How to Overcome Writer’s Block to Improve Your Productivity

Writer's Block

 Writer's Block

Writer’s block is the curse of all writers, whether writing online or offline.  Even the great novelists report that at times they experienced writer’s block.  

In an earlier blog post, I offered suggestions on how to achieve your daily blogging goal.  That blog post on daily blogging focused mainly on creating productive habits and establishing a routine. But what happens if, despite your routine, you are lost for words on a particular day when you want to write?  What if, despite your best efforts, no ideas come to mind? 

Well, there are a couple of strategies that I use that you might find useful to help you overcome writer’s block and improve your productivity. 

[Photo credit: Writer’s Block by orijinal

Strategies to Overcome Writer’s Block 

I have developed these strategies over time while writing both technical and popular articles and blog posts.  They have really helped me overcome writer’s block

1. Talk to the computer

This sounds a bit strange but it is a valuable technique.  I learned this approach from a colleague when we were doing an Australia-wide research project on action learning.  Whenever we got stuck for writing, he would go to the keyboard and start typing questions like:

  • What do I want to say here?
  • Who am I saying this to?
  • What’s the key message that I want to get across?
  • Why would I bother to write this?
  • What can the reader learn from what I am writing?

 He would then progressively start to answer these questions as if they were questions asked of him by the computer.  Invariably, we would have no trouble progressing once we responded to his questions on the computer. 

2. Record yourself – create a podcast 

Sometimes the act of writing is itself an impediment to what you want to say – you can’t find the right words to start.  What I have done to overcome this particular writer’s block is to use an audio recorder, my smartphone or a program like Audacity or AudioBoo to record what I want to say.  When you move to the auditory channel, your natural instincts to edit are turned off, so a natural speaking flow can occur.  You can then type from the audio and play around with the grammar and structure.  You could use the questions mentioned in (1) to get started.  It is amazing how using a different communication channel can free up your ideas (and overcome innate fears that can cause writer’s block). 

3. Speed writing 

This is a real challenge to the perfectionist who may suffer from fear of failure or fear of success.  It is a similar idea to the previous one but here you stick with writing as the primary task.  However, instead of concerning yourself with structure, grammar, spelling or complete sentences, you just write any idea that comes into your head about the topic that is the focus of your attention.  What you will find is that one idea will lead to another and you will find new ways to develop ideas mentioned earlier in your speed writing.  It takes a bit of work to edit the writing, but at least you will have captured the ideas and linkages – you just need to structure them and edit your expression. 

Speed writing can really free up writer’s block because it enables you to overcome your lifetime conditioning – having to proceed in a logical way and write perfect sentences. The speed writing approach stresses lateral thinking and randomness, and activates the right brain.  Eventually, you need to activate your left brain to impose some order on what you have written.  The speed writing process can really help you overcome writer’s block by tapping into a part of your brain (the right side) that you may not use on a regular basis (depending on your type of work).  

4. Record a reflection 

Yesterday I was lost for a topic, so I reflected on what helped me to become productive with my blogging.  This led to my extended post on the how you can use focus to improve productivity.  That blog post started out as some random ideas that I thought I could write 200 words on and it ended up as a 7 point article of more than 1,200 words.  So even if you are slow to start writing, the very act of starting can loosen up your mind and capture the connections that are already resident there.  In the case of the focus blog post, I ended up jotting down some key points that turned into the 7 reasons why focus helps to improve productivity. 

This current post came about because I was experiencing writer’s block and was reflecting on how I had overcome it in the past – hence the focus of the article. 

5. Don’t try for perfection every time 

It’s better to write something, however short, rather than nothing.  The more you write, the easier it gets. Not every blog post is going to be a ‘pillar article’.  So it’s worth persisting and settling for something that may be good but not great.  Action generates ideas and ideas build on each other. 

If you want to be productive with your blogging, you need to explore strategies to overcome writer’s block – hopefully, my strategies will prove fruitful for you too.


