Q: The mental block of article writing

16 replies
I have plenty of good article writing "how-to's" and have pretty much memorized their content. However, putting theory into

practice, more often than not evades me - I just seem to hit a mental block. Similarly with research; know where to look, but

converting into my own words is quite another matter.

I suffered similarly going through past exam papers when studying for (maths/engineering) exams at college. Got really good

at recognising that what was going through, and thought I UNDERSTOOD the methods/procedures too. Come the exam, it may as

well have been written in a different language.

Now, with trying to write articles for myself, after studing pages of advice from good sources, I seem unable to get theory

into practice. The mental block thing again. I should mention that I do quite enjoy writing them. Outsourcing them is out of

the question at present.

One thing I am quite good at is re-writing (100+ subs to EZA; no rejections). I was subscribed to a 100-member membership.

Still have plenty to go at but I find it far too slow and inconsistent.

It's probably just a matter of practice-makes, and to just get on and write things down - anything to get into a rhythm. But just though I'd throw my thoughts onto the WF in case anyone could throw any more light onto my situation.

I know that once I have the skill/ability/knack, it'll serve me for life.

Thanks
#article #block #mental #writing
  • Profile picture of the author radhika
    It's probably just a matter of practice-makes, and to just get on and write things down - anything to get into a rhythm. But just though I'd throw my thoughts onto the WF in case anyone could throw any more light onto my situation.
    Well... you said it there. Get to the business.

    One thing I do is, write it down on a paper and put infront of me. Until I strike each one of them, I feel so restless

    Try samething. Write down on a paper - How many articles you need to finish and titles of them, one by one ... Type one and strike off that title ... After couple of articles, you feel like finishing it fast.

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  • Profile picture of the author artwebster
    What works for one person doesn't necessarily work for everybody - this is why all your good article writing "how-to's" aren't doing you any favours.

    Think of an article as a generic thing. It will consist of all parts of speach but the governing parts are verbs, nouns and adjectives and the way that you (as opposed to anybody else) use those parts of speach will have more effect upon the way you write an article than all the "how to's" put together.

    Instead of wondering how gurus A, B, C & D think you should write an article - just go ahead and do it. Introspection, as you have discovered, wastes more time than TV.

    Learn by doing.
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    Some old school smarts would help - and here's to Rob Toth for his help. Bloody good stuff, even the freebies!

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  • Profile picture of the author SeanIM
    three words for you...

    Dragon Naturally Speaking



    It's worth the 2-300 bucks
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    Sean Mitchell -
    Online Marketing & Tech Consultant Since 1999
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    • Profile picture of the author mix_daylee
      Originally Posted by SeanIM View Post

      three words for you...

      Dragon Naturally Speaking



      It's worth the 2-300 bucks
      I second that.
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  • Profile picture of the author ShelbyC
    Hey Ian go buy Jason Fladlien's 7 Minute Articles product, it seriously helped me overcome the same problem you're having. If you already own it, just start up that timer and get writing, and then use his 1 to 8 rewrite information, fun and quick.
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    • Profile picture of the author Ian Jackson
      Many thanks all

      Originally Posted by artwebster View Post

      What works for one person doesn't necessarily work for everybody - this is why all your good article writing "how-to's" aren't doing you any favours.

      Think of an article as a generic thing. It will consist of all parts of speach but the governing parts are verbs, nouns and adjectives and the way that you (as opposed to anybody else) use those parts of speach will have more effect upon the way you write an article than all the "how to's" put together.

      Instead of wondering how gurus A, B, C & D think you should write an article - just go ahead and do it. Introspection, as you have discovered, wastes more time than TV.

      Learn by doing.
      See comment below...

      Originally Posted by SeanIM View Post

      three words for you...

      Dragon Naturally Speaking



      It's worth the 2-300 bucks
      Yes, I'll likely take a look at that in due course

      Originally Posted by ShelbyC View Post

      Hey Ian go buy Jason Fladlien's 7 Minute Articles product, it seriously helped me overcome the same problem you're having. If you already own it, just start up that timer and get writing, and then use his 1 to 8 rewrite information, fun and quick.
      Yes, I've actually had Jason's 7-min in front of me when I sent the OP. Then thoughts in line with Artwebster's comment spurred me into action

      ...One article written late last night, and another just completed


      I think the many and varied products are good for reference, but ultimately, it's a state of mind...
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  • Profile picture of the author Mary Gallivan
    Hi Ian

    I was exactly the same as you at one time.

    Trial and error seemed to work best for me - probably better know as 'testing' what works best for you.

    One way I got round it was to use PLR articles and open 2 or 3 related articles and re-write them into 1 good one.

