This post is based on episode 87 of the ProBlogger podcast.
While it’s relatively easy to include images, audio and even video in posts these days, most blogs still rely heavily on written content.
Which makes writer’s block a real problem when it hits.
That’s why I’ve spent the past few weeks talking about the steps you can take to beat it, from finding out why you’re stuck to coming up with fresh ideas and getting the words flowing.
And this week I’d like to wrap up this little series with the final step to beating writer’s block: finishing every blog post you start.
Whenever I speak to bloggers at conferences, one question I love to ask is, “How many draft posts do you have in WordPress, or whatever blogging platform you use? How many pieces of content have you started but never finished?”
I’m always amazed at how many bloggers have half-written posts, and how many half-written posts they have. Mind you, in the early stages of ProBlogger I had a lot of unfinished posts as well – 93 to be exact.
Some were nothing more than titles and a couple of dot points. Some had introductions, but not much else. Some were almost done and needed only a conclusion, an image or some further reading links. And some were actually complete but never published because I didn’t think they were ready to go live.
Obviously I was having a problem with completing posts back then. But even now I find completing posts a struggle sometimes. And judging by the answers I get to my conference question, I’m not alone.
What’s stopping you?
So why do so many people struggle to complete their posts?
Personally, I struggled with having too many ideas to write about. Before I’d completed one post I was already thinking about the next. In fact, one longish post I write sparked so many ideas that I started writing seven other post before I’d completed it.
Now that may not seem like a problem, especially when you’re struggling to come up with any ideas. But it can have you jumping from one blog post to the next and never completing any of them.
Some bloggers struggle with perfectionism. They don’t think their posts are good enough to publish, and they either continually tinker with them or abandon them completely.
Others lose interest in what they’re writing about before they finish the post. I struggle with this sometimes, particular when I’m working on a really long post. Some of these posts can take days or even weeks to write, and it’s easy to get disheartened by how long it’s taking.
But some bloggers have a different issue with completion – they hit ‘Publish’ before their posts are ready to go live.
Some of them don’t have quite enough depth, or aren’t providing as much value as they could. Sometimes they need a better title, introduction or conclusion. And some just need a final proofread to fix up the typos.
Unfortunately, while publishing these posts solves the completion problem it can also damage on your brand, which can then make you feel hesitant about publishing any more.
So how can you keep completing those unpublished posts and getting them up on your blog without compromising on quality?
The way forward
The simple (and obvious) solution to this problem is to change your mindset and be disciplined about your blogging. In other words, you need to make yourself sit in front of the keyboard and complete those posts.
Which means setting aside some time to do it, just as you would for coming up with your ideas and getting into the writing flow.
In episode 40 of the ProBlogger podcast I shared my weekly schedule, which includes three sessions for editing, revising and completing blog posts and other tasks.
Why? Because if I didn’t put that time aside, those tasks would never get done.
I spend these sessions looking for a good image, adding some depth (or links to further reading), or editing and proofreading. I may also be finishing off a podcast, completing an eBook or adding the final touches to a presentation
Creating a checklist
My other suggestion is to create a checklist that will not only help you complete your posts, but complete them well.
A checklist like this will:
- help you improve your posts
- stop you from publishing posts before they’re truly complete
- help you avoid perfectionism by knowing you’ve done everything you can to get it ready for publication.
So what should your checklist look like? Well, here are nine questions you should ask yourself before you hit ‘Publish’.
1. Does this post matter?
This is probably the most important you should ask yourself before your post goes live. The post should be meaningful, and provide value for your readers.
And if it doesn’t, then you should probably keep working on it until it does.
2. Is the title good enough?
A good title can draw people in, which is particularly important when it comes to search engines. Is yours good enough to do that?
3. Does it have a strong opening?
Does your post start well? Will your introduction intrigue people, and make them want to read on?
4. Have you clearly explained your main point?
This may well depend on the type of post you’re writing. But regardless of whether you’re teaching something or stating your opinion, you need to let people know why they should read your post.
5. Does it have an appropriate conclusion and/or call to action?
While your posts should always have a strong opening, they should also have a strong ending. Does yours sum everything up nicely, and encourage your readers to take action? Or does your post simply… stop?
6. Could you add more depth?
Could you add more value by providing some further reading, adding another quote or giving another example?
7. Have you invited your readers to interact, respond and/or share?
Have you given your readers a way to join the conversation and talk about the topic? Have you asked them to share your information with others?
8. Have you proofread it?
Have you gone through it one last time to weed out any spelling or grammatical errors?
9. Could you make it more visually appealing?
Is there a better image you could use? Would it be worth embedding a video, tweet or Instagram post? Could you improve the formatting? Do you need to break up the text with more headings?
Ask for help
My final suggestion is to get help with completing your posts where you can.
Obviously there are some parts of the blogging process that you need to do yourself, such as writing posts and recording podcasts. But some of the completion work can often be done by someone else – editing, proofreading, scheduling, and so on.
We have part-time editors at ProBlogger and Digital Photography School who help with not only my posts, but also those of our other writers. They even help with editorial strategy and planning.
Fortunately, I’m now in a position where I can hire people to take on these roles. But that wasn’t always the case.
At one point, another blogger and I made a deal where we’d spend ten minutes reading each other’s posts and providing feedback. While that often meant pointing out typos and grammatical errors, it also included suggestions on adding images, subheadings, or links to further reading.
Do you know someone you could make a similar deal with? It could be another blogger, or just someone who would be willing to look over your posts and provide some quick feedback.
How low can you go?
How many unfinished blog posts do you have at the moment? Hopefully it’s nothing like the 93 I had all those years ago. But what I’m hoping even more is that you’ll now be able to take another look at them, complete them, and get them published.
Let’s see how close to zero you can get that number.
This is the final post in our series on beating writer’s block. What did you think of the series? Did it help you get unstuck? Let us know in the comments?
Photo by sporlab on Unsplash