Stream Podcasts (MP3’s) with the Yahoo Media Player on Squidoo

listening to a podcast

listening to a podcast

One of the multimedia features of Squidoo is the option to include podcasts as part of your small business marketing on this social network platform.  Squidoo provides a setting for a Yahoo Media Player that enables you to incorporate and stream MP3’s (your own or other’s) on your Squidoo lenses.  I have found that this is one of the most underutilised features of Squidoo.

In an earlier post, I highlighted the benefits of podcasting and stressed the need to incorporate this aspect in your small business marketing.  I think that the lack of use of the Yahoo Media Player relates to the fact that the settings are not obvious and are easy to overlook.

How to Enable the Yahoo Media Player on Squidoo

To enable the Yahoo Media Player on your Squidoo lens, you need to make adjustments to ‘Other Settings’ when in the edit mode.  The ‘Other Settings’ link is currently in the right-hand column of your Squidoo lens.  There is an option  for you to tick ‘Play mp3 files with the Yahoo Media Player’ (as illustrated in the image below).  When you tick this option, you automatically enable the Yahoo Media Player, so that any link that is an MP3 file will generate the ‘play’ symbol on your lens. 

Squidoo - Yahoo Media Player settings

I have demonstrated the use of the Yahoo Media Player in the introduction to a Squidoo lens on Improving Productivity to Overcome Procrastination and Information Overload:


squidoo - yahoo media player

If you want to include a description or call to action (as I have done above), you use a hyperlink with anchor text such as the following:

<a href=”http://www.yourpodcastaddress.mp3″><b>LISTEN TO HOW I HAVE USED A PRODUCTIVITY FOCUS TO BEAT PROCRASTINATION</b></a>

Another illustration of the Yahoo Media Player from the same Productivity Squidoo lens is the following screenshot which shows how I am marketing my Social Media Training Program by including an introductory podcast in a text module: 

Yahoo Media Player - squidooroo mp3

 The Yahoo Media Player on Squidoo enables you to incorporate podcasts (MP3’s) on your Squidoo lenses to enhance your small business marketing.

Free WordPress Plugin: podPress Audio Player for Podcasts



podPress is a free WordPress Plugin that enables you to install an audio player in your blog post.  Visitors to your blog are then able to play the podcast directly on your blog.

The key thing is that you have control over where the audio player is located so that you can ensure it is near a relevant comment or resource.  All you have to do is insert a simple piece of code in your post where you want the media player to display and podPress does the rest.

podPress does a range of things that are particularly useful for small business marketing:

  • acts as an automatic media player for videos as well as audios
  • allows listeners to control the player
  • facilitates download of the podcast
  • provides stats on downloads (including graphs)
  • generates RSS (and ATOM) feed and submits feed to iTunes (on publication).

So this free WordPress plugin enables you to readily display a media player for your audios or videos as illustrated below:



When someone clicks on the play button, the audio player image expands to show the progress of the podcast and to enable the listener to pause the player:

podpress wordpress plugin

How to create your audio player with podPress

Once you have installed the free WordPress Plugin, you need to advise the podPress plugin of the location and details of your podcast file.  Some of these details can be completed by using the “auto detect” button provided against the relevant field, others are completed automatically by the plugin.  The screenshot below shows the fields that need to be completed either by yourself or automatically by the plugin:


podcast file descritpion for podPress

podPress also provides a number of fields so that you can specify the relevant details for inclusion of your podcast in iTunes.  However, you can override this option if you have some other method of syndicating your podcast.

podpress is a solid free WordPress Plugin that enables you to stream audio or video on your site and simultaneously broadcast your podcast to iTunes.

Advanced Podcasting with Audacity


I use Audacity for recording many of my podcasts – it’s free, easy to use and you can add music to your podcast. You simply save your podcast as an MP3 and then you can upload it to your website, blog, Squidoo lens or other social media site. Here’s the link for downloading Audacity:

Audacity is used by music professionals for mixing and re-mixing music – it has a sophisticated range of options. However, you can use it for basic audio recording. A similar analogy is your own computer which often has lots of bells and whistles that you don’t ever use.

