The blank page is the bane of all writers. We all struggle to find ways to make the cursor stop being disappointed in us and actually get writing. It is blinking at us, after all. The good news is there are a variety of writing strategies that can get you past writer’s block and on to a complete first draft. The trick is to find the one that works for you.
1. Go Back to Your Content Plan
If your problem is finding a topic to write about, you can’t go wrong by going back to your content plan. This is a calendar (I like to use excel) that lays out target keywords and topics across weeks or months. It makes sure you don’t get stuck in a rut. Often, when you are stuck trying to find a topic it is because you have gotten away from your plan.
2. Read Something, or Many Somethings
Most professional writers say the key to writing well is to read … a lot. If you are having trouble getting past the blank page, put it away and start reading. Pull out your local law journal or state bar magazine. Click over to a blog that you follow, or plug your target keyword into a search engine and see what others have to say about the topic.
As you are reading, jot down any thoughts you have. How does what you’re reading apply to your practice? Do you agree with the writer? Better yet, why do you disagree? When something strikes a nerve, it will give you the motivation to move past your writer’s block and beat the blank page.
3. Talk It Out
Some people are better at talking about an issue than writing about it. If have a topic in mind but you are struggling to figure out how to put words on the page, try talking about it. Discuss the issue with a coworker or even dictate it. (We lawyers do like our dictation software, don’t we?) Talking about the topic will get your mind going and get you past the intimidation of the blank page.
4. Use a Mind Map to Gather Your Thoughts
Most people don’t write start-to-finish. Ideas float in in whatever order they like; certainly not the way they should go down on the page. But if you put that thought off until you get to it’s place in the blog article, you could very well forget it. To gather all those thoughts, Luigi Benetton of Attorneys@Work recommends using a mind map. He says:
“Many writers feel a compulsion to write from the start of a new document. That compulsion could make writing feel like cycling while gently holding the brakes. In more severe cases, it seems to lead to what some people call ‘writer’s block’ and painful delays in drafting a document.”
Instead, he recommends gathering all your thoughts as nodes in a mind map and then transferring them to the page in an order that makes sense. (You can also use a mind map to plan your content.)
5. Use Headings to Put Things in Order
Often, a blog idea starts with a few key points you know you want to cover, even if you don’t know what else needs to be said about them. When that happens, you write your blog headings first. Think of this like writing an outline for a paper in college. Put those main points in your headings, then go back and fill them in once you are done brainstorming. This is one of my favorite writing strategies to beat the blank page because it provides a balance between open brainstorming and quickly getting to a finished first draft.
Starting a blog can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Keep these writing strategies in your back pocket. When writer’s block threatens, they can help you find inspiration and beat the blank page.
Lisa Schmidt is a writer for Legal Linguist in Ferndale, Michigan. She provides ghost-blogging and writing services to lawyers and small businesses. If you need help beating the blank page for your online marketing, contact Legal Linguist to schedule a meeting.