different. In the end, it doesn’t matter what you write about. It’s about the physical act of writing and putting your thoughts (whatever they may be) on paper. Because the more you do it, the easier it gets. And sometimes these random thoughts that pop up in your head can become a great idea for a post.
3. Write for one person
As much as I love having a large audience, sometimes the thought of hundreds or even thousands of people reading the post I’m working on freezes. What if you don’t like it? What if I say the wrong thing or give the wrong advice? What if I make your life worse than better?
Fortunately, I found a solution. Instead of thinking about all these potential readers, I pretend to write my contribution for one person.
Now that person could be someone who represents your readers, or it could be an actual reader. Many of my ProBlogger posts started as answers to reader questions. And some were my actual replies to the readers’ emails (after removing all the identifying information).
And that’s another benefit of writing for one person. Your blog is much more personal because you write one person instead of a crowd.
4. Contact a reader’s problem, need, or pain point
Some of my best posts came from talking to someone about a problem or challenge. And although I don’t like the idea of someone suffering, I may know that I can help those who suffer are Leiden inspires me to write.
As pathetic as this advice may sound, start in places where people are in pain. Forums are a good place to start, as people often go there to share their problems and ask for help. Read her story and feel her pain. Then check to see if you can find a way to help them by offering a solution or simply letting them know that they are not alone.
And then let yourself be inspired by this desire to inspire you to write.
5. Get into a rhythm
Make sure you schedule a regular write time for your week, ideally every day at the same time. That can mean every day, every day of the week, or maybe every Saturday or Sunday.
And try to choose a time that best suits your writing. My “golden hours” are in the morning and then I plan my writing.
The most important thing is to make it a normal thing so that you can get into rhythm with your writing.
6. Set deadlines
Last week I mentioned a blogger who brings in more than 100 post ideas each January and then plans them all to set their deadlines. How do you think she would write all of these blog posts if she did Not do these deadlines?
Many bloggers create their schedules by setting up an editorial calendar. We use CoSchedule for both ProBlogger and Digital Photography School. This helps us visualize our posts, when they are due and how they all fit together. However, you can use any calendar tool or even paper and pen.
I usually write my posts a week or two in advance. (Some bloggers plan their posts a few months in advance or even longer.) This allows me to plan ahead, but also gives me the flexibility to be spontaneous.
So set realistic deadlines and try to meet them.
7. Stimulate and inspire your mind
Food is fuel for your body. And the better the fuel you put in your body, the better the performance you get from it.
But while your brain also benefits from good food, your mind needs a different kind of fuel: stimulation and inspiration.
For me part of it comes from learning to be mentally dilated and having good conversations (and laughing) with people. Whenever I can, I listen to podcasts, read books and watch films and documentaries. And not just about topics that I write about.
For example, I often listen to the Hidden Brain Podcast, an NPR Hope podcast about human behavior. It’s not really related to what I’m writing about, but I always get ideas when I listen to that particular podcast. I also listen to comedy podcasts, watch TED lectures regularly and read novels.
These activities not only fill your mind with new information from which you can draw ideas, but also give you a mental break from your work. And it is often when you are Not When you think about your topic, you get great ideas (as you often do while you’re in the shower).
Of course, you should also stay up to date to find out about these moments with the light bulb.
8. Use contours
Most of my blog posts start with some sort of outline. I start with the need or problem I am trying to solve and then make a list of the things I want to say about it.
This list is very easy at first – a few words for each point that I want to address. I then go through the list and expand it.
Sometimes I don’t have much to say to any of them. In this case, I simply publish it as a list entry. However, I usually find that I can pretty much expand each one, and it becomes a long post with segments and / or sub-headings.
As soon as I have finished the “meaty” part of my contribution, I will turn my attention to the introduction. I usually write my introductions after writing the main section because I generally talk about the need or problem I am addressing and how the reader benefits from reading my post.
From there, I work on the conclusion, which is usually a call to action, and finally the title.
Of course, this is not the only way to write a blog post. Michael Hyatt has a six point template for his blog posts. It starts with a compelling title, followed by a main paragraph, a relevant picture and a personal experience. This is followed by the main part of its content and finally a discussion question.
If you’ve never used an outline or template, just give it a try.
9. Write in a different style
When my writing gets stuck, I sometimes challenge myself to write a different kind of blog post. And I think that approaching the information from a different “angle” usually causes the words to flow again.
So if you always write “how to” content, try to write a story post. If you always write personal posts, try to write a review post.
Varying the length of your posts can also be helpful. If you always write long, meaty posts, challenge yourself to write a 100-word post. And if all of your posts are relatively short, try writing a 2000 word post.
Whether you choose a different type of post, a different length, or a different voice, you face a challenge. You may find that it helps you to return to the river better. You will also learn more about writing.
10. Talk about what you will say out loud
My last tip is to do something where people think you’re a little crazy: write your blog post by speaking out loud.
I go for a walk most days. And during these walks, I often recite the blog post, conversation, or keynote that I’m working on loudly. I’m sure my neighbors all think I’m a little crazy, but sometimes it’s best to think out loud and have to say it before I can write it.
Another tactic that I sometimes use is to jump on Periscope and talk about an idea that’s half formed in my head. When I have this conversation about it (even if it’s just a one-way conversation), it inspires me, and what I’m working on is usually much better.
Another option is to post your outline on social media and ask people for feedback. The answers you receive may not only inspire you to end the post, but also help you to make it concrete and improve it.
In an ideal world, you would never suffer from writer’s block and would not need to know any of these techniques. But I don’t know a blogger who got stuck at some point, and I hope these techniques can help you get your word flowing again.
But I realize that all of this comes from my own experience. What techniques have you developed to get the words flowing again? Please share them in the comments.