Defeating Blogger’s Block: Five Easy Tips on How to Blog When You’ve Nothing to Write About

You’re sitting down at your PC or laptop.  You’ve finally caught up with the day’s tasks to the point that you actually have a chance to take a second or 10 to lean back and catch your breath for a bit.  But, around the 4th or 5th second, your mind inherently starts to scour the database for activities to stay productive and BOOM!!! It occurs to you that this would be an excellent time to write a new post for your blog – you know, the one that has been collecting e-dust since it was last updated seven weeks ago.

So you fire up your blogging account, impressed with yourself that you were able to guess your own password on the first attempt.  You click the ‘Add New Post’ link on the dashboard and a moment later a fresh canvas awaits – a blank white box and a blinking cursor just waiting to be filled with your wit and expertise.

You begin to rack your brain for a quick nugget of knowledge that you can share with your readers.  Five minutes go by – but no internal inspiration spills onto the page.

You start looking around the room, seeking a topic of interest to magically ascend from the cylinder of ink pens on your desk, or perhaps an interesting tidbit may leap gracefully from the pockets of your laptop bag and onto the screen.  But alas, there is no inspiration to be found from the random objects in your office.

So you start to read some of your old blog posts.  While this is often a great antidote to blogger’s block, this time it fails you.

Frustration begins to set in.  You begin scouring your bookmarks and sites in your RSS reader in order to find something – anything that might make for a halfway decent article.  At this point, discussing the pros and cons of the fold vs. wad technique is beginning to look like a viable topic of conversation.

Finally, after 45 minutes in front of your screen and only a working title and a sentence or two to show for it, you finally give up and move on to more pressing tasks, leaving the tumbleweeds to continue to occupy the online space that houses your blog.

Does any of that sound familiar to you?

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way.  There are easy ways to get past the usual blocks that typify the frustrations a blogger can frequently encounter.  A few simple mindset adjustments will greatly enhance the blogging experience for both you and your readers.

Blog topics are everywhere.  No matter what niche you happen to write for, there are always dozens of things to write about.  Here are five tips for avoiding the traps of blogger’s block:

1) Tap into your expertise. Identify common problems within your niche that people are looking to solve.  If you’ve answered a question about your topic in the past, expand on that in a blog post.

2) Practice ‘mind-mapping’. This is a technique used by many people that can be very helpful in identifying stuff to write about.

3) Stumble Upon. If you don’t have SU, sign up for an account and download the toolbar.  Not only is it highly entertaining, but it can also expose you to a lot of awesome information you’d otherwise have missed.  Set your preferences to items pertaining to your topic, and stumble your way to a million article ideas.

4) Change your mindset. The time that you’re sitting in front of your PC is NOT the only time you’re blogging.  Think of blogging as a 24/7 activity.  99% of the time that you’re hit with an idea for a great blog post, you won’t be sitting in front of your computer ready to bang it out.  You’ll be in a restaurant, or in Home Depot, or watching a movie, or having a conversation with a colleague.  Be prepared to copy the idea down before it escapes your melon and floats aimlessly toward the ionosphere.  If you’ve got a cell phone that was manufactured after 1999, it will have a note-taking or voice-recording feature which you should utilize to save ideas for a rainy day.  Like a great photographer, be ready to capture that moment that an awesome idea comes to you.

5) When you get the chance, start a new post with a few quick notes about the topic and save it as a draft. This is especially helpful when ideas are plentiful.  Then, when you’re short on stuff to say, you can go back to your stable of unfinished blog posts and go to town!

How about it?  What did I miss?  What’s your best method for defeating blogger’s block?

How to Find a Job in the 21st Century Part 1

We’ve all seen the horrific news spewing daily from the talking heads on the cable news channels like Fox News and CNN for example, as well as the ‘in-depth’ analysis on the nightly news endlessly illustrating the dire shape that the economy is on.  While the information is fundamentally true, the truth is that the job market isn’t nearly as bad as people perceive it to be.

I know right now you’re thinking that I am full of shit and an easy counterpoint is to simply pick up a copy of today’s Detroit Free Press and compare the ‘Employment’ section of the newspaper to one from two years ago.  While this is a valid argument, it doesn’t invalidate the fact that things aren’t as bad as they seem.