    Alternatively, write a few articles on '10 tips for....'. Then take each tip in turn and write as much as you can in one go about that tip. Only when you've run out of your own ideas then search for more info to add to it.

    I've also written articles for my own site which were for 20 tips for.... From that I wrote 4 more articles using that one. I then had, 3 tips for... 4 tips for, 5 , and 8 tips for.. and each of these can go to the directories and point back to the full 20 tip article on your site.

    Mary
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    • Profile picture of the author AskShawn
      What success have you had doing it your method? @ Mary
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      • Profile picture of the author Ian Jackson
        Originally Posted by Mary Gallivan View Post

        Hi Ian

        I was exactly the same as you at one time.

        Trial and error seemed to work best for me - probably better know as 'testing' what works best for you.

        One way I got round it was to use PLR articles and open 2 or 3 related articles and re-write them into 1 good one.

        Alternatively, write a few articles on '10 tips for....'. Then take each tip in turn and write as much as you can in one go about that tip. Only when you've run out of your own ideas then search for more info to add to it.

        I've also written articles for my own site which were for 20 tips for.... From that I wrote 4 more articles using that one. I then had, 3 tips for... 4 tips for, 5 , and 8 tips for.. and each of these can go to the directories and point back to the full 20 tip article on your site.

        Mary
        Originally Posted by AskShawn View Post

        What success have you had doing it your method? @ Mary

        During the last week, I've reached a point at which I can crank out an average 4 ORIGINAL articles a day now. So in terms of getting articles written I can verify that the "just do it, with a bit of trial & error", plus a blueprint, like above does work. It ain't all easy but it's definitely getting easier.

        I wrote 5 yesterday and 5 today. Now I'm maybe going to reward myself with 5 easy (albeit slower) rewrites from the limited number I mentioned in my OP

        IMHO it's important to remember 1) that an article is not your "success", but a vehicle that will bring in the traffic, which is (hopefully) the readers that want more information from you... through your website & products. 2) Articles give you lasting presence online.
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        • Profile picture of the author Steven Wagenheim
          Ian, unfortunately I am at a bit of a disadvantage in trying to help you with
          your problem because I've been writing since I am a little kid and thus, it has
          always been a part of me...like breathing.

          Having said that, at times when I get bored (Yes, I do get bored writing
          every now and then) I have quite a few techniques that I have come up
          with over the years to help me get inspired and overcome my boredom.

          These may or may not work for you but you can certainly give them a shot
          in trying to get over your mental block.

          1. The Random Game - I love doing this...even when I write songs. What
          I'll do is go to a site that generates random letters or numbers. I'll plug in
          some variables and see what I come up with. I'll take the letters and try
          to make words out of them. So for example, if I get TSOP for a 4 letter
          random generator, I might come up with the title "The Sound Of
          Philadelphia." This title, in turn, might inspire another title or idea. I'll do
          this until I come up with something that I like.

          2. Look Around - I'll go outside and take a walk. I'll look around at objects
          and see if any of them trigger ideas. I'll say each object out loud as I walk.
          I get plenty of odd stares doing this. I'll look around my home for objects
          and see if any of them inspire me.

          3. The Media - I'll watch TV, listen to the radio, hang on every word that
          everybody says. I'll watch news, infomercials, whatever. It can even be
          a sitcom that will inspire something. I'll also read the newspaper or just
          read a bunch of articles online about something I'm interested in to see if
          that sparks any interest.

          4. Forums - Forums are a great place to get ideas. Sometimes just a
          question that somebody asks will inspire an article simply because I know
          the answer to the question. For example, someday I may turn this forum
          post into an article on article writing. Actually, I've already written articles
          on writers block so I probably won't revisit this, but you get the idea.

          If your problem is simply taking facts from research and putting them into
          your own words, I don't know how to really help you with that other than
          to tell you to just keep at it. I'm a firm believer (even though I've had
          this argued against me many times before) that no matter how much formal
          instruction you have on anything, article writing, baseball, chess, or even
          sewing, there is only so far you're going to go without some kind of talent.

          Some people say talent can be learned. Maybe. I don't know. I do know
          that there have been things I've spent my life doing that I'm just not
          that good at (songwriting for one) so I'm not a big believer that talent
          can be learned. I think it can be improved upon, but if you're freakin' tone
          deaf, I doubt you're ever going to become a great songwriter. But that's
          another argument for another day.

          Anyway, I don't know if any of this has been of any help. Mary came up
          with some great tips for coming up with article titles (which is how almost
          all my articles are inspired) so hopefully, they will help you get through
          this.

          After that, it's practice, practice, practice.
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          • Profile picture of the author Ian Jackson
            Thanks for your input Steven - it's always valued

            I've reached a point now at which I'm happy. Researching and structuring aticles was a huge problem for me (not so much the writing) and during the last few weeks I've blended all the contribution in this thread, along with some advice from a mentor I have.

