How to get back into the writing groove when you have been busy, distracted, lazy or all of the above

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Even though most of you reading this blog no longer enjoy long, luxurious summers filled with sleeping in, chasing bugs, trips to the library and endless episodes of Power Rangers, you may find that your normal prolific writing pace has slowed a bit in the month of July.

(I think the real question is why AREN’T we sleeping in, chasing bugs, going to the library and watching Power Rangers?)

At certain times during the year, it is normal to get in a non-productive groove.

The only person I know who writes without fail five days a week is Seth Godin.ย  And he does this while answering every email that comes into his inbox and writing about five books a year. Let’s just consider him in a special category of prolific grace,ย  imagining that he has a slight genetic mutation that prevents him from spending hours lost on Facebook. If I was lucky enough to have that genetic mutation, I surely would do the same.

For us mere mortals, the no writing groove can be a sticky place, which gets worse the longer you stay in it.

To break the habit and get writing again, here are five ways to choose something to write about. Brainstorm:

  1. What’s going on right now that is newsworthy?
    After watching the U.S. men’s gymnastics team flame out last night, I have about three posts in mind about the agony of defeat, and the importance of embracing failure. Not to mention a post analyzing my terrible codependence (I almost hopped a plane to London last night so I could go hug the whole team. I am settling on sending a box of chocolates with an inspirational note card and an open invitation to cry in my office the next time they are in Phoenix). If you can grab the coattails of a hot topic in the news, you will have lots of material, and built-in reader interest.
  2. What is your primary mission?
    What are you here to help people do, believe or feel?
    Do you want to help people make more money? Share one tiny tip that can increase their income by 5%. Do you want people to believe that human slavery is wrong? Write a post about a cool new social enterprise from Not for Sale. Do you want people to feel uplifted and inspired? Share a story of someone who recovered from tragedy or heartbreak and went on to do great things. The stories do not have to be huge or complicated or long, they just have to deliver a concrete thing to your audience that is part of your mission.
  3. What questions do you get asked on a consistent basis?
    We are so close to our own expertise that we forget that a lot of people still don’t know what we know. You may have told people 100 times how to set up Quickbooks. Or how to set up a paperless office. But maybe they forgot. Or maybe they missed your blog that day. Or maybe they didn’t pay attention the first time you told them, and now they really need the information again.
  4. What have you written in the past that you could add something to/contrast/enhance? (tip to @ambercadabra for that idea) Look over your most popular posts or articles and see if you could make them even better.ย  Maybe you can add an update to the story, or piece of research, or new perspective. This way you can refer to the original post, which new readers may not have seen, and not have to construct the whole idea from scratch. My Jon the Ballplayer series is a good example of this.ย  (Side benefit — when people like your post, they usually tell you so in the comments. Reading positive comments gives you an endorphin rush. Us moody writers need all the endorphin rushes we can get.)
  5. Ask your friends on social media what to write about
    It may not surprise you to know that yesterday I was one of those poor, stuck souls who had not written a blog post in weeks. I turned to my wise friends on Facebook to ask for help, and got over 35 ideas. The reigning winner? “Since you are stuck not knowing what to write about, write about what to write about when you don’t know what to write about.” Now that is meta.

With your handful of topics in mind, set a timer, open your browser and just start writing. I know you can crack out a post today. If you feel stuck like I did yesterday, I challenge you to write one post and publish it by midnight tonight, in whatever time zone you reside. Paste the link here in the comments, and we will all go read it, and congratulate you for being so smart and helpful. ๐Ÿ™‚

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24 Responses to “How to get back into the writing groove when you have been busy, distracted, lazy or all of the above”

  1. Alanna says:

    As my professional life has me blogging around, my poor ol’ personal blog does not always get the proper attention. But this did it…

  2. Kishore says:

    You are right. Seth Godin is an inspiration in the way he publishes consistently.

  3. Steve says:

    One way that’s worked well for me is to simply look around. Overhear what people are talking about in the bank, supermarket, and workplace. I’ve gotten some fantastic posts through some judicious evesdropping, and plain old observation.

    Once, I was in line at the bank and te woman in front of me was asking the teller how she could negotiage a smaller credit card payment. The man right next to her was depositing a very large sum of money, and inquiring about account options, since he felt such deposits would be a regular occurance.

    That experience sparked an entrepreneur oriented post. A supermarket visit found me behind a woman who was purchasing an unbelieveable variety of sugary foods(?). I snappd a picture, and ZAP! I had a post about sugar addiction, its’ effects and how to stop it.

    There are fantastic writing ideas all around you, just open your eyes and soak it all up.

    My .o2c

  4. Great post! I was just talking to my blogger friends about this problem. I’ve share the link with them too. Thanks for your input!

  5. Amanda says:

    I work for an e-commerce website and I always ask the Customer Service people what kind of questions they’ve been getting a lot lately, that usually results in a good blog post topic. Thanks for the great post!

    • Pamela says:

      That is such a great idea, Amanda, because this way you KNOW you will be sharing useful, relevant info to your audience.

  6. akira says:

    Hi Pam, your post came to me at the perfect timing, as I just hit “post” on a writeup about WDS that I procrastinated for three weeks. After deliberating on “what am I adding to the 300 posts already out there, now?” for days, I realized that if it’s anything the act of writing about it in itself is worth sharing.

    It was nice to meet you (I sat next to you during Chris Brogan’s talk) at WDS. Will be checking in here from time to time now:)

    • Pamela says:

      That is so great to hear! I am so glad to connect with you at WDS. I still remember your impressive mind map notes. I wish I had your skill and style! Please share the link to your WDS post, I would love to read it!

  7. Jacques says:

    Thanks for the inspirational kick in the derriรจre! I was able to get it published AND sit in on the daily Power Rangers binge. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Susan says:

    YAY! Thank you!

    The successful, dig-me-out-of-the-not-writing-funk post:

  9. faisal says:

    Or better still, read other interesting writing, that will give you a super boost to start writing.

  10. Lisa-Marie says:

    You have inspired a series Pam. I always get the question what apps do you use to run your businesses and how so I started a series on the Galahads blog…
    Thanks for the inspiration!

    P.S. Hopefully I get forgiven for the midnight deadline as I am in a different time zone ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Pamela says:

      A whole series? I am impressed! And like I said, if you are in a different time zone, that is good enough for me. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  11. I love these posts because they give me a ton of ideas for my blog. I already have a post lined up for tomorrow but expect to see some results from this article’s brainstorming ideas in the near future.

  12. Vera Flame says:

    Ok Pam, you inspired me to write my inaugural blog post! I had an idea for it this morning, but since my new wordpress site isn’t *perfect* I was delaying. Thank You!

  13. OMG, Pam, this is exactly the post I need because I haven’t blogged in ages and have been feeling very stuck. Thanks so much and I hope I run into you somewhere so we can chase bugs together!