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Priming the Pump: 10 Tips to Keep the Writing Well Running

Posted by Carole Mahoney on 7/19/10 8:05 PM

Written by Guest Blogger Deborah McClean.

I don't know what to write!

Every writer fears writer’s block, that time when you sit in front of a keyboard with a blank screen, fighting the temptation to check Facebook again or slip over to CNN. What to write? It’s a painful question and one that keeps many people from entering into social media.

10 Tips for to Keep the Well Running

  1. Skim the news. All news is local. What’s happening in the real world that involves your readers? Are you supplying pump motors for the oil clean up? Is an employee giving up vacation time to volunteer for a worthy cause? Use the news for inspiration.
  2. Adapt headlines from the world press and popular magazine covers.  Brian Clark at Copyblogger uses a version of this he calls The Cosmo Headline Technique for Blogging Inspiration. What headlines can you steal and adapt that will result in creating good blog content when you deliver the story?
  3. Use your contacts. Ask your Facebook friends. Tweet for ideas.  If you write for a HVAC company, ask your FB fans or friends what questions they have about proper cleaning, efficient use or cost control, in relation to air conditioners.
  4. Start a clip file. This tip saves me daily. I have two-pocket portfolio files for a number of business entities I write for, and I’m always putting in clippings from newspapers, general magazines and trade publications, or even jotting down interesting urls.  When I write a blog inspired by that clipping, I note the date, and move the clipping to the other pocket. Don’t be afraid to use as topic as inspiration more than once!
  5. Listen to yourself. The answer to “I wonder why……” is always a blog.  And I don’t mean “I wonder why my mother loves my sister more than me?” The questions you ask yourself about the world are great jumping off points for blog pieces.  Ditto for “I remember when….”
  6. Arrange an interview. If you’re blogging for a non-profit, talk to your donors, your corporate supporters, and the people you help. If you’re Audubon, you have numerous postings just in describing a day in the life of a bird or a tree or an eco-system that is sustained by the interest and donations of your members.  If you’re United Way, you have success stories from every agency you support, and progress articles to write about local issues that your United Way is trying to resolve.
  7. Read other bloggers. This tip is so easy it’s almost cheating, but in reality, everything HAS already been written. But it hasn’t been written for your particular audience, or from your perspective. Read what other bloggers in your business arena are writing, and see if it inspires a response or rebuttal or agreement or opinion or repurposing your blog. The op ed pages of the newspaper are good for this inspiration as well.
  8. Use your library and other resources, including coworkers. If you’re writing using the 80/20 rule (80% of what you write is value-added info about other products, services  or ideas, and only 20% is about your product or involves a sales pitch) then look around for inspiration in your daily work world. If you’re writing for a woodworking company and they have to carefully cover their cherry planking to keep it from changing colors in the sun, ask about the process, go on-line and research the chemistry involved, and find out how co-workers deal with errors.
  9. Use the web. Find a couple of sites that promote themselves as blogging inspiration and add them to your RSS feed. Make sure you print off/write down any ideas that are appealing and add them to your file.
  10. Read product and book reviews. Go to and type in your business area, town or state, product or service, whatever. You’re bound to have product and book reviews come up that might well inspire a post or two.

Stick with it. Good business blog posts generally involve more than your own opinion. Writing is hard work that involves research and revision. If you’re blogging for a company but they don’t really consider it “part of your job” and don’t want you to spend an average of two hours on each researched post, then you need to revisit your work priority. It’s better to blog once every few weeks with something meaningful than to dash out a daily or weekly blog that’s fluff.

And my personal last resort: a couple of postings that I keep in reserve that can be easily tweaked and published. I always ask myself if I REALLY need to use my emergency stash, and often the answer is no, but it’s great to know that if I’m really in trouble, I have one last option. I try to avoid this by writing several postings in advance of my deadline.

What do you find works to get your inspirational juices flowing? If you have other tips, post them!

Topics: copywriting, guest blog post