Wednesday, 24 June 2020

When Blogging Is Hard and What to Do About It

No matter how committed you are to your blog there will be occasions when things aren’t flowing as easily as you’d wish. It helps to have a streamlined process (I’ve described my blogging workflow elsewhere) but there are still times when I struggle with ideas, when the words won’t flow, or when I change my mind at the last minute. Here’s how I handle these issues when they arise. Maybe some of it will resonate with you.

What Should I Write About?

Most of my blogging ideas come from conversations with friends, events I’ve attended, or things I’ve seen on social media. I keep lists of promising topics but sometimes it’s hard to decide what to write about. Here are a few approaches I use when that happens.

Dana Fox’s book 365 Blog Topic Ideas For The Lifestyle Blogger Who Has Nothing to Write About was a gift from my friend and fellow mental health blogger Aimee Wilson. It’s inspired a number of articles including a profile of six people I admire in the mental health community.

It can help to talk to fellow writers and experts in your field. A meeting with Aimee last year led to a joint post with her and mental health blogger Peter McDonnell on competition and collaboration. A piece on the importance of asking questions was inspired by an article on Aimee’s blog I’m NOT Disordered. As with all collaborative work, remember to acknowledge those who have contributed or inspired your writing.

Another approach is to use or adapt content you’ve written previously. Our book High Tide, Low Tide: The Caring Friend’s Guide to Bipolar Disorder is a rich source of material for our blog. If you have previously published content, whether that is a book or in some other format, consider excerpting it for a blog post. If you vlog or podcast, try a book reading. Fran and I have recorded book readings for our YouTube channel. Draft material can be another source of inspiration. Look through your incomplete or unpublished articles and other writing. Maybe the time has come to complete or rework the content in some way.

If you have an idea that feels too big or complex to take on, consider breaking it down into smaller pieces. Focus on one or two specific sub-topics at a time rather than trying to squeeze it all in one post.

Some promising topics may be beyond your knowledge or experience. Rather than reject the idea outright, consider approaching it from your perspective. A friend asked me recently if I’ve ever written about the mind of someone who is suicidal; what they are thinking and feeling. I could never write such an article because I have no relevant personal experience. However, I can write about supporting someone who lives with suicidal thoughts, and how to take care of yourself when your friend is suicidal.

When the Words Won’t Flow

All bloggers know the frustration of writer’s block. The time isn’t right. There are other things going on. The muse isn’t with you. You’re not in the right frame of mind. I explored this in a post called I Was Going To Write Today. The solution can be as simple as seeing these “reasons” for the excuses they are and writing anyway. Because that’s what writers do.

And in the meantime the world goes on. And other people write. And they are not necessarily “inspired.” And they probably don’t have the right pen or the perfect notebook. Maybe they found the back of an envelope to scribble on when their laptop crashed so they didn’t lose what was bursting to get out. And maybe the cat just spewed up or the baby did. Or they feel sick today or depressed or despair of ever making a difference or even getting through another day fuck even another hour but you know what they dare anyway they dare to care and write and scream sigh vomit breathe craft something from the guts of them because sometimes that’s all you have and all you can offer to the world and sometimes it is enough you are enough YOU ARE ENOUGH.

Another approach to feeling stuck is to change something. Try writing in a different setting, at a different time of day, or using a different medium. If you normally write at your computer keyboard, try your tablet or phone, or pick up a pen and write longhand in a notebook, on the back of an envelope or whatever is to hand. It could just be the impetus you need for the words to start flowing.

Sometimes all you can do is accept that you’re not going to write today. Set it aside, along with any self-judgment about not being good enough, or that you’re a failure because the words aren’t flowing for you right now. Use the time to research new ideas, read or take some training relevant to your subject area, or update your website. Actively support other bloggers in your field by sharing their content, leaving comments, and giving them some feedback.

Remember to take care of yourself too. Maybe you need to take a break, do something completely different for a while, and recharge your batteries. You’ll return refreshed and might even come up with some new ideas in the process.

If you’re stuck for content or want to inject some new energy into your blog, consider inviting others to contribute. Fran and I welcome guest bloggers and have published some fantastic content by guest writers. If you’d like to write for us check out the guidelines on our contact page.

To Publish or Not to Publish?

Sometimes I complete an article but am uncertain about publishing it. There can be a number of reasons. The first is feeling dissatisfied with what I’ve written. It can be good to hold yourself to high standards but I have a tendency to be overly self-critical. It helps to remind myself that the perfect is the enemy of the good and that “good enough” means exactly what it says. A good enough piece that gets published has the potential to reach thousands of people. That “almost there” article in your drafts folder will only ever have an audience of one.

That said, check in with yourself before sending your work out into the world. I wrote an article last year after seeing someone post inappropriately on social media. I decided not to publish because I’d focused too much on that one specific example. I’d not mentioned any names but it would not have been hard to trace the person concerned. That would only have brought additional focus to their malpractice and potential hurt to the innocent party involved. I set aside what I’d written and wrote a stronger and more general article on how to respond responsibly on social media.

It is good manners to acknowledge people who have inspired or collaborated on a blog post. Ensuring you have permission to include content others have created is responsible blogging. However, granting a publication veto to people who have contributed to an article, are referenced in it, or might be affected by its publication is a different matter — and one potentially fraught with difficulties. I’ve written posts I’m proud of but withheld from publishing or withdrawn after publication because approval was unforthcoming or withdrawn. There are no easy answers, but in future I intend paying closer attention to my boundaries as a writer and blog owner. I will focus on telling my story rather than other people’s and more clearly define roles and responsibilities in colaborative work. Hopefully, this will lead to less frustration and misunderstanding, and fewer articles that never see the light of day.

 

I’ve described some of the issues I encounter from time to time with my blogging and how I work around them. Perhaps some are familiar to you. How do you handle it when you are stuck for an idea, or when writer’s block strikes? Do you ever hesitate before publishing your work, or doubt it it’s good enough to be “out there”? Fran and I would love to hear from you, either in the comments below or in a guest post. If you’d like to write for us check out the guidelines on our contact page.

Happy and successful blogging!

 

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash.

 

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