Focused and Productive Writing – 5 Tips to Get You There
The screen is blank. It’s been that way all morning. You have sat in front of it, poured another cup of coffee, sat again, took the dog for a walk, sat again, tried some of the suggestions that are all over the web (I’m really a bit tired of turning on music and dancing), and sat some more. And you have deadlines – panic is setting in. Ideas won’t come.
The 5 tips you are about to read may not solve your current crisis, but if you start using them, you’ll actually write more at a faster pace. (You’ll probably smile more too, and that’s a good thing).
You Have to Have a File of Ideas and Topics
Maybe you have several clients all in different business niches, and you are attempting to meet the terms of your contracts with them – so many posts a month, update on Facebook, and so on. So, where are you getting your topic ideas?
- Maybe you are Googling the business niche and seeing what pops up. That’s not a bad idea.
- But how much time have you spent researching who your clients’ competitors are? What are they talking about? What’s on their Facebook pages? Are you following them on Twitter? If you haven’t done much of this, it’s time.
- How much research are you really doing during non-writing time?
- How often do you talk to your client, find out what s/he is doing – any new team members? Any event coming up? Is there a new pet?
Part of your job as a blogger for a client is to grab any new tidbit; part of your job is also to read every news article, press release, and social media source of a business niche. If you do this, you do actually get topic ideas that you can throw into a file. No more searching for topic ideas, if you have a full file.
Bonus Tip on Filling Your File: One blogger I know has a unique method for getting topic ideas. He goes to a crowded mall, just stops random people and tells them he is taking a survey. He asks them questions about the business niches for which he is writing and always finds topic ideas.
Never Go to Bed without Something on the Screen to Open in the Morning
That blank screen that you stare at? It’s depressing, and it’s psychologically bad. The trick to getting over this is to write just a small amount before going to bed and leave it on your screen. It doesn’t even have to be good. But when you open it up in the morning, you have at least begun. Now your psyche is saying you need to “finish” the thing, not “start” it.
Write a Letter to a Friend
Describe your troubles with your writer’s block; tell him/her about your problems finding topic ideas for a particular niche. Start listing all the posts/articles, whatever you have written already. As you write these down, something magical seems to happen. While you are telling all of these troubles to your friend, a small epiphany happens. Now, you know exactly how you are going to start that next task. You may even have the first sentence and the beginnings of a title in mind.
Never Take a Break After You have Finished a Piece. Take that Break in the Middle.
Remember that blank page? You never want to see it again. You may complain that this schedule of breaks will cause you to lose focus. Actually, it won’t and it can help you move forward. When you take a break in the middle and come back, you will have to spend a few minutes reading what you have written so far. But in reading it, new thoughts may come, or you may discover a much more compelling or creative way to write something. So now finish it and begin your next task before you take another break.
When you’re stuck, start reading. Even if you have read everything about your client’s business and you have checked out all of the competitors, pull up some stuff about a related niche. Suppose you are writing for an interior design company. Think for a minute – what other businesses are related? Home improvement, painting companies, real estate, green residential energy, and so forth. Start reading their blogs. You may end up with several topics. I once wrote for a bed and mattress retailer and my file of topics was empty. I mean, once you have written 10 posts about mattresses, another 10 about bedding, several on pillow types and even more on sleep problems, what’s left? But when I hit upon a blog about going green, all of a sudden I had several topics related to making a bedroom green – I did a whole series and the client loved it.
Where are You Writing?
Are you at your kitchen table? Are you sitting on the couch with a laptop literally on your lap? Then, you are not in a place that is going to get you maximum focus and productivity. You need a dedicated space to write. And that means in a chair with your laptop on a small table or desk. Notice I said small. The reason is that there should be nothing else there – just you, your best friend (your laptop), and your files. It’s a mental thing, really.
Writing for a living is not easy, despite what others may thing. If the ideas and words aren’t flowing, no money is being made. And when you ever get frustrated enough to even think about a “real” job, as they say, just remember what that option is. You won’t still be in your sweats with your coffee at 10:00 a.m.