To Write or not to Write… And Some Best Practices to Avoid Bloggers Block
Or being able or not being able to write, those are the questions. It’s being a while since my last post, so I thought it could be a good idea to dedicate it to the “hard time” that represents for me writing. I’m pretty sure that there are plenty of us that experience the same issues.
In this post what I would like to review (more like a retrospective to myself I must say) about the common issues that bloggers might find when we try to convince that we “should being writing/posting/blogging something”. And also some of the best practices that I’m currently finding on trying to avoid writers or bloggers block.
Image used from article: “Unblocking Writer’s Block”
The Importance of Writing
For me, writing has being always an important part of my life and, being honest, having a blog gave me tons of opportunities and for sure made me a better professional and communicator. And that’s the keyword you should think of, it’s not about writing something you know, it’s about sharing and communicating.
Communication is a key element in every professional’s life, you can be the best in what you do but if you are not able to communicate then you will not get the recognition you deserve. And I’m not mentioning “recognition” as a narcissism quality, if you work with customers (and I do believe everyone works with customers in different types, shapes and forms), effective communication is the one thing that will keep customers satisfied about your service, product or both.
I’m planning on having a set of posts regarding effective communication and other topics later on, but I just want to share one quick example on the professional differentiator for having a blog. A few years back, I had a small project for a customer, they wanted to try out a new and emerging technology as a proof-of-concept: App-V.
Back then, the App-V current version was the 4.5 and there were not available a lot of documentation about it, just quick start guides. So, I started working and of course a lot of troubleshooting started from installing and sequencing applications. Finally the proof-of-concept ended really well, the customer and myself loved the technology. And I decided, since I had a “hard time” getting all the pieces right, to write a set of posts to share what I’ve learned (Part I, II, III and IV of the App-V Step by Step set of articles).
Those set of posts, for a long time were actually the first search result when someone typed “app-v step-by-step”. That lead to Packt Publishing offer me to write a book about App-V, the “Getting Started” guide which also led to the “Advanced Guide” for App-V one year later. And a customer found my blog by a search and requested for me to provide a specialized and customized App-V training course in the US; that was my first trip to NY City and the US.
Writing those books or teaching a course were never a goal of mine, I just wanted to share what I’ve learned about the technology and improve my communication in the process, eventually I ended up gaining a whole lot more than that.
The issues that I found in the last couple of months to get back on track on some of the writing were many. Here’s a list that I’m sure there will be lots of you with the same problems:
- I can never find time: Writing takes time, for some of us much more time than others, and with a demanding day job and trying to use the weekends to get some rest, sometimes seems just impossible.
- Words and ideas just don’t flow out of my system: The simpler way to explain it is the “bloggers block” and the more you delayed your writing, the harder it gets.
- Procrastinating soon as I sit down and start writing: Since it’s always harder to get back on the writing motion, soon as I start trying, I start thinking and doing other things not related to my main goal.
- There’s too much information I’m interested to review all and write about it: Like most of you geeks out there, I have several interests in the IT world that I try to keep up and with that generating my own opinion, contents and such. But sometimes seems too much information all the time to try to read it all that is available.
10 Tips and Best Practices to Avoid Bloggers Block
Again, these are just a few I’m trying to apply in my own personal life, hopefully 2015 will work out better than the year before regarding writing and publishing.
1. In order to write, you need to read
And no, this is not a catch-phrase using the same method as the Sphinx in “Mystery Men”: “He who questions training only trains himself at asking questions” (?)
Enhancing your capabilities to elaborate more easily requires for you to train your mind in the right direction. Reading blogs, articles, forums and comments gives some traction to your mind to think regarding opinions and perspective, which will lead for your writing to flow without much problems.
All of you should already know Feedly to organize your RSS feeds, it is the best tool available since Google Reader disappeared. I also personally use Nextgen Reader in my desktop and Windows Phone to keep up with the reading.
2. Tweet, Comment and Interact
This is also a great way to motivate your mind into perspective and writing, the more you interact the easier will be to start writing. Putting your opinions in motion will help you on finding the things you want to write about; Twitter, as the “micro-blogging” network, is a great option to start.
Interacting in other people’s blog in their comments is going to be really useful as well. I always try to ensure that my profile shows up in every comment I make, people interacting with me in comments can review my blog and provide ideas as well on the things I’ve written.
3. Free writing. Write along
Free your mind from any structure, forget about titles, subtitles. Never mind trying to get the right introduction or a catchy phrase that can lure readers. Just write, write along.
This is a great technique I’ve been trying lately when the ideas don’t come into my head. I just start writing about anything that comes into my mind. This post actually started like that, thinking about “I don’t know what to write about. I need time to read and understand something new, but always takes me too much time”.
And if you are already working with an article, write the things you have in your head without giving it too much formality or shape. The idea is to make the writing flow, and good ideas will come eventually.
4. Start the article backwards or start from the middle
This is something related to the last recommendation about free writing. Once you have a solid idea about what you want to write about, don’t structure yourself to get the entire format of the article at the beginning. Start with the part that suits you better, the “low-hanging fruit”.
