How to Get Started When You’re Stuck

Stuck womanDo you ever get stuck?

Do you sometimes do nothing because you don’t know where to begin?

The best way to get something done is simply to get started.

Lots of people feel that they need to have a complete plan before embarking on a project.

Sometimes that works and other times it doesn’t. There are occasions when I get an idea and the whole strategy magically appears in my head.

Often I have an idea that I like but don’t know just how I will execute it.

A good example is writing an article for my blog. There have been times when I came up with a topic and knew right away which points I would include. Other times I have a good subject but nothing to flesh it out at first.

It’s easy enough to run with the post which arrived in my brain accompanied by all the subtopics. I just start writing.

woman typingThe subject that I like but doesn’t come with any meat is different. I have to figure out how proceed.

  • Should I google the topic to see what other people have written about it?
  • Would it be best to let the idea gel in my head and hope that I’ll think of what to say?
  • Perhaps I should begin writing? At least I could type the tentative title and hope for inspiration.

Which of those possibilities would be best?

I always at least write down the possible title and add any other thoughts I have about it. Sometimes that act will prompt some ideas of what I might say and I write those down too. Just making this start may get me going and I can go ahead and write the article.

woman readingWhen that doesn’t work, I switch to an activity that isn’t related to my composition problem.

  • I might go for a walk.
  • I could read a couple chapters.
  • I may switch to another task on my to-do list.

Letting my brain play with the idea while I’m not even thinking about it often works for me.

The most important thing is to figure out your strategy.

A strategy can be just putting something aside with a starting time set for when you resume working on your task.

The small weekly project of writing a blog post doesn’t require a complex strategy.

Here’s an example of a strategy you might use for writing a once a week blog post:

4 days before – Decide the topic of your post.

3 days before – List main points and find images.

2 days before – Write the article.

1 day before – Proof the article. This is best done after setting it aside overnight.

the day – Publish the article.

Every day, reply to comments from readers.

What about when you get stuck on how to accomplish a major goal such as one for the year or the quarter or the month?

You probably won’t get much done unless you take the time to figure out a strategy to achieve it.

I will write about this next week.

Do you ever get stuck when writing a blog post? How do you get past that?

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. I do get stuck sometimes…well many times. Sometimes I just have to wait until the inspiration hits me. Other times, like you said, I just have to START and then it just flows from there. Starting is the hardest part sometimes, especially for us procrastinators.

    • Hi Susan. I think we all get stuck at times. So many reasons that can happen. You’re right that starting can be the hardest part. Like you I tend to procrastinate and often write just as the time is running out.

  2. I like your strategy for producing a blog post. I work on my blog over several days. I like to review it with fresh eyes.

    I get stuck at times. Sometimes I have a title/theme but the content just does not flow. In this case, I will rethink my theme. Now I record ideas as soon as they come to mind. I may be out and about and an idea for a blog post will hit me.

    I have googled similar blog posts which has helped tremendously. Often I look at their core points rather than the whole content. It is important that my work remains authentic.

    • Excellent point, Phoenicia. Of course your work needs to be authentic and not just a rehash of what someone else said. Just looking at someone else’s core points works well because then you’re not likely to accidentally write what they wrote.

  3. Definitely! I have a list of potential blog topics that I scroll through to get inspiration for the week. I also have a folder on my desktop of bits and pieces of inspiration, and if that fails I check my Google Analytics to find old posts that are still getting traction but could do with a freshen up. Yet even with all of these lists, ideas and statistics, there are days when nothing feels “just right”. Those are the days I have to wander off and do something else for the day and create space for the “aha” moment to flow.

    I also like your strategy approach. I have a checklist of every step that I do when I blog. This list is always being adjusted, edited and extended, but without it I would miss bits out.

    • Ingrid, it sounds like you do a lot of the same things I do. There are days when I can think of a lot of topics and so I write them down because I know I’ll forget if I don’t. Walking away when nothing gels is also a favorite tactic for me.

  4. Timing of this post is perfect. Right now I have an idea fr my next blog but very little talking points. I am straying from my usual topics so research or turning to our own desigs will not help. Think I will follow your tips & create a strategy. I will jot down what is running thru my head & do that today, then come back to it later. Playing with a title.

    • I’m so glad that my post is helping you, Roslyn. I’ll be interested to find out what you come up with. Not one of your usual topics, you say. Change can be good!

  5. Don’t we ALL get stuck from time to time? 🙂

    Some really good suggestions here, Beth — sometimes you do just have to walk away and do something unrelated — then things tend to flow again.

  6. I definitely set my work aside and come back to it later. It’s a fine line between procrastination, but as long as I schedule when I will revisit it, I’m fine. When you’re stumped, you’re stumped!

