Sometimes It’s Okay To Shut Up
Sometimes It’s Okay To Shut Up
by

I sat down to write a blog post one day last week and ran into a rare conundrum. I couldn’t think of a good topic. Luckily, writer’s block and I don’t know each other well. I’m a wordy bastard. It just comes naturally, I guess.

After thinking a bit about what I might draft in that fit of writer’s limbo, I decided I would jot down some notes on what to do when you have writer’s block. The one note I came up with was, “Sometimes, what you don’t write is as important as what you do.”

Gagged Man by Gemenacom on Shutterstock.comThe point is that if you can’t think of something to say, keep your mouth shut. I had nothing on my mind that day that would make your time worth spending here, so I moved on to something else. When a new notion came across me to write something that might be of use, I went back to blogging.

For the most part, I publish something on Monday, Wednesday and Friday here at SME. Occasionally, and if inspired to do so, I’ll throw in a post or two on another day during the week, but keep to that thrice-weekly schedule with fair regularity. But if I happen to get busy with client work or family commitments and don’t post something one day, it’s not the end of the world. After all, I didn’t waste your time just to meet a mythical audience expectation. I’d rather wait and give you something worth reading.

That’s not a bad approach to providing content on your blog or website, personal or company. While I would advocate developing and sticking to an editorial calendar to get your audience conditioned to expect new material on a consistent basis, if you force something out that isn’t up to their expectations, it can hurt more than help. Your readers won’t be upset if you miss a day or two. Don’t get too far out of your routine or they’ll drift. But try not to keep up the pace for the sake of keeping up the pace.

When you’re dry, you’re dry. Come back when you’ve got something good to share.

How do you get past writer’s block? Please share some ideas with us in the comments.

IMAGE: “Gagged Man” by Gemenacom on Shutterstock.com

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  • Well said Jason, it is better to invest to a high quality post than an average post, even if it'll take sometime to generate it. Reputation should be maintained and one way to do it is to be constant with the value you are providing. I also prefer to cultivate ideas before finalizing a post, that way the article will not look like polished.

  • Re: “Sometimes, what you don’t write is as important as what you do.”

    This was very well said! Now I will admit, I'm guilty of having written the occasional “filler post” or two (who hasn't?).

    When I hit writer's block, I read my feedreader, check my work email and browse twitter for inspiration. I turn to questions that my clients are asking me on a daily basis for inspiration first. Then I'll check the feedreader for inspiration or turn to twitter to once again see what people are asking.

    What sets the creative mood? Some good music usually. Lately it's been some good Cirque du Soleil tunes. Speaking of which I hope to catch a show in Vegas next week…

    • Good ideas there, Ricardo. Thanks for the thoughts. See you next week.

  • Less is more in the case of writer's block. One thing I try and do is switch up the type of posts I do every once and awhile. Interjecting think pieces with things like Friday Flickr Fix and basing a quick post off a single image. Or doing a Q&A interview post with a “person of interest.”

    Another point to consider is all the content and topics you probably experience during a week that you do not think of as a blog post. Sometimes I do a mental review of the last few days and will strike upon something that makes a good post topic. Usually something very short and quick, but enough to get a reader thinking.

    My unfinished posts could probably fuel another blog. But most of those are time sensitive and while I hang onto them like a hoarder, I doubt I will do anything with them.

    • Great ideas Kevin. Thanks for sharing them!

  • katrinapriore

    I love this post and completely agree!

    My favorite line: “After all, I didn’t waste your time just to meet a mythical audience expectation. I’d rather wait and give you something worth reading.”

    Especially because a new site visitor be turned off by your “unicorn post,” and never again check out your blog, which they may have liked otherwise.

    • Thanks Katrina. Appreciate the thoughts.

  • This post is ironic wrapped in a conundrum wrapped in a twinkie

  • livemercialsarah

    I couldn't agree with you more. There is nothing worse than reading something you know someone has been forced or pushed themselves to write. It's the point of blogging in the first place, publishing relevent and insightful information that people will find engaging and worth coming back for!

    • Thanks Sarah. Appreciate the comment.

  • My issue is that I've got more drafts than I've got posts. Jason – how do you handle the issue of “not finishing something you started?”

    • That's a fine question. I have a pretty deliberate conscious that
      won't let me leave stuff hanging so I don't run into that problem
      often. But I do have a few drafts of ideas I keep locked away to help
      me break out of idea blocks. However, if I try for the second or third
      time and still can't make sense of it, I find it easier to write the
      topic down (one sentence) and throw the post away. I'll revisit the
      topic again when I have a clearer vision of what it should be. Hope
      that helps. Thanks for the question.

  • Nicely put! I know of a lot of people that get hung up on that you need to post 3 times a week thing and thus just end up posting pure garbage. It actually hurts your blog instead of helping it.

    • A lot of truth to that. Thanks for the comment.

  • Great point. And to have mercy on those of trying to keep up with too many blogs via RSS, I love it when bloggers adopt the philosophy of “say more, less often.”

  • Sometimes I think we can make the most progress getting through writer's block by accepting it's okay to be stuck every now and then. It's easy to get wrapped up in the “Holy crap, I have nothing to say” thought process, which obviously does no good for getting out of it.

    Things that help me out? Doing something totally unrelated to writing or what I think I should be writing about. If that's business, I go do something I really enjoy doing that has nothing to do with business. Changing venues can make a big difference, too. And, as odd as it sounds, sometimes just lyin' on the floor helps my thoughts flow differently — new physical perspective = new mental perspective.

    Great post. :)

  • Jason,
    Brilliant post! I've been tweeting about this. I call it #twittersblock. Are we ever gonna learn that less is best? And if we can't be interesting or provide value, why should we say anything? Information overload is already a problem. Potential meaning overload will only happen when you got something valuable or enticing to say.
    Thanks for the great content here
    Fabio Henri

    • Thanks Fabio. #twittersblock – I like it. Heh.

  • I did this for most of our meeting yesterday…I talk far more than that usually.

    • Good one. It was great to hang for a few with you.

  • Thanks Jason. It's important to stick to some type of a consistent blogging schedule. But, like you said I doubt readers will be mad if you miss a few days. When I read blogs, I can definitely tell if someone wrote the blog just to say something or if they actually care about the topic. To get over writers block I read other people's blogs to get inspired and try to step away for a day or so. Also, I try to write about topics I am passionate about. Readers know and I can't full anyone.

    • Awesome thoughts. Thanks for sharing them.

  • I just had a similar problem. All of my many business related ideas were quickly written in 140 characters or less—maybe I was spending too much time on Twitter? My breakthrough came in the form of a personal phone call I received. It caused me to stop, shift gears and go in a different direction. I wrote a more personal, less business related post, but one that will still be of interest to my readers. It is being proofed this very minute!

    • Cool. Interesting perspective. Thanks, Diana.

  • Agree with you there Jason… in cross-cultural communication I pay just as much attention to what is NOT said as what is said, and how and when it is said. …I guess it makes you human to “read” that you also get busy :)