It happens to the best of us. All motivation leaves us, along with all the great ideas and headlines. This is normal. It’s not just you. The solution lies in what you believe in. Do you allow yourself to think that you can’t write? Or do you carry on as usual?
At first, I could hardly do the latter. I thought that I had to abstain from writing entirely, to let my “mojo” come back to me. I found that it doesn’t work that way.
The longer I stay away from writing, the less motivation and creativity I have. It’s as if the writing muscle starts to enjoy the break and quickly tries to turn it into a long term vacation. Here is what I like to do instead.
1. The act of writing feels good, so write anyways
It’s one thing to sit in front of a blank page and stare at it, hoping to become productive. It’s another thing to put words on the page. To write. Think for a bit, but then go off on a tangent, about anything.
Structure it like a blog post. Do it for yourself, not the internet. Don’t stop to edit. Don’t stop to read things over. Let your thoughts spill out onto the page unchanged for once.
2. Create a list of headlines on Medium
Start with ten. Write a headline about anything that you’ve thought about twice in the recent past.
Why Bottling It All Up Will Lead To Disaster
How You Should Behave When Someone Is Declined At The Register
and so on. Generating a list of headlines forces you to be creative. It makes you think about the things you might want to write about. Again, the secret is to let it all out; don’t hold back just because it sounds weird. Nobody is going to see it anyways.
The next time you’re full of writing “juice” and you log in to Medium, you will have plenty of options to filter through and adjust to your liking.
3. Re-write someone else’s article from your point of view
Don’t plagiarize. Read a piece that you like and put it into your own words. I can usually get the idea of an article locked into my brain. Then I need only refer to it briefly to touch on points the other author has made.
Sometimes my article is too similar because I share the same point of view. Those articles I save. I don’t want to be a copy cat. The pieces that morph into a different idea, and unique take on the same subject, I edit later and post.
4. Answer a question on Quora
Sometimes it’s easier to answer a real question than it is to make a metaphorical one that you base your article around. Quora is a great starting point.
I use it to create blog ideas. People can ask questions, and you can answer them. Give a thoughtful answer, a minimum of 200 words. Take a laser cutter to your words to make your answer as clear and concise as possible.
Use the question itself as part of the headline for your blog post. You don’t have to publish, but it will remain in your stories as a draft, and you can always expand on it later.
5. Write a funny story about you and your best friend
It’s like journaling, but more formal. We all have best friends, and we can all think of a good story. Take your time. Remember as much detail as possible. Create suspense, humor, or sadness.
The purpose of this exercise is to lead you away from official blog post business. It’s meant to be fun, to take your mind off of writing something specific for an audience.
This is about making the audience come to you and not the other way around. I usually practice this on Quora as well. I will try to answer a question such as “what was the funniest thing you’ve ever witnessed?” or “Have you ever had an ‘Oh crap’ moment?”
6. Create a list post
Readers love lists and writers have experiences to share. Write a post about anything you want that might help someone see life through your lens. It’s fun and personal. Here are some ideas for lists you can write about.
10 things you should never do
20 pieces of advice to give a 20-year-old
7 things school failed to teach me
15 reasons why you shouldn’t get married
7. Get angry
Your keyboard is your paintbrush, and your screen is your canvas. Write about something that gets you going. Something that you strongly oppose or something that you genuinely believe in.
Let your emotions on the subject spill out onto the page. Let it be known how you feel. When we write from the heart, we can produce our best content. Some of my thoughts and opinions are difficult to articulate.
Writing about them generates the first draft. It puts my thoughts on the page and lets my brain finally relax. Don’t publish right away. Let it sit for a day or two and then revisit.
Heated writing can sometimes be great or inappropriate. Giving yourself some time to go back to your essay with a cool head and fresh eyes will make it clear whether your post should be published or if it was just good practice.
8. Edit an old post
I did this last week. I went back a few months and found two posts I wrote that weren’t so hot. I copy pasted them into new drafts and deleted them from Medium.
I reformatted them, re-wrote some paragraphs, found some new information, and changed the images. I also adjusted or re-wrote the headlines. Anything I could do to make them better and to apply the new skills I have learned since writing them.
It is essential to put in a reasonable effort. Don’t just change a few things and hit publish. Get surgical. Really try to change things so that the article sounds better. Take as much time as you would to write a new post.
9. Create a product description
This is an excellent way to practice your descriptive writing. Pick out anything in the space around you and write about it in detail. It doesn’t matter if it’s a sweater or a cupcake.
Try to write 500 words describing it in perfect detail to someone else. If I have my journal handy on public transit or if I have a minute waiting for a meal, I try to describe a person or an object.
These blurbs aren’t necessarily transferrable into a useable blog post, but they do make you better at analyzing and describing things in your writing. This is a great skill to have and is overlooked by many writers.