    • Holly, it really works well to set the task aside and return later. Good idea to schedule the next attempt to finish it. Right, if you’re stuck, you might as well forget about it for awhile.

  7. Oh boy can I get myself stuck! LOL My solution is to walk away and go workout. Every time I do that an idea comes to me during the workout; especially if that workout happens to be jogging. And when I get overwhelmed in the not knowing where to start, i know the solution is to step away and take a breathe, but for some reason I don’t follow my own advice until I’ve sat there frustrated for some time…

    • It’s always good to turn your back on a problem and working out is a good way to change the subject. Now if you can just remind yourself that it works before you get too frustrated, Lisa, you’ll save yourself some time and worry.

  8. This sounds hokey but when I get stuck I put on head phones. No music playing or anything, just put on the headphones. Something about having that extra layer of noise blocking helps me really focus on what I am writing! Great tips Beth!

    • Wendy, that’s an unusual solution. A little extra layer of protection from distraction seems to work well for you in focusing and getting your posts done. Whatever works!

  9. Getting stuck is always a great jumping off point for me. I find I often gather ideas and information and then when they appear to go together, I sit down and write. The world is filled with many impulses and I like the strategy you offer in this post, Beth, to get moving forward and to get out of a place that you stop yourself and are immobilized. I’m always in a place of open research and sometimes it even surprises me how one impulse can become a full-blown article. Like you, I find walking is a marvellous way to move and see what shows up that might be new, or at least a new way to look at something. Enjoyed the ideas you share in this post! Thanks!!

    • Thanks, Beverley, I’m glad you enjoyed my ideas. I too find that a little kernel can turn into an article. Also, I even write about what I am experiencing such as being stuck! Isn’t it funny how our brains can work on things even when we’ve moved on to another activity. I’m very grateful for that.

  10. When I’m stuck, I pray and let it go. When I feel it’s time to go back to it, it usually just flows from there. Sometimes I think I don’t know what to say, but when I actually start writing, it comes to me.

  11. Such good advice for planning.

    I used to try and bang out a blog in a couple daze. It just caused me stress, so I’m following your schedule, too, Beth.

    Plus the idea file is growing every day. And I AM gonna get my editorial calendar filled out–thinking in advance about blog titles/rough content for the next 52 weeks–which can always be changed with newsy stuff.

  12. When I’m stuck, I look for YouTube videos about the topic. I get bored reading articles about something, but a video will give me ideas every time. I jot down key words and phrases and then do more research on each topic.

    • Videos are a good alternative to reading articles, Kristy. Good idea to jot down keywords and doing more research to round out your article.

  13. These are good tactics. I also find that while I am not a morning person, I enjoy getting up before everyone else, because it gives me quiet time to focus easier (or harder, however you look at it) on my words. I also usually put something aside and leave it to proofread later. Since I’m so new to this, I am grateful that you sent me to read this post, Beth. Thank you! 🙂

    • Liz, you have good tactics. Like you, I’m a morning person and I get a lot done before my husband wakes up. It’s nice to be able to work undistracted. Welcome to my blog!

  14. It’s funny, I have never been the kind of writer than worked well with outlines. Even in school I found it very difficult to be forced into a “plan” which is so ironic since I tend to be a bit of a control freak and love everything so organized. But writing was always different for me. I couldn’t sit down and work on a project whether a term paper in college or a weekly blog today unless I am ready and then let the words fly out of my brain and onto the paper or computer screen. That said, I never wait until the last minute, my OCD side won’t allow it. I still put pressure on myself to leave enough time to word dump or whatever you want to call it and then go back a few hours or days later to edit. Everyone definitely has their own style and method right?

    • Anything that works, Beth. I know what you mean, sometimes the words just spew out and put themselves onto the screen. But other times it’s not quite so easy and it’s for those time that I wrote the post. Yes, we all have our own methods and that’s a good thing.

  15. Great post everyone can relate to Beth!!

  16. This is great. It is true. Sometimes you think of a great topic but you want to make sure you include the most relevant, useful information. If it happens that you don’t necessarily know what you want to include the few days steps can be great! Rushing to put something out may not be the best choice,

    • I agree, Mike. We are less likely to omit some important things if we rush to get a post done without giving ourselves time to think about it after the initial writing is done.

  17. I could really use this 🙂 I am always brainstorming for ideas on things to write for a blog post – and sometimes I can come up with a blurb but not enough to make a real post! Will be using these tips 🙂
    Thanks for this post, Beth!! Hope your week has been lovely!

  18. Very good advice! This is one I need to read and re-read this month. I’ve had so much to do and despite usually being very organized, there have been some moments where I am getting stuck. Thank you for sharing this with us. I appreciate it!

