But it didn’t use to be like this. Two years ago, when I decided to start blogging and make money from it, churning out a mere thousand words was a struggle. Often I’d stare at a blank screen, suffering from what you’d call a writer’s block. So, how is it that in just two years, I’ve been able to turn a complete 180 degrees?
Don’t get me wrong, writer’s block is a real thing. But I also realized that I was giving myself too much credit. I may write, but I don’t write complex stories that I’ve imagined out of nowhere. I do not create worlds and cultures and languages. I do not create characters and give them depth. I do not carry the burden of taking my readers on an epic journey in the form of a 500+ page paperback.
I write blog posts. Posts about facts and opinions, often on topics I’m intimately familiar with. So, for me to be struggling with writer’s block seemed a bit too much.
For the longest time, I couldn’t figure out how to remedy whatever it was I was struggling with. But as most problems go, if you want to find the solution, you have to find the root of the problem first.
And in my case, I realized a couple of things:
- Often I didn’t know what to write about.
- When I did have something to write about, and I sat down to write, it was hard to focus and get the words out.
So, now that I knew the sources of my problems, I could find ways to solve these problems. And that’s precisely what I did. And now? 5000+ words on the daily? No problem! On days when I don’t write so much, it’s because I have made a conscious and deliberate choice to not write and invest that time into something else more deserving, and not because I have writer’s block nor because I’m clueless about what to write.
And if you struggle the way I used to, then I hope the tips I’m about to share will help you to cover your daily writing quota.
In this post:
You Don’t Need to be a Sexy Writer, Instead, Focus on What You’re Already Good at
One of my problems was in trying to emulate the writers I admired.
It happened more often when I attempted to write on Medium, and not so much on this blog. You’ll understand why shortly.
On Medium, I’d attempt to write personal development stories or be vulnerable by bringing up painful memories from my past because I thought that was how you became a good writer. But that wasn’t me, and because I was trying to do something that didn’t come to me naturally, I’d often find myself at a loss for words and ideas.
The truth is that there is no one way to be a writer.
Just like there are plenty of genres to choose from, there are plenty of ways to write and make money with this skill.
So, that’s what I did. I know how to write how-to articles or list articles. People often tell me that I’m good at teaching, or walking people through complex tasks or ideas by dividing them up in bite-sized, digestible pieces of content. That’s why writing on this blog was so much easier than writing on Medium. And once I realized that, I decided to focus on these types of articles, regardless of the platform I was writing on.
Sure, they’re not as cool as writing about my experience at a terrible date gone wrong, or writing about my traumatizing childhood, or writing about my opinions on current affairs. No, I’m not a sexy writer. But what I write helps other people, and it’s something I’m good at, and it makes me money!
If you’re struggling to get the words out, then perhaps it’s time to figure out where your writing strength lies. Are you good at writing certain types of stories? Genres you have a natural affinity for?
What you’re good at may not be what you want to write about. Now, I’m not asking you to give up on your dreams. With time and practice, one can learn to be good at things they’re not good at from the beginning. And if that’s the case, you just have to contend with the fact that this will take time and there will be days when you won’t be able to write a single word.
But if you’re like me and you’re writing to make money, and you’re also doing it on the side (meaning, you don’t have a lot of time to sit down and practice a new kind of skill,) then it’s not such a bad idea to focus on your strengths and use it to get what you want.
Like I did.
And as soon as I let go of trying to be like the writers I admired, and instead focused on getting better at what I’m already capable of, my productivity multiplied.
Carry a Journal
Or phones work too. Just make sure you carry something where you can jot down quick ideas and thoughts at any given moment of inspiration. I’m big into paper journals and notebooks, so that’s what I carry — my favorite Moleskine journal and a Pilot G2.
My problem is that I get bursts of inspiration without notice, and they vanish just as quickly as they come to me. So, the best way for me to make sure I remember is to actually write it down.
It turns out that I’m not the only person with this problem. There are plenty of writers who struggle with lost ideas.
I know a certain blogger who leaves washable markers in their bathroom, so they can jot down ideas onto bathroom tiles in the middle of taking a shower… or a dump, I don’t know. I’m not quite as badass, but at the very least, I try to carry my Moleskine everywhere with me.
Create a Template for Your Articles
If you tend to write similar types of blog posts, then you’ll find that having a template for your articles will cut down the time it takes to write an entire piece.
Of course, you can always change things up as you see fit depending on what you’re writing, but having a template will give you direction.
If I’ve learned anything over the last two years, it is that I often struggle to write when I don’t know which direction I’m going.
To give you an example, in this blog, I often write about how to be a successful blogger. These are ideally how-to posts or list-type posts. Now, let’s consider three how-to articles that I may write:
- How to build an email list
- How to use Pinterest
- How to get started with affiliate marketing
The end goal for all these topics is the same — tie them up with how to be a successful blogger. So, my template for all three topics you see above looks something like this:
Depending on the topic, I may adjust my template, but the general structure remains the same. And even though you may think this template is rudimentary, believe me when I say this — this template not only helps me cut down the time to write a piece, but it also helps me think through a piece before I sit down to write it, by breaking down my thought process into actionable steps.
Instead of thinking about the entire piece as a whole, this template helps me think about the different parts of an entire piece at a time only, which also makes it a whole lot easier to come up with a plan of action.
