As writers, we know quality content is important, and we know creating that content consistently is the difference between a successful publication or blog and one that withers and dies after six months. Content, as they say, really is king!
But for so many of us, writing is a side gig. It competes with work, family, and other considerations for our precious time and mental energy. Add to that the fact that most writers must also handle their own marketing, promotion, social media management and engagement with readers and you start to understand the pain and frustration associated with having to constantly produce quality content.
If you’re like me, sometimes the words just flow from you. Sometimes, you are so inhabited by an idea that you just HAVE TO get it on a page. Other times, you spend 80% of your allotted “writing time” just getting yourself in the mood to write.
The other day, it occurred to me that I spent an entire weekend doing NOTHING but trawling Facebook groups related to my writing niche, posting to social media, tweaking ad copy, and interacting with readers on existing articles.
I spent a whole weekend and created nothing new. That hurts.
So, if you feel caught in the whirlpool of doing all the other tangential things that are related to writing, but aren’t actually writing, and you find yourself wondering where your next idea is going to come from, here are 10 of my favorite tips to overcome the content-creation blues.
1. Always Be Ready To Write
You never know when inspiration will strike you. Whether it’s your iPhone, or a good, old-fashioned Moleskin, have something with you at all times to allow you capture ideas and thoughts. Sometimes, I’ll overhear something another person says that sparks an idea for a post. Other times, I’ll read something and it triggers me to research and write my own perspective. Sometimes, stuff just literally pops into my head. If I didn’t have a way to jot down a note reminding me of the idea, I would lose probably a dozen post ideas per week. Even if nothing comes of your idea, the practice of writing down notes as inspiration hits you will change the way you think about information.
2. Use the “Web Technique”
My mind goes funny places sometimes. It will take an idea and, seemingly on its own, connect that idea with some other random idea that came from a completely different source. I call this the Web Technique. If you view your content as an interconnected whole, rather than as bits and piece of unrelated writing, you’ll start to get new ideas for posts right away. You’ll start to see angles to be discussed, and new ways to synthesize and present information to your readers.
This is one of the easiest ways to get new content for your blog or publication, but it’s also one of the hardest for us as writers to embrace. Having another voice on your page can muddy your message, or even change the direction of your posts in a way that can damage your readership. At the same time, I personally feel like “I’m a writer…I have no business hiring another writer to write for me.”
But let’s think about it a different way: If you hire another writer, or even ask for guest posts related to your niche, not only are you saving yourself a couple of posts and buying some time to create more new content, but you’re also enhancing your Web of available information. Maybe you get a good, quality guest post, and it sparks the idea for two or three related posts from you. Asking others for help is never a bad idea, as long as you do it intentionally and purposefully.
4. Map Out Your MVAs and then focus on them.
MVAs — Most Valuable Activities — For a writer, these are the crucial things that they, and they alone must do in order to be successful.
Everybody in the writing game these days seems to also have a social media presence, a YouTube channel, and three Featured Contributor side gigs going. One of the biggest complaints that I hear when I talk to other writers about how hard it is to create new content is how little time they have for actual writing. So my question to them is always “what have you hired somebody else to do for you?” It’s simple math: What gets you the most value for your time? If you stink at advertising, hire somebody who can do it better, and focus on what you’re really good at — writing! Don’t let all the tangential stuff of being a writer distract you from your #1 priority: writing!
5. Ask & Deliver
This is an easy one: Ask your readers what they want you to write about, then write about it. This is one of the most commonly heard pieces of advice in the writing world, but there’s good reason for it: This is the easiest and most effective way to write content that your readers will engage with. If you’re not employing this trick, you’re missing out, plain and simple.
6. Get Content Ideas from Current Events
Yup, I hear you: “My blog doesn’t relate to current events at all.” Some folks genuinely have a hard time coming up with topical content. But when I say topical content, I don’t mean you have to trawl news sites and try to figure out how to tie your post to the pulse of the news wire. Take a look at the majority of blogs in your niche and see what kind of topical content they’re posting about. Recipe blogs are famous for this: Every holiday, the recipe bloggers post holiday-themed recipes without fail. Now, that “holiday recipe” may in reality just be a regular old recipe that they gussied up for the (fill in the blank holiday) season, but the magic of topical content is that it trends in search engines.
7. Repurpose Evergreen Content
Got a blog that’s been around for awhile? Why not dust off those first couple of posts that nobody read from four years ago, tighten them up, and republish them to your current audience? The online content world is cyclic, and you never know, a reader that started following you last month may greatly benefit from a post you originally wrote years ago.
Another way to repurpose your content and get more mileage out of it is to play with mediums. Got a great, long-form blog post about something? Why not make a YouTube video, or Facebook Live about it? How about a few Instagram graphics (just be sure to link them back to your original post)? Maybe even a podcast, if the topic is one that you can go on for several episodes about? And it works in reverse, too. If you have some cool videos, or an online course, why not repurpose those into blog content?
8. Review something you love (or hate) but don’t review something you’re just kind of ok with
Sorry for the lengthy title to this point, but it’s a personal pet-peeve of mine: Product reviews that are devoid of any passion. Why are you reviewing this product if you don’t care about it? Please, whatever you do, don’t review something just to have a review to publish. Reviews should be passionate, either you loved the thing, or hated it, but tell me about that. Authentic storytelling requires passion, and reviewing should still tell a story.
9. Write similar posts targeted to different personas
Similar to the Web Technique discussed earlier, you’re gonna have different folks with different needs in your audience. If you take a general theme of a post, you can easily craft that theme into two or three (or more) different piece of content targeted to a particular segment of your audience. One of the hallmarks of a good writer is to write your posts targeted to ONE persona. Have that persona in your mind when you write, imagine you’re engaged one-on-one with that person.
10. Live Your Life
The most authentic writing comes from life experience. If you’re struggling to come up with content, go have some life experience, then come back. As Matthew Inman over at The Oatmeal says:
“Make a new friend, learn to chainsaw juggle, read a book, go hang-gliding in your underpants. If you’ve done all these things and you still have nothing to write about, you should not be a writer.”
Content is king, and the struggle to create content is something that we all struggle with. Hopefully, you’ve gotten a couple of useful pointers out of this article. The ability to post consistently and regularly will make all the difference for you, and you will be more successful in your writing!