Blog Inspiration Series: Part 1

by on 07/06/2012 • 8 Comments | Blogging

Blog InspirationAttempting to find blog inspiration can be incredibly productive. In the quest for a great blog topic or simply the creative zone we need to blog, we manage to find the time to pay our bills, clean up our inbox, dust off the exercise equipment, cook a four-course meal… we do everything except blog!

Why is that?

My most common reason excuse for not blogging is that I’m too busy. While I am busy, I’m not too busy to love and invest in the growth of this company, the team, our clients, and you, our community. The truth is I usually just don’t know what there is to say, have the ability to share it (client NDAs), or know how to say it. I know the value blogging brings to our business. But the self-defeating noise in my brain whenever I sit down to type a blog post can be paralyzing.

Maybe I’m alone in that, but I’m pretty sure my problem isn’t unique. I also believe bigger issues are at play.

Years ago I learned that when I feel anxious, it’s usually because I haven’t thought through something, and if I took the time to sit down and truly think through various strategies, I felt calmer. I knew what the options were even if I didn’t always know the outcome—I’d mapped my way to a clearer mind. I think blogging is the same way. We want to feel inspired to blog as if it comes out of this magical land in our brains, and a post will suddenly materialize if we just sit around long enough.

Guess what? We have to work at inspiration just like we do anything else. And, I think the reasons we usually don’t feel inspired to blog are because we don’t:

…know who our audience is.
…see what we bring to the table.
…understand the business case for blogging.
…believe in the company or blog’s vision.
…look beyond our incestuous little networks.

Over the next four weeks, on each Friday, I will share three strategies that can help you find blog inspiration. Hopefully, in breaking these up, you will be able to apply them in real-time and see results. Please let me know if you do!

I want to know if this is useful, because as much as I need inspiration, my entire team does, our clients do, and I’m sure you could always use a little more. We don’t have to be master wordsmiths, technical geniuses, analytical gurus, or incredible wits to write something strong. We just have to recognize what we know and the unique experiences we’ve had. Our personalities and perspectives take those and weave them into something that will appeal to a reader. The right reader—the one who will relate to you.

So, take a minute to skim the following and let me know if you feel inspired. I found my inspiration in the research and writing of this post. In sharing the topic with someone, they told me nothing I’ve shared here is rocket science, but at the same time, there was one morsel that struck them on such a personal level that they’ve altered how they manage their daily work. I hope these tips can help you as well, even if in the smallest way.

1. Find Your Muse

Sometimes it’s difficult to find blog inspiration because we don’t know who we’re talking to (or marketing to). In those moments, we can turn to data to paint a demographic or psychographic picture of our target market, but there’s still something very inhuman about the results.

Knowing our audience might be 30- to 40-year-old professionals with an average income of $80,000 who consider themselves foodies does not give them a face. You may as well put them on a conveyor belt à la Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Crunching big data sounds sexy and can be vital to our business decisions, but I don’t expect a writer to be inspired to write for the faceless masses. I know I wouldn’t feel inspired.

How do we solve the most basic hurdle to inspiration—finding our muse?

Debbie Weil quoted Warren Buffet in The Corporate Blogging Book when discussing the need to write well and be conversational. Here are Warren’s words:

“Write with a specific person in mind. When writing Berkshire Hathaway’s annual report, I pretend that I’m talking to my sisters. I have no trouble picturing them: Though highly intelligent, they are not experts in accounting or finance. They will understand plain English, but jargon may puzzle them. My goal is simply to give them the information I would wish them to supply me if our positions were reversed. To succeed, I don’t need to be Shakespeare; I must, though, have a sincere desire to inform.”

My takeaway from Warren’s words was that I needed a muse, not to improve my writing style, but to simply feel inspired enough to put words into this blog post. This got me thinking. Who am I motivated by? Who do I respect so much that I would want to write to them? Who do I know that’s smart, but in a different field?

chip-drysdaleI’m a Daddy’s girl, so the answer was as clear as day. My father is where my motivation comes from. More than any potential client, industry expert, or monetary goal, I am inspired to succeed because of my father. This intrinsic motivation is stronger than any target market data can define, so, from now on, no matter how technical the post may be, I know who I’m writing to. I have a face and a name, and if the content strikes a chord with you, I’m thrilled, but I’m not going to be offended if it doesn’t appeal to everyone, because it will appeal to my hero even when I’m talking about something as mundane as SEO strategy.

