Motivation, inspiration….I thought these were two different things! As I began writing this article, however, I found that the two harmonize. You need one to have the other.
Recent epiphany: Apparently my definition of inspiration differs from most. This all started when I saw a blog article for photographers on how to stay inspired. I initially thought, “How can you NOT be inspired when taking photos?” Of course, I am a new amateur photographer. Maybe I haven’t gone far enough yet to reach photographer’s block.
You see, I view inspiration as being able to come up with ideas. Motivation, in my opinion, is the driving force to fulfill those ideas.
I didn’t read the article. Soon after, however, the subject of inspiration came up when I was talking with a friend of mine who does professional photography with Red Lily NW. He enlightened me as to what “inspiration” means to photographers: the motivation to get out and look for things to take pictures of.
Clearly, the lines are a bit blurry between inspiration and motivation. I’ve learned to accept that, since photography and writing go hand in hand when writing a blog. So, here’s some tips in how to be inspired or stay motivated when maintaining a blog. I’ve organized these as steps from just getting started to having an extreme case of writer’s block.
Just getting started
If you’ve just started a blog, you have lots of kinks to work out. What kind of voice do you want to develop? How personal and intuitive vs. technical and/or news-oriented will your blog be? What is your main umbrella topic? What is your niche? How can you capture reader’s interest?
1. Examine the competition. Any popular blogger wouldn’t be where they are today if they hadn’t read up on other blogs. Sab of Just One Way Ticket tells us she had to read tons of blogs to build her knowledge and likely inspiration. In turn, I have been greatly inspired by her blog! In fact, until I got acquainted with Sab’s blog, I hadn’t really imagined a career of blogging for myself.
2. Brainstorm future articles. I love lists! The OneNote app on my phone is inundated with to-do lists regarding my website and business. The list of future articles is especially long. Everywhere I go, I take note of random ideas that pop into my head. When I examine my competition, I jot down new topics to focus on next time. Keeping track of any and all ideas is VERY important for any writer.
3. Free write. Now that you have some ideas about what to write about, maybe even a few bulleted lists of main points, you’re ready to go! Just start writing and let the ideas and emotions and backstories flow. The blog doesn’t need to make sense and nothing needs to be in chronological order—you can edit later. In my How to Manage Time Working at Home article, I outline the steps I take when hammering out a few blog articles in a row. This is a great way to make free writing productive. Free writing is also a great method to write longer articles.
Running out of ideas
The key to inspiration is the flow of new ideas. If nothing new is coming out of your head, it’s time to keep the pace. Keep ideas coming—however slowly—by looking for inspiration in other places.
4. Keep up on news and trends. Is there anything new to write about? Write an article on a trending hashtag, such as #FirstSevenJobs. Rehash a news article with a different angle on the topic and add an interview with someone the reporters have yet to reach. There’s so much potential out there and it’s all posted on the internet!
5. Keep a notebook beside your bed when you sleep. This is going to sound like step #2, but remember, you’re running out of ideas at this point. Keeping track of random ideas is more important at this time than at any other. The key to your unfinished blog article could pop into your head halfway between being awake and falling asleep. You don’t want to lose that idea! Record it before you forget it. If not in a notebook, you could use your phone or speak into a recorder.
6. Look at photographs. Your own forgotten photos in your phone or computer could bring back experiences that would make an awesome blog article! Otherwise, check out Google or Tumblr for some inspiration. A picture’s worth a thousand words, after all. (All you need is 750+ words!)
7. Watch a movie. If you’re writing nonfiction, choose something that is related to your topic. A documentary, for example. If you’re writing fiction or find that you are highly inspired by fiction—watch whatever you want! You can find inspiration in the strangest places. (For me, Doctor Who and Star Trek Voyager work wonders.)
I’m super stuck
“Super stuck” means you don’t know what to write about anymore. It’s hard to get started on any blog article, but you know you need to stay motivated.
8. Be aware of your inspiration moods. Take advantage of them when they arise. I call this Mad Scientist Syndrome. As for myself, I often find that I am most productive at writing when I should be doing something else. Procrastination is such a virtue at these times…
9. Find the time of day that inspires you. For me this is nighttime, which is bad news for any future roommate of mine.
10. Write in a different style. Now, I’m not talking about changing the voice of your blog. Rather, I’m talking about taking on a different project—one that you’re not stuck on. After focusing on something else for a while, it will feel lot easier to return to square one. When I am stuck on writing articles on travel tips, for example, I switch to personal experiences or freelance tips. (I am currently experiencing travel writer’s block—can you tell?) Sometimes I don’t feel like writing blogs, so I work on landing page content. When I can’t bring myself to work on my blog or website at all, I turn to writing fiction. That’s right—I write novels and screenplays. And when I get stuck on those, I usually end up writing lyrics. Got to stay productive somehow!
Severe writer’s block
By this time, you’ve lost all motivation. You don’t want to write, you don’t care about your blog, you’re done. Sounds like you need a break. However, a break isn’t always an option.
11. Edit the stuff you haven’t published yet, or critique and update published articles. This is a great way to stay productive and improve your writing!
12. Interview someone and write about that. This is easy if you’re a travel blogger. Find a friend who’s traveled to a place you’ve never been or who has an entertaining travel story to share. Their story can be your story!
13. Network with other bloggers and collaborate on an article. This is a great way to exchange links and build a rapport with colleagues! Working on an article with another person is helpful for obvious reasons: two minds are better than one. You could also request an interview with a blogger you look up to. It’s not likely they’d say no to a free promotion on your website! Not only will your writer’s block be solved, but your favorite blogger will get to know you and this could lead the way to promotion on their blog. Not to mention that you could learn a lot from talking to them.
14. Take a break. This is a last resort. Mini-breaks are good, but sometimes not enough. GO OUTSIDE. Exercise! Hit the beach or the woods. Read a book just for fun. Get back to writing another day. Once you’re refreshed enough, you may even be able to start again at step #1.
These tips are drawn from my personal experience. What helps you stay inspired? Regarding blogging or photography? Please let me know in the comments below!