There’s nothing worse than staring at a blank page not knowing what to write.
What happened to all those ideas you had in the shower this morning? Or that post you thought of at the gym?
You’ve finally cleared your calendar, you open up your word processor…And stare at this for three hours:
Every minute you waste waiting costs you subscribers, sales, and — worst of all — belief in yourself that you can write something at all.
At the same time, your competitors are churning out great pieces, picking up thousands of subscribers, and even getting their work featured on big name sites, like Huffington Post and Business Insider.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Over the past 11 years I’ve published dozens of posts every month. And because of that, traffic to my site has soared. In fact, more than 1 million people visit this VERY blog every 30 days:
More than 1 million monthly readers.
And that traffic has directly led to more sales in my business:
IWT’s Revenue Growth 2009-2015
But it’s not because I’m a “natural writer.” I’ve had to learn how to beat writer’s block and crank out interesting articles, even when I’m not feeling “inspired.”
And today I want to show you the 3 best ways to create amazing content every time you put the pen to the page.
Writing hack #1: Flip on your creativity switch
One of my favorite creativity tips comes from Brian Koppelman.
Brian is a screenwriter, novelist, director, and producer. He’s best known as the co-writer of Ocean’s Thirteen and Rounders.
But what people don’t know is that he wrote his first screenplay, Rounders, while working a full-time job. He had less than an hour every day to write.
That meant waiting for inspiration to strike wasn’t an option. Every time he sat down, he had to crank out at least a few pages. If he hadn’t, there’d be no Rounders and he’d still be working a dead-end job he hated.
Talk about writing under pressure.
Recently, I spoke to him about how he does it. And in this part of our chat, he explained the system he uses to be more creative and write on demand:
Notice how Brian talks about creativity. It’s not magic. It’s not something reserved for the elite or something that only “naturally” creative people have.
It turns out, there is a process — a system — for coming up with “brilliant” or “genius” ideas. As Brian says, a big part of it is just committing time to writing and giving yourself permission to write a shitty first draft.
Writing hack #2: Set the stage
Can you guess the number one reason people get writer’s block?
It’s not that they’re bad writers. It’s not that they have nothing to say.
It’s that they haven’t done enough work BEFORE sitting down to write.
They’re just hoping to produce a literary masterpiece without doing any prep work. That’s a sure-fire way to fail.
So what should you do instead? It’s pretty simple.
Get the information you need BEFORE you need it.
And when you do that, you can easily write all day if you want.
Here are a few simple ways to do a lot of research without spending lot of time:
- File fascinating articles away. Anytime you come across an article or blog post you love, store it away for easy reference later on. I save links to Delicious, but you can also use tools like Evernote, email, Google Docs, or even Word. Why?
Because rather than wasting a ton of time and mental energy hunting down ideas when it’s time to write, you’ll have everything in one place for easy reference later on. No guessing. No wondering where to start. Just pull up your list of articles and get started on some ideas.
- Read the best of the best on the topic. This sounds so obvious, right? Aren’t all writers reading other people’s great stuff? Nah-ah. Not at all. You’d be surprised how often writers don’t read. I find this astounding. How can you expect to sit down, draft a few lines, and then become an overnight writing sensation?
You can’t. Like anything you need to study what the best in your field are doing — so you can learn from them. Look at the top post online and ask: “What makes this so successful?” “Why do other share this with their friends?” Study the sentence structure, the topics, and the tone of other great writers, and your work is sure to improve when you sit down to write.
- Dig into the comments. Comments on popular blog posts are very revealing. People will say what they loved. And even more often, they’ll comment on what they disagreed with. If you can find comments like that, they’re PURE GOLD.
Why? Because if enough people feels strong enough to comment on it, chances are they want to hear more on this subject. So if you see someone commenting, “I wish you would have…” “I don’t agree. I think…” listen up. This is your chance to write about something other can’t wait to read.
Doing this research beforehand will help you have a ton of ideas to write about.
But what do you do once it’s time to start writing? Of course, that’s a different beast altogether.
But if you use hack #3, you’ll learn how to take all your ideas, map them out on a page, and start creating some compelling content.
Writing hack #3 – Give yourself a writing roadmap
Want to know how I started this blog post? I’m talking about the one you’re reading right now.
I didn’t sit down in front of a blank screen and start banging out perfect prose from scratch, adding thoughtful examples, anecdotes, and resourceful links along the way, like magic.
I started with an outline.
Without an outline, this post would’ve taken me hours — if not days — to put together. Instead, it took me about an hour and a half — because I took the time to create an outline.
An outline is like a great table of contents for a book. Once you’ve nailed the table of contents and gotten it into solid structure, the actual writing will almost take care of itself.
For example, when I was writing my book, it took me eight months to get the table of contents nailed down. I kept adding/removing chapters, rearranging the order, and so on.
But once I got it right, writing the actual book took less than 10% of that time.
Writing almost anything works the same way.
Outlining works because it helps you accomplish three things:
- You quickly get all of your ideas out. This is an easy way to see if they make sense.
- You can easily move ideas around until everything flows – in a fraction of the time. If you just write the whole piece out first, you’ll waste time reorganizing and worse, you might even have to start over from scratch.
- Once you outline, you no longer have a blank page in front of you. Getting started — even if it’s just a simple outline — is a huge relief. What’s the saying? A pen in motion stays in motion? Then all you have to do is fill in the gaps and you’re ready to publish.
If you’re curious about what my outlines include, here’s a quick peek. This is the simple 5-part template I use before I start writing anything.
Notice how simple this is. It makes it easier to get started.
Your outline can be as brief or detailed as you want. You’re not doing it for other people. You’re just giving yourself a framework to start writing.
And once you’ve got the skeleton, you can turn it into great content in a fraction of the time.
Let me send you 15 more writing ideas to get you started
Studying other pieces of content is one of the best ways to stir up ideas for your next piece or blog post.
If you’re interested, we have a free guide that shows you 15 great pieces of content. You can use them as inspiration or swipe the ideas for your next writing piece or blog post. And you can download a free copy of the guide instantly by entering your name and email below.