I’ve noted that writer’s block is not really real. If you stick to the dictum and write what you know, you can come up with something. I always do. But then again, I’m not a journalist on assignment; it’s my blog, and I can lie if I want to. But sometimes, that blinking cursor taunts me (a second time), and I just don’t have much pithy to say. So some days are trickier that others. And if writer’s block is real for you, what are some ways out of the trap?
Someone once said this was a lifestyle blog. I suppose it is, though not like a shiny, pretty Instagram. Other people have said I’ve inspired them. That’s high praise. So although it is mostly a bicycle blog, I can write about whatever the hell I want. If you feel you have to stick to your niche, why is that? For money? That’s what Australian Darren Rowse of Problogger.com advises. And I’m pretty sure he knows his stuff since he makes a bunch of money. He’d say that one reason I don’t make any money on my blog is because I’m all over the place. I write about movies, politics, chocolate, and other non-bicycling stuff. That may be true but the main reason is I don’t promote it on social media, so I don’t have enough followers to earn from ads, and other stuff like sponsored posts or getting kickbacks from products. Even though occasionally I do comment favorably on things I use and like (Fairdale, are you listening? No. OK.)
So if your blog is niche, and you stick to your lane, but can’t think of what to write, what DO you do? That’s a real question, I’m curious. For me, I think about what I’ve done or seen that day, what’s going on in the community (if I know), or I mine my Strava for data or things that might be of interest. Since the word blog comes from web log, I don’t think there’s any reason why you can’t basically journal about your day. What you did, what food you ate, where you went, who you were with, what you thought about or felt. It’s all fair game, and chances are, someone somewhere is interested. And if you do have the good fortune to have lots of readers, they will probably go along with you most of the time. But what do I know about you and your blog? Maybe you’re just a reader and don’t have one. I’m not a psychic, ok?! Jeez.
My first two years of this blog, 2016-17, were not that productive or high quality. I wrote 23 the first year, and a lowly nine the second. I was more about the biking than the writing. And to some degree I still am, in terms of time it takes to bike. But three years ago this month, in March of 2018, I started writing every day for a minimum of 30 minutes, or 500 words, which ever came first. Out of that came a book that’s finally having someone else’s eyeballs on it, and including this one, 437 more blog posts in 39 months. That daily writing habit does not mean that I’ve learned all there is to know about writing or that everything is gold. Quantity is not quality; look at President #45’s tweets, for example: They’re tremendous! (crap).
To some, writing about writing may seem like cheating. But it’s not. If you can give yourself permission to deviate from your niche and talk about whatever you want, you may find it liberating. Will you lose hardcore readers who only care about your one main thing? Maybe, maybe not. Because if someone likes your “voice” or whatever it is you’re about, I think they’ll read pretty much anything you produce. Sure, it’s good to still have an overall theme, like I try to do. And it is good to return to your main topic fairly regularly. In my opinion, limiting yourself to just one thing is like trying to paint with one arm tied behind your back. If you’re a big time blogger and know that’s a sure way to lose followers and revenue, I guess I’d just wonder, is that what’s most important? And what’s a big time blogger like you doing here on my tiny little speck in the blogosphere? (And can you please re-blog this so I get thousands of views?)
In the end, of course it’s your choice. But if you are stuck and can’t figure out a topic, I say it’s fine to not stay in your lane. The object is to write, and share your story, tell your truth. If it’s not the most exciting thing every, I have news for you: much of life is not worthy of being made into a movie. But it’s your tale, and no one else can tell it but you. And you never know who needs to hear it from you. It can be the smallest thing. What the song playing reminds you of. What you had for lunch. How you didn’t feel like going on a bike ride but you did. Or how you didn’t do anything today because the pandemic’s got you down. It’s all grist for the word mill. And even this post, meandering as it may seem, has taking me quite a while to craft. You don’t see the edits, the looking up of things, the thinking. It’s all behind the curtain.
I can’t find the exact quote, but I’m pretty sure Tom Hanks as struggling comedian Stephen Gold said in Punchline, or maybe it was as manager Jimmy Duggan in A League of Their Own:
“Now get out there an stink it up like everyone else!”
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