    • I’m glad that my post resonated with you, Lisa. It’s when we are very busy that things get complicated. Focusing on the goal and separating the necessary steps into small tasks really helps.

  19. YES! I get this.. sometimes my “stuck” is because I have so much to do.. and usually I start with the easy stuff to start ticking stuff off the list and it helps. I sometimes have the same problem about blogs – I do have a list of topics that I write down whenever I think of them, but sometimes so many thoughts cross my mind and I want it to come out in order… I just “get over myself” and start writing and if a new thought comes up… I enter down to another para and start writing it.. then, it usually comes together. Great tips

    • I know what you mean, Kristen. Being way too busy complicates things and makes straightforward tasks seem daunting. I do think that if we can persuade ourselves to just forget everything else and work on one thing at a time, we get better results. “Getting over” yourself can be a big help. Just write.

  20. I get stuck frequently!! It’s pretty hard coming up with a topic that fits my theme every week. I have made this a bit easier by keeping a folder of blog topics. When I think of an idea, but can’t bring it all the way around, I jot the idea on a document in my folder. I’m surprised that when I look there later, the idea has gained momentum. Once in a while, I’ll find a note and shake my head wondering…what the hell was I thinking?? Laugh!

    • I like the idea of a folder for ideas, Jacqueline. Of course it’s best when you can figure out what you wrote and why! Sounds like the ideas I get in the middle of the night and MUST write down. Sometimes that works but other times I don’t know what I was thinking when I wrote it.

  21. I do get stuck from time to time. Sometimes I can force myself to work through it, but often it is on a topic I’m not yet ready to tackle – thoughts running through my mind or an emotion, but no clear order or articulation. I work on something else and let that topic simmer in the back of my mind. Something – a dream or an idea that seems to come out of nowhere – later comes to me that allows me to put it together.

    • Donna, Isn’t it great that our brains can solve problems for us when we aren’t even consciously working on them? When something doesn’t mesh with an idea, that’s a good time to change the subject and write on something else.

  22. I think we all get stuck at times but its usually when I have two great ideas in my head. Best to plan … love your strategy.

    • I can’t imagine that anybody never gets stuck, Vicky. Funny that you get stuck when you have two great ideas. That’s a better dilemma than having none!

  23. Hi Beth, sometimes I only get as far as the title and that’s it so I will save it as a draft and maybe work on another post that flows more smoothly (like my unusual way posts, they’re easy and fun to do). Other times I start with the title and start writing and end up with an article that has nothing to do with the title. Weird stuff huh? The best way is if I’ve been thinking about a post I want to write for a while and both parts – title and article – fail in place.
    Interesting how everyone approaches this differently.

    • Lenie, Yes, it is interesting that we all have different methods of getting posts written. I agree that the best is when it all falls into place! I’m guessing that when you start with a title and it veers off in another direction that you change the title and save the original one for another time?

  24. Catarina says:

    Good suggestions, Beth. But there is no need to have strategies for simple issues such as writing a blog post. Sleep on it and if that doesn’t work just re-publish a timeless piece you have already written. When it comes to business ideas though it’s not always that easy to come up with a strategy that works. You may have to talk to people who are experts on various issues in order to come up with a way of executing it that will lead to a successful and profitable enterprise.

    • Thanks for mentioning re-publishing a timeless piece you wrote before, Catarina. That is such a great solution for when you just can’t think of an interesting new idea to write about.

  25. I total get stuck, especially when my schedule doesn’t have breaks. So, I just force myself to write down a bullet list. Usually, that helps me start focusing on the topic I want to write about. If I can’t do that, I google other posts similar to the topic and I will also read self-help books an magazines to really get be going. Thanks for sharing! This is helpful.

    • Sabrina, I’m glad you found the posts helpful. Researching self-help books and magazines is another good method to get going. It’s tough sometimes when you’re really busy.

  26. Great suggestions Beth. It’s impossible not to get stuck sometimes, so in a way I think the most important thing is to write well ahead of time if you can, and have a couple of spare posts up your sleeve for the times when ours minds don’t work or we don’t have time. Re-publishing is a great suggestion too.

    • A.K., I certainly agree that writing well ahead of the publishing time is the biggest help in not getting stuck. I wish I’d write several a few weeks ahead but the closest I get to that is sometimes having topics planned for a few weeks. Re-publishing can be a stress reliever.

  27. What I most often get stuck on is the beginning of a blog post. Having previously been a journalist I was trained on the importance of the “lede.” Usually the way I overcome it is to just go ahead and write something down and continue with the rest of the blog post and hope that a better idea for the lede pops up later. Usually it does.

    • It’s like most tasks, isn’t it, Ken? Getting started is the biggest hurdle! I agree with you that just writing something is a good way to start and the all important title or first paragraph can come later.