Consider this: The economy is in recession.  This is due to the fact that it was artificially inflated as a result of Government deregulation of the market in the early 80′s and bills by Congress in the mid 90′s requiring lending institutions to lax their standards of credit-worthiness.  What this has caused is an accentuation of the natural ups and downs of the economic cycle.  A massive period of growth was followed by an epic freefall when the inevitable downswing occurred.

The record upturn of the economy in the 90′s created an impressive increase in jobs.  The subsequent recession took those jobs away.

What does all this mean?  There are a few things we can take away from this.  First, manufacturing jobs will go where manufacturing labor is cheapest.  If unskilled labor is 400% cheaper in Mexico or South Korea, American businesses are going to see that as an attractive alternative to the higher operating costs here in the U.S.  I know it sucks, but that’s the reality.  Many of the manufacturing jobs that were lost in the past 24 months are not coming back.

Another unfortunate byproduct of the shrinking of the economy is the fact that highly skilled workers are willing to work for less than they’d normally cost.  This affords employers the luxury of being able to retain premium employees at a discount.  For that reason, people lose their jobs when more talented prospects come along and take their place for the same money.

For this reason, many people need to adapt to a new paradigm in order to find work in this new economy.  Even as the market shows improvement, it is apparent that comes types of jobs are probably not ever going to come back.

Lose Your Prejudices

A conversation with a middle-aged gentleman I met recently (we’ll call him Gary) at a networking event illustrated the very mindset that needs to change in order to meet the challenge of finding work in this new economy.  We got into a conversation when both of us were nomadically roaming the outskirts of the party.  He expressed his frustration that his college degree was largely irrelevant and the job market was squeezing him out in that employers prefer younger people due to the fact they are generally more inexpensive and more malleable than their older, job-seeking counterparts.  I spent about 15 minutes giving him some solid advice on how to find work in the digital age.  I encouraged him to continue to network with people in his industry by way of social media (especially Linkedin) and to establish an online presence (like a blog) where he can demonstrate his expertise due to his two decades of experience in his industry.

While he acknowledged that these sounded like good suggestions, Gary was largely dismissive in that he was convinced that the internet doesn’t apply to his industry.

(I’ll pause briefly until you stop laughing.)

You see, Gary assumed that since that since he doesn’t see the value in the internet with respect to his line of work, that everyone else shares that same disregard for what an online presence can do.  After our conversation, I was left wondering how many people still view the internet as a passing fad and fail to see the value in what it has to offer, especially those of older generations who are still clinging onto a pre-digital existence.

People like Gary are going to have to alter their mindsets to conform to the fact that the world is changing faster than ever before, and those who fail to do so risk being permanent ostracized due to their obsolescence.

Coming Soon: Part Two: Some Important Tips for Finding Work in the New Economy

The Success Divide: Fact or Fallacy?

“Whether you believe you can or you can’t, you’re right.” -Henry Ford

In many ways the world is naturally segregated, both socially and ethnically.  And within each divide, there is a perceived class that everyone fits into in one capacity or another.  One of the sad byproducts of this phenomenon is the fact that it generally congregates all of the successful people into one class and leaves everyone else on the outside looking in, only to hopelessly ponder the seemingly uncrackable code of how to get a slice of the pie known as ‘The Good Life’ for themselves.

success, business

Source: 1.bp.blogspot.com

And, while this paradigm of society has held true since the beginning of civilized man, the imaginary barriers between the Haves and the Have-Nots is eroding at an mind-blowing rate.  And the fact is, as Gary Vaynerchuk once stated matter-of-factly, there’s plenty of room at the top.

The separation of the successful from the semi-successful and unsuccessful people is not an accident.  It is human nature for like-minded individuals to gravitate to one another.  There isn’t a concocted plan to squeeze out the little people – the reason successful people wind up in the same circles is simple: they purge negative influences and toxic people from their lives.

Think of it this way: Have you ever bounced an idea off of someone and had them give you a dozen reasons as to why it won’t work?  Who was this person?  Was this someone who’s achieved great things for themselves?  Probably not.  Chances are pretty good that this person was a failure at many things themselves.  And, if there’s one thing an unsuccessful person loathes, it’s the success of other people – because it serves as a reminder to them of what a loser they are (whether this is actually true or not is irrelevant).

