Blank Mind, Blank Screen: Need Ideas!

Q. I'm staring at a blank screen with an equally blank mind. I need an idea for tomorrow's newsletter. Help!

A. Most of us have too many ideas or too few. I've never met anyone with just the right number. Here's the secret: Once you start writing prolifically, you'll get ideas. Each idea will seem better than the one before. In fact, some ideas will be so good that you may be tempted to stop your current project and start over with the new idea!

Instead, keep a folder on your virtual or actual desktop or write ideas in a notebook. Some ideas age gracefully while others earn a decent burial.

But now let's say you're staring at a blank screen, desperate for an article for tomorrow's newsletter. What can you do? Here are five tips to get started.

1. Begin with your website's keywords. Let's say your site features "time management for stay-at-home-moms." You want to attract visitors who are searching on "parenting," "home" and "mothers." Write your keywords on top of a sheet of paper and free-associate. Busy. Homes. Housework. Hmmmaybe you can write about housework and time management?

2. Look around the room where you are working and choose an interesting object. For example, I see two sleeping cats and, through the window, a plant holder with the remains of my last gardening efforts.

My sad little plant could be a metaphor for some aspect of writing, such as ideas that die unless they're watered, fertilized and loved. Or it could be a reminder to focus on your strengths. Laziness often signals a lack of interest or skill. Let's face it, I'll never grow a nice pot of geraniums like the one my neighbors have.

Sleeping cats? Well, some images work better than others, and I've written a lot about my cats and my dog. Overuse of an image...hmm, there's an idea!

3. Call up a friend and describe what you're offering. Ask your friend, "What seems most unusual, puzzling or surprising about what I just said?"

Let's say you're an office organizer. Your friend says, "I didn't realize that people who cleared clutter often found their sales increasing. Can you convince me?" Given the state of my own office, I'd like to be convinced, too! You've got a winner here.

Heidi Challenger of Boise, Idaho, promises a year's guarantee for each home she sells. See http://www.movinglady.com/relolinks.html to find her site. Now there's a great idea for an article -- or several! What is a home guarantee? And why should we ask for one? Does Heidi have unique assets that allow her to offer a guarantee when other realtors can't? All these questions arise from her online advertisement -- and all could be developed into articles.

4. This one's my favorite. Ask your subscribers to contribute questions. You'll be sure your articles fit their interests. Last week's article on permission marketing came directly from a reader request and this week's article combines two queries. WL Ezine subscribers, take note!

5. Look at your calendar. What's the season? If you're writing for your own ezine, choose the current season or, if you're right on the border, next season. If you're writing for print media, ask the editors for a calendar. You may need to submit in June for a Christmas issue. You can go deeper, choosing month and even holiday within the month. You can get whimsical, writing about the astrological sign that governs this month.

About The Author

Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D., is an author, speaker and career/business consultant, helping midlife professionals take their First step to a Second Career. http://www.cathygoodwin.com.

"Ten secrets of mastering a major life change" mailto:[email protected]

Contact: [email protected] 505-534-4294

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The Heavy Unseen Labor of Writing Reference Letters  The Chronicle of Higher Education
Writers Series Hosts Author Aminatta Forna  St. Lawrence University Saints
Tinker, Tailor, Writer, Spy  The New York Times

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