  28. Great tips! It can be difficult to start at times. With my blog, I’ve totally had weeks where I come up empty. I usually do get a general idea that I like and just start moving forward. Many times I have no idea where I might land, but in retrospect, that can be a good thing. It can be tempting to give up when I come up empty, but that isn’t a good answer.

    I love your timeline for writing a blog. I don’t usually start so early, but I’ll take your advice and see how it goes. I do love that I”m not the only person who needs to let their blog sit overnight before proofreading. I don’t have any perspective at all until the next day.

    • Erica, I’m glad that you’re getting a rhythm going that works for you. It’s always nice to hear that others have similar challenges, like needing to sleep on the first attempt and then going back to it the next day. Isn’t it great that just starting writing usually moves us on to finding out what we want to say?

  29. I keep a ready inventory of topics and try to keep a balance between ones I know will be very time-consuming to write and ones that will be relatively quick. Soooooo often I procrastinate until Sunday night to get them done, but more and more, I have broken it down into at least a three-day process. That makes getting started much less daunting, and getting started just always seem to be the mightiest obstacle to overcome.

    • Jeri, it really relieves a lot of the urgency and stress when we write articles over a period of a few days. When inspiration hits me and I can write my article easily and quickly, I spend some extra time coming up with future topics and even images to go with them.

  30. Great suggestions Best. As far as writing goes my biggest challenge is usually too many ideas and sometimes I’ll start writing and next thing I know the piece has morphed into something completely different from what I started. I learned the hard way not to invest a lot of time looking for just the right image for the post ahead of time for this very reason!

    The one thing that is an enormous help for me are the files and clippings I keep. I’m a voracious reader and collect bits and pieces of information and even stories I like related to the topics I write about and have them sorted in folders by subject. I also have extensive archives from years of previous articles I’ve written by subject so I can just scroll through them by topic and easily pick out an article that I can either rewrite or use as the basis for something entirely new. It took me awhile to organize all that but it’s more than made up for that initial investment with the time it saves me these days. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Fabulous, Marquita. You have a great system in having your files all organized. I wish I were better at that. That’s one thing I definitely procrastinate doing and no doubt waste time because of it. I have a fairly well organized system but it could be better.

  31. Oh, this happens more often than I care to admit. Where once we looked at a blank page with anxiety, now we look at a blank screen with the same gnawing fear. I’ll start writing, just to get the screen “dirty” with words, however garbled and unkempt they come out. Sometimes that kick-starts the process, and if it doesn’t, I’ll leave it and come back to it. But I think you just need to plunge in, get your screen dirty, and give yourself permission to unwind all those creative thoughts!

  32. I rarely get stuck for a topic, but when I do, I go back to my coaching newspaper columns that I’ve written (well over 100 of them) since 2006. I refresh and update the content, if the facts need to be changed, and I’m good!

    • Jackie, you have a treasure trove! All those columns that can be updated and repurposed. No wonder your posts are always so impressive.

  33. Completely agree with you and on those days when I feeling particularly productive I create blank post with only the heading. Then I get to them when I get to them but at least I get some comfort out of knowing that my ideas are stacked and that is one step in the process I don’t have to give too much concern to. There have been times though when I get down to only a couple of empty post sand I can feel the pressure build.

    • So true, Tim. As long as you have a stack of posts that are started, you can feel fairly confident. It’s nice to keep a good sized stack of ideas so that you have things at least partly started.

  34. I want to know someone who doesn’t get stuck writing a blogpost once in a great while? There have been a few strategies/tactics I’ve tried. If I am really stuck – not often though – I reach for my book of 3000 calendar ideas or check online and then, I’m in the flow with something I can tie to the introvert reader.

    Now major goal stuckness – waiting for your sage wisdom on that Beth!

  35. What a great post and tips. It seems to me all the things I want to do, writing, working out, designing and creating, the hardest part is starting it. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  36. Katarina says:

    Thanks Beth, some good points here. Even though I am not as organized as you with blog post, I tend to throw myself in medias res and just start writing, and afterwards edit and put it into order.

  37. Hi, I sure get stuck at times. Thanks for all the good tips you gave, it is very helpful. Great Read!

  38. Beth — I get stuck often of late. When I first started writing about social media over six years ago, I wrote more “how to” posts because many people were just getting into it. Now, there are many social media experts and the daily Social Media Examiner so I sometimes wonder what I can write to add value. Now, I try to incorporate my experiences into my posts and hope they will be helpful to my readers

    • Jeannette, welcome to my blog! I think it depends on your ideal clients. If they are knowledgeable about social media, then how-to posts aren’t ideal. If not, you may still want to offer some of those. But I love your idea of using your experiences. People love stories.

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