If you have people like this in your life, you need to let them go.  They are holding you back.  Everyone who you allow into your circles must wish you nothing but the greatest success.  It doesn’t matter what they’ve achieved in their own lives.  Considerations for the way that people will react when you succeed is a symptom of the fear of success.  You have to proceed knowing that you need to leave those negative people behind.

The greatest myth is the fallacy that the upper echelon of high-achieving people are deliberately trying to wall the lower class people out.  Not only is this almost universally untrue, many of these perceived ‘successful people’ will actually be more than willing to help you achieve your dreams, and happy to do so*.

The wall between you and the success you want to achieve isn’t made out of 1″ bulletproof glass; nor is it made out of reinforced concrete.  And, there’s no barbed wire at the top and there are no angry man-eating Rottweilers on the other side, either.  The wall is in your head.  And the sooner you realize that the only thing holding you back from achieving the things you want to accomplish and living the lifestyle that success has to offer is you, you’ll see that the walls you’ve imagined into existence can be torn down as easily as they were built up in the first place.

*A nice resource for interviews with successful individuals from a variety of business mediums is David Siteman Garland’s site: The Rise to the Top.

Using Twitter for Business AND Pleasure (Part 2)

If you’re not a people person, or if you’re really only looking for a way to get your message out as cheaply and broadly as possible, you should probably stop reading here.

Do you know what the difference between Facebook and Twitter is?  Facebook is more like a reunion and Twitter is like a virtual cocktail party.

What that means in a nutshell is that you use the two tools differently with respect to how you connect with people.

The most successful Twitter users view the site as somewhat of a glorified chat room.  You are constantly making contact with new people by way of retweets, mentions and the like.  The whole never talk to strangers bit of wisdom that was drilled into our heads as kids has no place in this medium of communication.

In order to use Twitter effectively, a mindset of ‘connecting’ has to be learned before anything else can go forward.  The idea is to try to connect with as many people as you can, whether they’re really relevant to your business or not.  And by connecting, I don’t mean reciprocal following just to inflate your ‘audience’.  Twitter is not a tool for blasting your message with the hope that someone interested will act on it.  Twitter is for engaging people and building your brand.

The most successful users of Twitter, like Chris Brogan (@ChrisBrogan) for example, have 10′s of thousands of followers and engage them by talking to them like people.  The ‘chitchat’ can range from personal stuff to comments about current events to business topics.  In other words, they interact like normal humans do.

The reality is this:  People like Chris Brogan and Shaquille O’Neal (@therealshaq) and Brian Clark from CopyBlogger (@copyblogger) and many other Twitter rock stars use the tool not as a means of self-promotion, but as a way to connect with people on a basic level – and they successfully build their personal brands by proxy.  And, they have a blast doing it.

Unless you’re a news entity like The Huffington Post (@huffingtonpost), no one wants to follow you if you’re only going to use Twitter to spout off announcements about your latest blog post, or the latest affiliate item your pimping.  There’s really no enjoyment in that, anyway.

Whether you’re just starting out or if you’ve had an account for a while, if you have a desire to increase your influence on Twitter, here are a few guidelines to help you get going:

  • Follow people who are already successful in the niche you’re in and see how they use Twitter to reach people.
  • Follow people whom you are interested in what they have to say.  If they provide value, retweet their good posts with a [@twitteruser] mention so they’ll notice (currently, simply clicking the ‘retweet’ link on the post does not accomplish this – you have to retweet manually in order to mention them in the post).
  • Reach out to people with common interests – and to those who follow you.  You can use search.twitter.com to query keywords that are related to your business.
  • Don’t be afraid to ‘butt into’ a conversation.  Remember, this is a cocktail party.  You’re SUPPOSED to eavesdrop and join the conversation.  It’s safe to assume that anyone who posts anything on Twitter is looking for dialog.  What’s the worst thing that can happen?  They don’t respond to your post and everyone moves on?  Just make sure you’re not talking just to hear yourself talk.  That’s a good way to get unfollowed fast.
  • Have fun with it!  There are no rules.  Twitter presents a fantastic way to connect with tons of interesting people.

I was resistant to Twitter for a long time because I thought it was stupid and pointless.  Then it finally occurred to me that Twitter wasn’t going anywhere, and that the conversation was taking place whether I was a part of it or not.  The biggest mistake a person can make when trying to build their business or personal brand is to ignore their clients/audience.  You have to go to where the people are.  They’ll tell you exactly what you want to know – for free – all you have to do is ask!