In our industries (mostly marketing and search), I think that most of us struggle with our muse because we’re trying to write for potential clients, while also keeping existing clients in mind, as well as our coworkers, our industry peers, experts we respect, and then there’s this unknown mass of people on social networks who may or may not share what we write. There’s pressure to say something original, insightful, humorous or controversial. We don’t allow ourselves to just write for the sake of writing. We want to be great! We want to break the story. We want to be better than some other arbitrary voice or blog. Stop seeking external validation and challenge yourself. Find your muse and it will be a much easier and more enjoyable challenge.

Do you have a muse? If not, who do you write for?

2. Control Environmental Factors

Exercise

rhea-ball-chairExercise isn’t just a mental break from our technology loops, it’s a positive drug for our brains. Exercise improves cognition, memory, and mood. Writing when we feel physically, emotionally, and mentally tapped can feel like trying to run a marathon without any training. However, if you go run a marathon, it may be easier to write that blog post!

Get off your butt and go for a walk outside to stimulate your senses, hit a local trail, go for a swim, or organize an impromptu office dance party. Whatever you do, break a sweat and have fun doing it. Also, make sure you read the exercise equipment instructions—I’ve been told that this is not how I should use my ball chair.

Regulate Your Body

In addition to exercise, other physical factors make it difficult to find blog inspiration if we don’t regulate them—food and sleep. These are among the most fundamental human needs, and yet how often do we give our bodies the right amounts of either to keep us not just fueled, but energized?

Respect your body! Seriously. It drives me insane when I see people (cough, me included, cough) ignoring their own health for the sake of work. Nothing is worth that, trust me. Be healthy, and you will find it much easier to not just get inspired, but to stay awake while writing your blog posts. This extends to anything you do, not just blog inspiration. Eating healthy and getting sufficient sleep means you won’t have painful sleep deprivation headaches, zombie eyes, or over-caffeinated shaky-mouse syndrome (technical name?).

I get it though—life is hard. Sleep is for wimps. You’re more driven than anyone else because you only sleep three hours a night. You can pull a 19-hour day! OMFG I am a WORK GOD! Calm down. You’re going to die entirely too soon. Maybe that’s the cusp of my 30th birthday talking, but this year has been about resetting my priorities. As a result, I am a more confident, fresh, and rested writer.

Set the Mood

Feeling inspired to blog doesn’t happen very often for the majority of us, especially if we’re trying to do it during work hours or in the middle of a busy household. Constant distractions from well-intentioned coworkers, family, pets, and repetitive noises from virtually anything (maybe that’s just me) make it impossible to concentrate. To truly feel inspired to blog, you have to find the environment that works best for you.

Not sure what that looks like? Here are some questions to guide you:

  • Is it difficult or easier to blog with music playing?
  • Is it difficult or easier to blog when listening to music with words?
  • Is it difficult or easier to blog when there are others in the same room?
  • Is it difficult or easier to blog when I’m in a public location like a café?
  • Is it difficult or easier to blog in the morning?
  • Is it difficult or easier to blog in the evening?
  • Is it difficult or easier to blog outdoors?
  • Is it difficult or easier to blog with a glass of wine in my hand? (ok, maybe this one is just me)

Take your answers and schedule a date with yourself that will meet those environmental factors. Pair those with a good night’s rest, a healthy meal prior, and some exercise, and you will find your blog inspiration. Here was my setting for writing the first part of this series:

Rhea's Blog Inspiration Space

3. Clear Your Must-Do’s

If you’re anything like me, you will never be inspired to blog as long as there is a laundry list of must-do’s hanging over your head. The problem is—there are always things to do!

Hi, my name is Rhea and I am a workaholic. Yes, I know that I just went on a rant above about people who work too much and don’t take care of themselves, but that’s me. I am a self-aware hypocrite and I’m working on it. That’s the human condition, right? Trying to better ourselves.

Getting back to that list of to-do’s, how do you ever give yourself PERMISSION to blog?

  • Step away from the computer. Seriously, do not look at the computer.
  • Turn off the sound, so you won’t get pinged by alerts and turn your phone upside down so you won’t see alerts flash on the screen.
  • Now sit down for ten minutes with a pad of paper and pen and write out all of your must-do’s for today. This may be a long list or short. Frankly, I’m in a position as the CEO of Outspoken Media where I will never get through my day, because there will always be just one forty more things I can and should be doing. You may or may not be the CEO of a company, but I guarantee that you have things weighing on you right now that are making you feel guilty for not doing them. Jot those down.
  • Now prioritize those to-do’s. What MUST get done today? Tomorrow? This week? Next week? Bucket your to-do’s into these deadlines.
  • Now ignore everything but the today stuff. Take that list and determine if you honestly have time in your day to tackle those. If you do, get back to your computer and do them as quickly and intelligently as possible.