            So now TIME is my biggest challenge and enemy! I work full time in the offline world, at least until they make me redundant... by which time I hope to have plenty more content published and accrued some ROI from my p/time online efforts. I certainly look forward to ramping up my online activities to f/time - towards the end of the year.
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            • Profile picture of the author michellegreen
              Ian, I have a "thing" for dot points. If I'm a little stuck, I use Google Alerts to get ideas, then I just dot down my main points. This usually gets me going for the remainder of the article.
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              • Profile picture of the author Palo Coyote
                Hi Ian,
                I was a reporter both in TV news and newspapers for a number of years and so my first inclination is to ask questions.
                Who?
                What?
                When?
                Where?
                How?
                Why?
                Myths, misperceptions and mistakes are also three of my favorites.

                You can take any subject no matter how esoteric and do a search and come up with a website that has questions about whatever you're looking for.

                As a takeoff on Steven Wagenheim's post I went to Google and put in, questions songwriting. Google came back with 818,000 results I looked at a couple of the pages and sure enough people were posing questions about writing songs. And of course there were some answers on those pages so it would be real quick and simple to write a 400 to 500 word article.

                As Art said above what works for one person doesn't necessarily work for someone else, and what I've suggested may not work for you. I always enjoy his posts, they are very cogent and right on. But I thought I'd chip in and give you my perspective on this.



                (By the way I use Dragon Naturally in my writing and I'm using it for this post. I've had it for about five years and it is the greatest program I own.)

                All my best,
                Palo
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              • Profile picture of the author angela99
                Hi Ian

                Re "I have plenty of good article writing "how-to's".

                It's essential you forget all about how-to-write instruction when you're writing.

                Here's what I've found: it takes around 11 minutes to switch mind states. Your how-to-write instruction uses your left brain, your logical, thinking side. Writing however is a right-brain, creative activity. So you need to switch mind states.

                There are various ways of doing this:

                * Play music

                * Doodle, or draw

                * Do something repetitive (mow the lawn, do woodwork, go for a walk)

                You can also just tough it out and remember that once you start writing, you'll have switched mind states in around 11 minutes, so the initial discomfort fades very quickly.

                I like to use free writing to switch mind states. Get a timer, set it for ten minutes, and just start writing. Don't worry about grammar, spelling, or even the topic. Write for ten minutes -- and zoom, you've switched mind states.

                Bit tip: critical thinking ("this is cr*p, I can't write, this is a mistake etc") is left-brain. You can't create in this mind state. You can get stuck in this mind state if you take it seriously. Don't. It means nothing -- just that you're in the wrong mind state to write.

                Writing involves a process: planning, writing (creativity), and editing. The final phase, editing, is a left brain activity. If you try to do all three things at once, you'll block. So take each step one at a time -- I like to plan, write and edit on different days. Saves time in the long run. :-)

                Final tip: writing is a muscle. The more you write, the more comfortable you get with the process. Eventually it's no big deal -- it's just something you do: you don't think about it. (Which gets us back to why logical thinking while you're writing is a mistake -- you're trying to use two different mind states at once.)

                Hope this helps you. Happy writing. :-)
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  • Profile picture of the author HeySal
    Ian - writing is not an innate process. While any time you put two humans together they will develop a language, not all societies have had writing so it doesn't always come easily to take what is in your mind and make it come out of your fingers.

    When you are mental blocked there are two processes which work best to unclog. The first is to get some aerobic exercise. Your circulation can get sluggish sitting at a computer or desk for too long and your brain wants oxygen in and waste material out so it can function at its peak. So go out for a walk when you get mental blocked.

    A second technique to lift a mental block relates to what I first said. Talking is innate - so if you can't write it -- start talking out loud about it - talk to your dog, talk to yourself, talk to the walls, whatever. You might seem mad as a hatter to anyone who happens to overhear you or sees what you are chattering to - but by using your instinctual form of language, you should be able to talk out what you need to write down.

    HTH
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    Sal
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    Beyond the Path

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    • Profile picture of the author Ian Jackson
      Hey! thanks for all the recent replies

      Re HeySal, I'm far from being the most physical person; since I've less than no interest in any kind sport that's not cars or motorcycles. So that'll give you an idea of how much exercise I do

      However, where I work, there's a "cycle-to-work" scheme (Government-sponsored tax relief), which I've joined - and I now have a bicycle. I'm now getting a spot of exercise! About 40-50 miles a week at the moment, but will be doing more

      As for the left/right brain activity I study the "Law of Attaction", which helps a lot.

      Anyway, all your advice is saved in a word.doc

      I'm on hols for a week now, ...so plenty of writing to do
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