Whether you are doing a blog challenge or just want to post more regularly, there are those inevitable days or weeks when you want to publish a post but time or ideas are in short supply.
For writers, in particular, blogging can be a form of practice, not unlike the daily practice of musicians or athletes. One of the differences is that musicians often have lessons to keep them on track, and athletes have coaches. Writers often have only themselves for accountability, which is why the public nature of a blog and its readers can be such a good motivating tool.
Sticking to a blogging routine reinforces the idea of writing without waiting for inspiration. Musicians practice and athletes train regardless of whether they feel like doing so, but for some reason writers and many other creatives allow ourselves to be led around by our moods. Please don’t misunderstand me: being inspired to write feels wonderful, and I definitely try to ride that momentum whenever I can. But if we wait for the muse to visit us, we might wait a very long time without any practice at all. (Watch Elizabeth Gilbert’s powerful TED Talk “Your Elusive Creative Genius” on how to “show up” for creative work regardless of whether our muse shows up with us).
With that idea in mind, here are the first 10 of 30 ideas for writing a blog post when you find yourself staring at a blank screen (read ideas 11-20 here and and ideas 21-30 here). Please use the comments to share other ideas that work for you.
1. Write about your name.
Your first name. Your middle name. Your last name. The name you wish you had or used to have. Pam Parker recently did this wonderfully in “Names and Stories“:
“Why did you and Dad name me Pam Parker? Didn’t you think about what my initials would be?”
She probably stifled a giggle, but I don’t recall. What I do remember is learning that she had wanted to name me Jane. In the late 1960s, there was a popular bread company in New England called Jane Parker. “Your father said he would NOT have his daughter named for a loaf of bread.” Read more
2. Take your readers along on a recent vacation or road trip.
Sort through your vacation photos to find ones representative and tell your story as only you can. For inspiration, read Sally Cissna’s “The American West or What I did on summer vacation (Take 2)“:
OK, two women traveling, worrying about a cow and her bawling calf, a situation which probably happens all the time in Ingomar, Montana…were we really going to stop and report this? Will we be run out of town on a laugh track? On the other hand, parked at the entrance of the old town is a Milwaukee Road train car. We, being from Milwaukee, we took it as an omen. Read more
3. Share a technique that helps you to manage digital technology.
We all struggle at times with social media, screen time, information overload, or finding time for focused work or pleasure. Write about an area that has been difficult for you and what you are doing about it. Cal Newport does this well in “Deep Habits: Write Your Own E-mail Protocols,” in which he discusses how to minimize the number of business emails we have to deal with:
[L]ook at this terrible reply to a meeting request that I actually sent not long ago:
I’m definitely game to catch up this week.
Ugh. As I sent the above I knew that in the interest of replying as quickly as possible, I probably tripled the number of messages required before this meeting came to fruition. Read more
4. Take a photo of something in your everyday life that catches your eye, and write about why it is interesting.
Katherine Wikoff does this regularly on her blog, especially with Milwaukee architecture, such as her recent post, Foreground (Old), Middle Ground (Older), Background (New):
Something about the shapes of these rooflines in Downtown Milwaukee caught my attention while I walked between meetings this afternoon. One building sort of rolls away into the next, hopscotching among eras of architectural history as our gaze is pulled successively outward, from plane to plane, in the telescoping depth of field. See the post and photo
5. Write a book review.
Think of a book you have read recently that stayed with you. Jot down some representative or memorable passages. Gather links to the author’s online presence. Then put it all together in a review. A good model to use is Christi Craig’s recent post “A review of Evergreen, a novel rich in character & place“:
Evergreen is a quiet novel in which landscape not only paints the picture but sets the tone of this generational story about a young wife and mother, about the broken soul of a daughter, and about a brother’s love, devotion, and healing. Rebecca Rasmussen is an author to follow if you’re a reader and one to emulate if you’re a writer. Read more
6. Make a list of all the jobs you have ever had, with a six-word description of what you did.
This idea comes from #30PostsHathSept blogger Mary Krawczyk. Her Labor Day post, “A serious & silly Labor Day reflection on my work history,” shows that parts of our lives we think of as disparate and random can add up to more than the sum of their parts:
- resident assistant: Free room and board = good gig.
- library at university – I can’t remember…data entry maybe?
- fair housing investigator: Young adults investigate housing discrimination complaints.
- karaoke host at bars: I did this and sang too. (seriously, in public)
- security/visitors assistant at museum: Temporary gig while figuring things out.
- administrative assistant: Still trying to figure things out. Read more
7. Risk writing about what matters to you—at your core.
What issues tug at your mind and heart but are hard to talk about with friends and family, perhaps because of time constraints or just because the issues are too big for casual conversation? Use your blog as another part of your social circle, a part of your tribe for whom you dare to speak your innermost mind. This recent post from another #30PostsHathSept blogger, Marianne Kuzujanakis, “A Simple Glass of Water,” is a beautiful example:
I guess it’s obvious that I’m very touchy when this topic arises, as there is repeatedly a move towards college and university for all students. College and university have their definite roles with specific career choices, but way too often the role of college is nebulous. At $100-200K+, a clearer role is needed. College is currently a standard prerequisite of many places of employment, regardless of whether the education obtained in the college was directly needed for the position. Some college experiences are even becoming one of remedial education when K-12 sometimes drops the ball on their own responsibilities. Read more
8. Point your readers to another online article or resource.
Don’t assume that everyone else’s newsfeed or browsing habits are the same as yours, or that just because you noticed something interesting, your readers have already seen it. Share a link to and excerpt from an article or blog post you like, especially one that is tied to the theme of your blog or what your readers generally enjoy. Preface it with an explanatory note and include the link to the original piece, either within your post or at the end. Cory Doctorow’s “Deep math of the folded pizza slice” shows how this can be done quickly and effectively:
Why does a flat pizza slice flop over unless you bend it into a curve? Thank Gaussian curvature, the 19th century mathematical principle that underpins everything from corrugated cardboard to eggshells to Pringles chips.
Wired‘s Aatish Bhatia uses the pizza-slice as a jumping-off point to explain one of the most elegant and fascinating parts of geometry, and once you read his work, you’ll never be able to look at a curved surface again… Read more
9. Pose a question to your readers.
Do not feel that you always have to reach an unequivocal conclusion in your posts. Best-selling author and blogger Gretchen Rubin has a series of “Agree, Disagree?” posts in which she poses a question, shares her experience and thoughts, then opens the topic up for discussion, such as her piece, “Agree, Disagree? Outer Order Contributes to Inner Calm“:
A good clutter-clearing makes me feel more energetic, more creative, and more in command of myself. And I know where my keys are!
Do you agree — that there’s a weirdly tight connection between getting control of the stuff of life and feeling in control of your life, generally? Read more
10. Draw a cartoon or comic.
How many times have you thought of a funny phrase or idea and thought, that would make a great cartoon! The next time, draw it and blog it! You don’t have to be a professional cartoonist like John Atkinson (whose Wrong Hands blog is definitely worth following—see his cartoon, “modern art simplified,” below). Have fun with stick figures or use a comic-creation app or website.
Elizabeth’s Gilbert’s Ted Talk on “Your Elusive Creative Genius”: