We’ve all experienced writer’s block at one time or another. It’s not pleasant staring at a blank screen and finding that nothing comes to mind to fill it with. For many, this can be great source of anxiety, which in turn only makes the problem worse.
This is only magnified by the nature of content marketing. If you’re a specialist or a freelancer, the expectation is that you will be able to deliver on demand. When writer’s block rears its head, this raises stressful prospects of missed deadlines or disappointed clients.
For non-specialists, the pressures are a little different, but not much better. Maybe you do a little bit of blogging to promote your side hustle. In this case, when ideas aren’t forthcoming it’s particularly frustrating. You might even knock your confidence or experience imposter syndrome.
In any case, when trying to overcome writer’s block, too many content marketers start taking shortcuts. These include stealing topics from other websites, or even ‘spinning’ entire articles. This gives the impression that you’ve solved your problem, at least in the short term.
However, in the long term these shortcuts only cause more problems. If nothing else, it’s a recipe for boring and ineffective content. Today I’d like to walk you through some actionable alternatives to try instead.
Read Around (and Engage)
In most niches, the blogosphere is a noisy place. The reason that stealing someone else’s idea is ineffective is that your content will never rise above the competition. Instead, you have to constantly try and add something to the conversation.
The good news is this doesn’t actually take much more effort than article spinning. The trick is to put on your critical reading hat when you’re searching for new content marketing ideas. When you read an article from a competitor, consider what they’re missing or where they’re going wrong.
Of course, you shouldn’t go as far as calling them out on this. Still, if you find a gap in the existing wisdom you’ve probably found yourself a great article too. If you genuinely build on someone else’s work, this can be a great networking opportunity too, as they’ll likely be interested to hear from you.
On the subject of networking, it pays to know other content marketers in your niche. Keep in mind though, there’s a good chance that people won’t share ideas explicitly. Especially if there’s a perception that you’re in competition with one another.
However, talking shop with others is a sure fire way to get your own creative juices flowing. This is easy if you work in a large marketing department or agency. Even if you don’t there are plenty of options available. This could be as simple as an exchange on Twitter or LinkedIn.
If you’re a non-specialist working on a personal project, you might even go as far as using blogger outreach. This can take away some of the stress of creating great content by outsourcing some of your blogging strategy, or guest posting on other people sites. There’s plenty of great tools to get you started.
Ask the Audience
If you’re suffering from writer’s block, you’re probably searching the web for tips to come up with new content ideas. If this is the case, you’ll have encountered something like ‘ask yourself what queries your audience might have’.
Of course, this is well-intentioned. But if you knew exactly the kinds of question your audience have, you probably wouldn’t be experiencing writer’s block in the first place.
There’s an obvious solution to this though. You can just ask them. Simply send out a tweet or Facebook status asking what your audience would like to see covered. Chances are, if you go and make a coffee, you’ll have several engaging new topics to cover by the time you get back to your desk.
This has the added benefit of the fact that people will be anticipating your new article before you’ve even put pen to paper.
Broaden your Research
For many content marketers, research mainly means reading other blogs in their niche. This can be limiting though. You’ll probably be able to come up with a new spin on an existing topic, but your chances of coming up with something entirely original are fairly low.
The solution to this is to read a little more broadly. There’s every chance you’ll find something inspiring in another area, which your competitors haven’t caught on to.
There are places other than blogs to conduct research online too. One popular way to come up with unique and original content is to scour industry forums for ideas. If there’s a popular thread on a given topic, this can be fruitful ground for content marketing ideas.
Get Ahead of the Game
There’s no better cure than prevention. This applies to writer’s block too. With proper planning, this is a particularly easy situation to avoid. If you never want to suffer from writer’s block again, you simply have to create a backlog of topics to work through.
This can then feed into a content schedule, so you know exactly what you’re going to write before you sit down at your desk. If you designate specific time to brainstorm new ideas, you also eliminate the pressure of trying to come up with something on demand.
Depending on your desired post frequency, this could take as little as an hour or so every month. This will save time overall too, as you’ll eliminate the need to sit twiddling your thumbs instead of coming up with a new idea every time you sit down to write.
At the best of times, writer’s block is a massive frustration. At the worst, it can be a drain on your time, and subsequently money. Today, I’ve tried to give you a mixture of proactive and reactive ways to overcome this. That is, things you can do to overcome writer’s block when it strikes and things you can do to prevent it altogether.
If done properly, any of these tips can help you to increase your productivity by reducing wasted time. Whether your a specialist content marketer or a solo entrepreneur, that means more time to spend on other tasks.