Once you’re done with them, you will feel a huge weight lift off of your brain because you now feel accomplished, and you have given yourself permission to spend the rest of your time blogging. Everything else can be done tomorrow, later this week or next week—you already told yourself that so don’t go tricking yourself into doing something else to get ahead. Spend this time brainstorming a blog topic, drafting a blog post, or reviewing the pile of half-finished posts you’ve been accruing for months.

Those are the first three strategies for finding blog inspiration! Check back each Friday for the next four weeks, and I’ll have three more tips. Some are technical and crazy, but the aforementioned are the simplest and most important. Have a muse, control your environmental and give yourself permission to blog by clearing today’s must-do’s.

Good luck and please share your inspirations!

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About the Author

Rhea Drysdale

Rhea Drysdale is the Chief Executive Officer of Outspoken Media. When she isn't fighting for the SEO industry, she's She-Ra on Twitter. Connect with Rhea on Google.

Get social with Rhea at Twitter

8 thoughts on “Blog Inspiration Series: Part 1

  1. Yes, yes, yes, I could not agree more. The thought of posting in spanish and english for my work blog.. is paralyzing..
    Thanks for the tips.. and I wil look forward to your fridays post!
    Have a great week end
    B

  2. Rhea- I love the space where you wrote the blog. I also love the glass of wine sitting next to your computer. I prefer white.

    I look forward to the upcoming blogs for this series. I think we all need inspiration at times.

    I find it quite easy to write when it is a topic I feel passionate about… if I’m not all about it, I try to find someone on our team who may be.

    - June

  3. Right there with you, girl. I frequently find myself blogblocked and in need of inspiration. It seems I have only two modes of operation, zombietown derpitude and flooded with so many ideas I can’t get them on paper fast enough – only to be forgotten later. My brain is full on or full stop. To make matters worse, I blog for several corporate sites for professions I know nothing about. Corporations that are *not* interested in my sparkling wit or fierce politics. Do you know how hard it is for me to be non-controversial? of course you do.

    Ironically, when I have too many deadlines and too little knowledge in the fields of same, my brain tends to completely shut down. My personal mantra is “it pays the bills” and I repeat it often. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work very well, because money doesn’t seem to be my primary motivation. Evidently, I’m in it for the work itself (how sad is that?). Anyway, the next time I’m struggling to write as someone I’m not, or to research a deadly dull subject about something I have never heard of, I’ll revisit this page and wish my view was as interesting as yours. Maybe pour a glass or six of wine.

    Thanks, as always, for great tips!

  4. Fantastic article, Rhea.

    You have included other issues such as proper time management, as well as many common sense ways to get back in the groove.
    The step away approach is often advised in many other areas of writing, as well as many areas of life in general.
    This comes from the old saying of us ” sometimes being too close to the source” and we can often become overwhelmed.

    Personally, I have a ” Two pronged ” Approach.

    Thankfully, in most cases I can just simply sit down and write..(If not, I can go off and come back full of vim)….
    The writing just flows(Or moved by the spirit, as they may say in certain writing circles) …
    The best way to overcome writers block in most cases ” Is to write” !
    People suffering writers block, wait for the spirit to move them…
    Some screen writers would be literally paralyzed and unable to get their creative juices flowing for months(possibly more) due to writers block.
    Their perfectionism was both a blessing and a curse.

    So, for some people the best cure is to just write.

    On the other hand this won’t work for many people and they should go off and do something enjoyable and come back refreshed, and hopefully with added inspiration…..

    People should try different approaches then find out what works best for them.

    PS. I have linked to this post and have added required attributes.

    Danny

  5. Rea, thanks for your advice! My inspiration is my kids. When I look at them I think: I created them, these two pretty smart kids) So I can create some good writing too)
    Good Luck!

  6. I think you have to keep a clear mind and be focused on what your outcome desires need to be. To climb a mountain and look down on the world will give you more inspiration than reading a book on CSS.

    However you need to keep a happy positive balance between inspiration and Knowledge otherwise you will be bordering between insanity and genius!!

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