Outline Your Article Before You Start Writing It
Just as a template creates break-points in your thought process, an outline creates even more break-points in your writing process.
An outline doesn’t have to be anything grand. The idea is to make things easy, not more complicated. And to that end, an outline may look like a list of things roughly jotted down in your idea journal, or on your shower stall with washable markers.
The purpose behind a template and an outline is the same — breaking things down as much as possible to help you think through a complex process or topic so that you can write in a way that is easy for your readers to understand and follow through.
And also to help you write faster.
So, for example, let’s say I’m writing a blog post on how to use Pinterest to drive traffic to your blog. Then, per the template I shared above, I’ll have an introduction with my personal success story with Pinterest, followed by the definition of Pinterest, followed by why Pinterest is important for bloggers and how it relates to blogging success, followed by the how-to part where I lay out the steps to using Pinterest, followed by a conclusion.
An outline may be (for me, at least) the actual steps for how to use Pinterest. Ideally, these would be the headers and subheaders I’d be using in the how-to section.
You may add more or less to your outline. For example, if I wanted to, I could also add which personal story I’d share in the intro, or how I’d want to conclude the blog post, or the specifics of the call to action I’d like to add in the conclusion.
In any case, having an outline will further improve how much time it takes you to write an entire piece.
Limit Distractions While Writing
One of the best decisions I ever made was to buy a Chromebook for writing only.
Just like any millennial growing up in the 90s, I’m addicted to distractions. YouTube, Netflix, Instagram, Reddit, Quora, and just your good old search engine rabbit hole.
Back in college, my way of getting things done was to shut down my laptop during study-time. But writing is different. It is done entirely on screen, so I had to make adjustments.
But that’s not all. There are distractions everywhere! So, here are some of my favorite methods for getting rid of them.
Get a second laptop (and alternatives)
Like I said, buying a Chromebook was one of the best decisions I made for my writing career/side-hustle, whatever you may call it.
One blogger I know purchased a Macbook Air just for writing. Now, I wasn’t about to dish out a grand for a machine that I’d only use for writing. So instead, I purchased a Chromebook that cost me only 200 bucks.
And boy, am I glad I did!
Just having a different machine helps me get into the mood and helps me focus.
But if you’re not ready to invest yet, no worries. I suggest turning off your WiFi while writing. For research and other activities, you can turn on the WiFi, but use a different browser than what you’re used to (or use your phone for research). This way, you won’t have access to your usual browser history or bookmarks, and hopefully, you’ll be more productive.
Opt for privacy and a change of scenario
I have a hard time writing on my usual desk — too many distractions. I work and study out of my desk (non-blogging related), so when I want to write, I find other non-writing related work matters creep up on me. And that doesn’t help.
I also live in a house with other roommates. Which means I’m often stuck inside my room. But! I do have a comfy and cushy single sofa chair in a corner of my room. More often than not, that’s where I am when I’m writing. And as crazy as it sounds, it works! Just sitting on that chair with my Chromebook on my lap puts me in the writing mode, and all other earthly thoughts escape me.
In pre-COVID times, I used to go to coffee shops or parks or libraries to give myself a change in the scenario and put myself in the mood. But these days, cushy chair in the corner it is.
You may have a designated office for writing only. Or a chair like I do. Or maybe none of that is possible because you have family and kids hovering over your shoulders. In any case, find a private place to write and something to put you in the writing mood.
Set aside designated time for writing
Some people love to write in the mornings. Others like to write in the dead of night. Some people write during lunch breaks.
I have a hard time writing in-between things. I could never write during lunch breaks or while I’m waiting for food in the oven. That’s not me.
I have to set aside time to write, or else I couldn’t get any writing done at all. And I hear that I’m not the only one who has this problem.
If you’re anything like me, set aside time for writing. If you can figure out a time to write that’s right for you, a time when you can get into the mood, your productivity will increase many folds; I guarantee that.
Before the COVID-19 crisis, I’d often write during the wee hours in the mornings. Like, between 5 and 8 in the morning was the optimal time for me to churn out thousands of words. I’d often walk over to the nearest Starbucks, which conveniently opened at 4:30 in the morning, and I’d sit there for a couple of hours writing. The coffee shop would mostly be deserted except for some regulars who preferred to come and get their morning coffee to go. I could sit there in quiet until things would start to pick up around 7:30–8 in the morning and get most of my writing done during that time.
I can’t go to Starbucks these days, but I still get most of my writing done around the same time, but instead of writing out of a coffee shop, I now write sitting on my cushy sofa chair in a corner of my bedroom.
On most days, I write anywhere between a couple of thousand words to over 10K words — likely 5K+ on average. I write and publish here on TSB, or on Medium. I write on Quora. I create content for online courses and lead magnets. My business depends on how much content I create and the quality of said content. So, as you can imagine, I had to find ways to be a more efficient writer.
This blog post? It’s over 2,500 words, and it’s taken me less than two hours to outline and write, from right here on my cushy sofa chair.
If you’re anything like me and your income depends on writing, feel free to try out some (or all) of the methods I listed above to boost your productivity; I’m sure you’ll find them quite satisfying!
Have writing productivity tips of your own? I’d love to know! Please feel free to share in the comments 🙂
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