It’s quite common for me to get an idea about what I want to write, but getting trapped just in the start because I can’t find a right introduction. It happened quite often when I wrote the books, starting a chapter was too hard.
When that happens, I try to start by the easy part. Sometimes could be the ending, sometimes could be the middle of the article. For example, if it’s something technical, start writing with the step-by-step process; the rest will come along later.
5. Commit to consistency and deadlines, but be realistic
When you start writing commit yourself to two things: Consistency/periodicity regarding your writing and deadlines, and only do it if it’s going to be a realistic commitment.
If you have a bloggers block don’t start saying “I’ll dedicate two hours every day and publish one article per week”. Sounds like a great plan, but being honest with yourself, if you didn’t write at all for weeks (or even months like me), don’t try to jump into something that is going pretty unlikely to be completed and will only frustrate you.
Maybe a good place to start would be writing on Saturdays and a monthly post. Once you get the consistency, you can move forward with stronger commitments.
6. Write your thoughts at any place and any time
I often find myself during the day, in any type of activity, with ideas that comes into my head, and if I don’t write them down, just as they are, raw and simple, that thought is gone. I must admit that I do have memory problems, so this is a big issue for me.
What I’m trying to do is to write those ideas in my phone (try Evernote if you didn’t already), or write them down in a notebook. Later on I review them to keep on a train of thought I had hours or days ago.
“The moment a man sets his thoughts down on paper, however secretly, he is in a sense writing for publication” – Raymond Chandler
7. Short posts work as well as any other
If what you want to write is concise, simple and short, then so be it. A short post can have the same or even better impact than a larger one.
This is something that it’s hard for me even to this day, I have my mind set already that when I want something to write should be using an extended topic. But if you want to share an opinion, something you learned recently, and it doesn’t take much writing, then post it.
Using this will also facilitate your focus and you will practicing your writing. Sharing frequently in your blog will also encourage readers to interact more often.
8. Maintain a healthy environment while you are writing
This is a broad topic and could easily be a post on its own. Having a healthy environment it refers to several meanings and options, here’s just a summary about my best practices on that:
- Keep your desk neat, clean and organized. Order inspires order, an organized workplace will keep your mind focused.
Can you actually be motivated to write if your desk looks like this?
- Your writing place should be a distraction-free space. It could sound obvious, but sometimes we don’t notice that a TV nearby or street sounds if you sit by the window could be quite distracting.
- Always keep a bottle of water in your desk and have healthy snacks. Drinking water regularly helps your digestion, circulation, absorb nutrients more easily and maintaining the body temperature. All of those things are important to maintain your mind sharp. Healthy snacks as fruits also gives the necessary components to your body and brain to function properly, eating trash meals and snacks will do the exact opposite.
- Coffee it’s not my main option while writing. Even though caffeine is a must for several of technology guys, I try to stay away during writing hours. Coffee forces the body to eliminate water and nutrients are harder to absorb while you are drinking.
- Ergonomic position while you in front of the monitor. Not only sitting correctly but also having your keyboard, mouse and monitor in the right position. You usually don’t notice, but getting used to an unhealthy position can lead for back, neck, wrists pains and chronic problems. Here’s a nice and complete overview of some of the best practices regarding sitting correctly: “How to Sit at a Computer”.
- Take regular and scheduled brakes. And don’t stay in front of the computer while lunch or dinner, leave the working area.
- Try to be fully dressed while you are writing. Doesn’t matter if you write during early morning, or late at night, if you are wearing pajamas or just your underwear, it’s most likely that you won’t be completely focused on writing but more about your bed or laying in your couch instead.
9. Use Microsoft Word and thesaurus within
I always start writing my articles in Microsoft Word, and it’s not only to use review the spelling and grammar, the other important tool I have is the thesaurus providing synonyms and related concepts.
My native language it’s not English, so finding the right words could be difficult sometimes and could be a stopper if you are in the middle of an idea that you cannot set the right words. Using Shift+F7 in any word written, you’ll get in the right panel the synonyms you need for that thing you wanted to express differently.
10. Sometimes it just going to take more time that you thought so
Don’t get frustrated, please don’t. And don’t get too perfectionist, once you start reading your article again and again, you will always find something you want to change, add or delete; don’t get yourself into an infinite loop about getting the right article.
Writing sometime takes time, for some of us longer than others, it’s just the way it is. And there’s one thing certain: Practice is the only medicine to solve that.
That’s pretty much it for now.
How do you handle your own bloggers block? What type of issues do you find the most while trying to write?
Hi Augusto – nice article and excellent advice. I have a similar lack of time owing to having the extra addition of a 5 year old to keep entertained. My own blog is gathering dust as I speak.
Yes, I guess having kids could make things a little bit more complicated. Still, I found that sometimes taking a little bit of time, maybe 30 minutes to get an idea going within a draft article is possible and helps removing that writing apprehension.