Block 5
Image via Wikipedia

I hear a lot of people talk about having writers block. It’s funny, but I never have it – never! I have just the opposite problem, I have way too many things to write about, and not nearly enough time to get it all done. For a writer, that’s an odd and wonderful problem to have.

With this article, I’m kicking off a series of 24 posts to help all of you acquire this same odd and wonderful problem – too many ideas and not enough time to write about them all. I won’t say my 24 ideas will cure your ills, but they certainly will give you something to think about. And, for me, thinking about something leads to writing about it (see item # 9 on the list).

There are probably many more ways to address writers block, but if it can’t be addressed to some meaningful degree with 24 solid suggestions and examples, then you have something that most likely can’t be cured on your own. Let me overview these “self help” approaches before you run out to seek professional assistance. You might find that this series has just what you need.

  1. Use a list about a subject to drill down to find more ideas and catalysts.
  2. Turn your gab into written words.
  3. Start with a “hit list” of articles and then re-hit the list and multiply it.
  4. Identify your passion and go for it.
  5. Understand your audience and please them.
  6. Get outside the box you’ve built for yourself.
  7. Think conversationally and find the market for your thoughts.
  8. Allow degrees of freedom – be different to be a writer.
  9. If you think about it, then write about it.
  10. Take notes constantly – make time for that kind of writing.
  11. Use different techniques for writing – pen/pencil, keyboard, recorder and microphone.
  12. Never shut off your brain.
  13. Use real examples – they’re really more interesting.
  14. Shift words and that will shift your thoughts.
  15. Make each paragraph compel the reader to the next – organization, coherence and glue.
  16. Talk about yourself, your friends and your family – that’s an endless wellspring of material.
  17. Solve a problem or form an opinion while you write.
  18. Wait until the timing is right.
  19. Comb through as you write – obtain better focus and harvest additional articles.
  20. Listen to others – maybe they can’t write, but you can.
  21. Role play as casual reader, careful listener, and seeker of solutions.
  22. Imitate others who you enjoy reading.
  23. Create your own style and let it fly.
  24. Train your brain – become a human writer’s template.

Any one of these ideas can be effective, but I use them in combination because they tend to be related, and each one helps enhance the effectiveness of others. Besides, some of these ideas are meant to generate topics and headlines, and other are meant to help you craft the headline into an article.

Let’s dive in with an example of Technique #1 – Use a List About a Subject to Drill Down. The technique involves making a list of what you want to write about, but creating the list with greater detail and breadth than what you might normally. Think elements, sub-elements, varying perspectives and related matters.

For example, if I wanted to write an article about washing a car, that seems to be a relatively simple and straightforward piece, perhaps a bit boring as well, right? Perhaps. It also seems to be quite limiting; wet it down, soap it up, rinse it off, and drag a towel across it. Yawn!

Okay, big deal, let’s move on and think about something else to write about.

Not so fast. There are many articles waiting to be written inside what appears to be a simple article about washing a car. If we only sit down for a moment and make a list, and then drill down a bit, we’ll likely discover more material, more interesting material, and many more articles than what appears when we first consider the subject.

Here is my list with notes on the sub-elements associative with each.

  • Exterior (power washing, hand washing, using the car wash)
  • Interior (vacuuming, blowing it out, dash and instrument cluster, clearing and cleaning the console and glove compartment, spills and stains, chewing gum on the carpet, cleaning between and under the seats)
  • Detailing (door jams, mirrors, headliner and steering wheel)
  • Windows and Mirrors
  • Engine compartment (degreasing, steam cleaning and power washing)
  • Tires, wheels and sidewalls (cleaning and dressing)
  • Seating (leather and cloth)

Okay, so you can see that a simple article about washing a vehicle can propagate many more articles if we allow ourselves time to drill down and make a list of some of the elements that come to mind. In this car wash example, what started out to be a single article has blossomed into nearly 20 distinctly different, yet related articles. All of this happened because we drilled down below the surface to see what else might be waiting for us to discover beyond that bucket of soapy water and a garden hose.

As you can see in this example, simply making a list of some of the things we’d like to talk about can lead us to a wellspring of ideas. To be sure, some of these ideas are too detailed or mundane to write about, but they can serve as a catalyst for other ideas. Does the list above scream out to you? It does to me. It’s screaming, “Write a series of articles about vehicle detailing. If people can make a living doing just that, you can certainly write a few articles about it.”

Are there other ideas that this “drill down” has presented to us? There is in my mind. What about the things that aren’t mentioned in our list, but are related to maintenance and upkeep of appearance? Have you considered touch up, buffing, waxing, rust removal, and applying a dressing to leather seats? You see? If you let the wellspring flow, you’ll need pen and pencil to keep track of it all (that’s technique #10).

One of the keys to understanding when an element is an article unto itself is to understand at what level your reader might want to explore the topic (that’s technique #5), but to start with, you must have ideas to consider, so don’t be shy, start drilling down to tap into ideas that are below the surface. Only after you have a nice pile of ideas on the table in front of you can you start sorting, organizing and blending them to create multiple articles that might please your audience.

So there you have an example of our first technique – drilling down to discover more content – and using this technique, we clearly showed ourselves that washing a car can be much more than a bucket of soapy water and a garden hose. It can be quite a pocket full of ideas to write about. As we move through this series, let’s keep filling our pockets with more ideas and learn how to turn them into useful articles.

Clair Schwan is the managing editor at www.Self-Reliance-Works.com where he and his team of writers help others understand how to live life focused on greater self-sufficiency and self-direction. He also hosts www.Sensible-Small-Business-Ideas.com where he encourages others to start an enterprise of their own, including online businesses where writing is a key to success.