A Simple Tip for Making Writing Easier

  • November 5, 2011 by Corbett Barr
  • 17 Comments

Creating great content on a regular basis is challenging, especially when you’re trying to write multiple blog posts per week.

The same challenge (and the solution I’m about to share) applies to video, audio or written content just the same. It’s never fun to sit and stare at a blank page, wondering if inspiration will ever come.

I’ve found that some days it’s just hard to write anything worthwhile off the top of my head. In those cases, I like to have a little well of creativity to draw from.

If you’re a writer and have had trouble coming up with ideas before, try this: keep a little idea journal running at all times. It doesn’t have to be complicated or in-depth. Just start a new notebook page (or draft blog post) and write down ideas you have for future posts.

I like to keep my idea journal updated in two ways. First, whenever a great idea comes to mind that I don’t want to forget, I write it down right away to be used later. Second, I purposefully sit down weekly and review the ideas in my journal and spend time adding to it then. You can just write a headline or a couple of sentences that will remind you of the idea.

If you keep one of these journals, it means you’ll spend less time staring at a blank page, and more time writing. The content will be better because you’ll be writing about something you thought was a good idea, instead of just writing to meet a deadline.

What tips do you have for making writing easier? Have you tried keeping an idea notebook before?

(This is day 5 of every day for 30 days.
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Written by . Corbett is cofounder of Fizzle, a place for creative entrepreneurs, writers, makers, coders and artists, all working to support themselves doing what they love independently on the Internet. Follow Corbett on on Twitter.


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Maria November 5, 2011 at 10:36 am

What would I do without my idea journal? I would be stuck trying to come up with ideas when I most need them. Plus, creativity cannot be forced.

However, creativity strikes when you least expect it too. Sometimes I just don’t have my journal available to immediately write my newfound idea. In that case, if I have a pen with me, I put a mark on the palm of my hand.

This mark serves as a reminder for me and works really well. Easy to erase once my idea has its place in my journal :)

Todd Pettee November 5, 2011 at 10:53 am

I do the exact same things, Corbett… including starting a draft blog post. That works really well for me.

I just use a small, cheap, thin notebook that fits in my pocket and I can easily take anywhere with me. I found that if it’s big or a bit heavy, then I tend to leave it at home.

And I try to think of new ideas when my mind is free. Like when I’m exercising, taking a shower, driving, doing chores, or falling asleep at night.

I never run out of things to write about.

David Delp November 5, 2011 at 11:17 am

If getting started is difficult, then set triggers, words, images, or behaviors that pre-load your decision to get started. Clear your desk the night before, and layout your notebook open to the page where you left off last time, that way, you don’t need to decide what to do next, you just write. I love triggers so I wrote about them. http://pilotfire.com/triggering-one-way-to-beat-back-laziness-distraction-and-doubt/

Yamile Yemoonyah November 5, 2011 at 12:14 pm

I have a special designated notebook in Evernote (http://Evernote.com) to write down my blog post ideas or record them as audio or video notes.

Then I go through these ideas from time to time and add them to my ‘blog calendar’ in iCal.

There is also a WordPress plugin called ‘Editorial Calendar’ which looks really useful but I haven’t worked with it yet.

Stewart November 10, 2011 at 9:53 am

Yep Yamile!

I was going to say Evernote, too. Best app on my phone.

-Stu

Will Peach November 5, 2011 at 12:59 pm

Corbett,

Great idea. Coming up with content continuously is tough.

It’s also worth mentioning the utility of free software like MindNode for drafting content ideas in a mind-map format. I find that visually linking everything together works really well.

Good for us visual learners.

Mary Jaksch | Goodlife ZEN November 5, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Sometimes my blogs seem like hungry monsters. Always clamoring to be fed.

I’ve tried the notebook thing. It works. However, just making a quick note doesn’t really help. I’ve got some cryptic notes from way back. Like this one:

“secret of syn plus what we see” Er, what??

What helps is to write a para which gives more details on the post idea.

David Delp November 5, 2011 at 5:53 pm

Mary, that is so important for sure. How you take notes makes all the difference. I remember a long time ago learning to write notes as though someone else would have to read them. It’s made a big difference.

Cheryl Pickett November 5, 2011 at 6:25 pm

I have a running list in Word as mentioned here, but lately I have started to pop my idea into my calendar alarms in Outlook. I typically write posts on Mon & Wed so I type a quick note for 1PM on Wed for example. When it pops up, it not only reminds me I have to do a post (if I haven’t yet) it reminds me of my idea too.

Kurt Swann November 5, 2011 at 7:16 pm

I write 5 ideas/premises everyday, Monday-Friday, for comedy writing. Obviously, lots of them never see the light of day but with that volume I’m able to continually generate enough new material that eventually works.

Vic Magary November 6, 2011 at 9:30 am

Great tip, Corbett. I keep a large white board divided in half (one side for each of the two blogs I write for) where I write ideas and headlines. This way it is always in view when I’m working. If I have an idea while I’m out and about, I always keep a 3×5 index card and a mini-Sharpie in my pocket.

But what I do not do, is the weekly review. That is an excellent idea that I am going to implement immediately.

Many thanks,
Vic

Catherine Adams November 6, 2011 at 4:23 pm

HI Corbett,
I too keep small notebooks around and take with everytime I go out. I try to be as thorough with my notes and ideas as possible. As Mary J mentioned, it can be really difficult to bring back the intention of the notes if they are vague.
I get inspiration many ways but often my ideas are triggered by a particular book I’m reading or sometimes when I read stories of others on the web. In video form or blog.

Whatever it is, if its blog worthy I write it down, Scraps of paper have been know to carry great ideas.

Thanks

Hugh November 7, 2011 at 6:10 am

I’ve been keeping an idea journal for about 2 months now and it is awesome. My entries are of two varieties: post ideas and business ideas. I know that I won’t have the time to act upon 90% of the crazy business ideas I have, but even if I act on the best 10%, I’ll be in good shape. Good to see that this works for other people too.

Ricardo Bueno November 7, 2011 at 10:38 pm

I keep a moleskine with me at all times. Some people laugh at me – they call it too “old school.” But really, it’s a running idea journal for me. I jot down tentative post titles, and even outline entire posts. This way, when I sit at the computer, I’m ready to rock-n-roll on a post idea. I find that I write faster that way. Otherwise, I get stuck writing and editing at the same time and rarely do I get a good amount of writing done that way.

joe bahgat November 8, 2011 at 3:01 am

Somebody beat me to the punch referring to Evernote as an invaluable tool to keep track of potential writing topics, but I’ll also add this into the mix, which I use to make sure my Evernote repository doesn’t become just that:

I use Omnifocus to keep track of broader ideas for my writing, and this allows me to put them in order of importance, chronology, etc. — e.g. hot topics relating to breaking news get priority over more general, conceptual, or in-depth analytical pieces. That way if I need to produce something at a time when ideas (or news) are scarce, I’ve always got something in the pipeline.

Bojan December 5, 2011 at 1:09 pm

I do a similar thing and I think it works well. Usually I don’t keep a journal but since I carry my phone all the time I’ll just text myself the headline or a few sentences of my idea. The funny thing is that this is usually enough and when you finally do sit down and start writing it’s easy to piece together the original thoughts that you had.

Stewart November 10, 2011 at 9:56 am

Oooh, that’s a good tip, David. Simple, too. I often suffer from the same things as Mary.

My daughter writes a few sporatic sentances (entire sentances) of an idea down and knows that her brain will back-fill the blanks… like little idea triggers.

-Stu

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