There are two major components of content writing that tend to trip writers up: first, coming up with any new ideas at all (i.e. overcoming writer’s block); and second, producing creative, original content that grabs readers’ attention and leaves them with the distinct impression of having learned something new, as a result of reading it.
Here are some solutions for both of these common roadblocks to produce creative blog content.
Treat Writing Like Star Gazing
If you try to stare at a star directly, you won’t be able to see it as clearly as if you focus your gaze right next to it. Similarly, there are a few strategies for successfully generating blog topics without trying too overtly that may be more effective than focusing too intently on writing an old-fashioned outline right from the start. This is because ideas often come to us when we’re not looking for them directly. Rather, the best ideas come to us when we’re least expecting them: for example, while on a break; or while brainstorming or freewriting in our journals a week before the blog entry is due.
In fact, it could be argued that the worst time to think up a blog topic is immediately before you need to write it. Rather, if you spend time brainstorming in your off-hours, you’re much more likely to come up with a good idea — simply because you’re not trying as hard! In terms of what to write about, consider the issues and questions that are important to you, right now. What are your competitors tweeting and blogging about? How can you fill in the gaps between what has already been said and what is in need of more explanation than what is already out there?
If you’re still stuck, try utilizing your smartphone for recording your ideas using a voice recorder app — say while on the bus or driving to work? You might also try using the simple memo pad app on your phone to make notes during breaks or your off-time. Another idea is to allow your latest Kindle book or magazine read to inspire you: try riffing off a quote or a section of text and see if your piece is creatively influenced by the other piece of writing. Lastly, try writing about an image — such as an especially intriguing image on your digital camera from your latest vacation or weekend getaway — and see where it takes you.
Take a Walk
If you feel stuck for new ideas, or are struggling to finish composing your latest blog post, try going for a walk. If you’re able to physically distract yourself from the frustration of a brief bout of writer’s block, you’ll be doing better. In fact, there are even studies showing that walking can boost our creativity and ability to think clearly. While a graduate student at Stanford, Marily Opprezzo recruited undergraduate students to take creativity tests in two different settings: while sitting at a desk and while walking on a treadmill. Almost every student’s creativity increased substantially while walking. If you’re still at a loss for words, try timing yourself using the Pomodoro Technique: alternate between automatic or free-writing for twenty-five minutes, then taking a five minute break by going for a short walk!
Unplug & Recharge
One of the most important ways we can ensure that we perform at our best is by coming to work refreshed and invigorated, as well as relatively stress-free. How do we get to that point, though? Washington State University suggests unplugging from our devices in order to allow for extra centering and focusing time. Rather than turning to your smartphone first thing in the morning, try meditating outside or doing light yoga to help your mind face the day’s tasks with a calm mind and a centered body.
You might also consider taking notes for your next blog post manually—that is, via pen and paper—as opposed to on your computer. The act of writing by hand helps us retain information more effectively, which may help us to synthesize our thoughts more clearly than if we were brainstorming or outlining via our computer. If anything, the changing-up of routine by writing with a pen and paper can sometimes help jolt our brains to think about things differently.
Dare to Be Different
One of my biggest qualms with much of the blog content to be found online is the frequency with which blog content is recycled, imitated, or just plain stolen. Considering the plentitude of unoriginality, it’s always a relief to come across a piece that says something different or gutsy, for once. It can be scary, but the courage to be original and independent may make your content “go viral”— provided, of course, that it’s well-written!
While being different can mean writing about a topic in a new way, it can also mean breaking away from the crowd and refusing to agree with popular opinion on a subject. Provided you employ good critical thinking skills and avoid being a contrarian for the sake of playing devil’s advocate, many readers tend to find controversial think-pieces refreshing and attention-grabbing.
Tell a Story
What types of writing are the most engaging? In most people’s experience, writing is the most engaging when it tells a story using vivid imagery, interesting details, and engaging action that sets up tension, builds to a high point of action, and then resolves. The classic story arc is an old formula but one that has stood the proverbial test of time.
That said, avoid clichés and too-familiar tales at all costs, and make your readers care about your characters and their situation. Inspire strong emotions by presenting them with believable scenarios they can relate to, while also avoiding the commonplace. Stories are also easier to remember than facts and figures, so narrative writing is likely to leave readers with a stronger impression than a dry how-to list.
If you want to produce creative content for your company blog, remember that people want to be entertained and they never have a lot of time on their hands. However, the majority of your readers likely aren’t children and won’t appreciate being spoken down to, so don’t dumb down your writing just to get their attention. Rather, if you write about subjects you care about that are well-researched and interesting, your audience will appreciate the care to detail and uniqueness that will invariably help it stand out from the mediocre crowd.
What are some blog post characteristics that you appreciate? Have you come across an especially notable article or piece of evergreen content, lately? Share your experience in the comments section, below!