The above image is a screen shot of an audio capture with Audacity.  You can see the simple buttons for rewind, forward, record, pause, stop and fast forward (just like any video player/recorder).

To edit, you just highlight the piece you want to delete (for example, a cough or a silence) and it is removed from the recording.

Audacity comes with full tutorial support to show you how to do any task related to recording and editing your podcast (so there is no excuse!!):

The secret as in a lot of social media marketing is to start slowly and then expand your learning edge.  Try out some short recordings first and have a go at editing.  Once you are comfortable with that you can extend the recordings and/or add music.

Adding music to your Audacity podcast

You can add music to the beginning and/or end of your podcast if you want.  Alternatively, you can play music in the background of your podcast.

One source of music loops that I use and recommend highly is Ginny Culp productions.  Ginny also provides free access to her Instant Audio Player through the following URL:Preview

Instant Audio Player

Here’s a sample of an early podcast I produced.  Here I have used Ginny Culp’s free audio player to display and play the podcast.
Instant Audio Player




In a recent post, I highlighted the value of podcasts in providing you with another channel for communicating to customers, building your relationships and marketing your small business.  Audacity makes this easy by providing you with a tool to create a professional podcast at no cost.

Audioboo: An Easy Introduction to Podcasting for Small Businesses

Listen on!


Audioboo is a very easy, free podcasting platform that lets you create up to 5 minute podcasts either online or via mobile phone.  It creates the podcast, provides the MP3 player online and supports distribution.

Audioboo has a Google Page Rank of 7/10 and is ranked by Alexa in the top 30,000 sites in the world (in terms of traffic).  The dominant audience demographic is women between the ages of 35 and 54 who have postgraduate education.  The over 65 age group is poorly represented in the Audiboo’s audience.

Audioboo – online recording

Let’s check out the online version first.   The process is very simple.  Once you register you can record an audio online or upload an existing audio – Audiboo takes most formats.  You can tag (keyword) your podcast to assist the search engines to find your audio.  Audioboo will also give the location (city) of your recording (if you agree to this).

Better still, you can tell Audioboo in advance what sites should receive your podcasts automatically after each recording/upload – Twitter, Facebook, Posterous, Tumblr and/or FriendFeed.   Visitors to your site can also promote your podcast via Twitter or Facebook.  Both you and your visitors can embed the podcast on a blog or website. 

Audioboo is a great place to start if you are new to podcasting.  You can start small (maximum 5 minutes) and have the system produce your audio for easy play and distribution.

One way to start if you are nervous about speaking is to read something as a recording (e.g. an article, blog post, short chapter of an ebook).  Get used to the sound of your voice first even though reading may make you sound a little stilted.  Then you can progress to having a few notes or headings to talk to.  You can always start again and re-record – practice makes perfect.

You might even discover that you love this form of content creation and that others love your voice.   Just be yourself and genuine – it’s all part of the transparency of social media marketing.   Remember too that audio/podcasting is a very forgiving medium – people will overlook the odd stutter or break or “um” because they themselves have not been willing to give it a go.  Just do it – you will be so glad you did.

Using Audioboo with your iPhone

The Audioboo application for the iPhone is free and is a superb tool.  You can download it through iTunes or directly through the Audioboo site.

Picture this – you are with someone you want to interview.  You take a photo with your iPhone, call up the Audioboo app and start recording an interview.  When finished, touch a button to add the photo, insert tags (keywords) and touch another to upload your podcast to Audioboo.  If you set it up right, the audio will be automatically distributed to other sites such as Facebook.

Alternatively, you might be reading an ebook or listening to a webinar and you get an idea for a brief podcast.  You could just pick up your iPhone and record something via the Audioboo app.

Here’s my Audioboo site (refer to the Widget at the start of this blog post for the feed):

You will notice that I have not used Audioboo much yet as I have been using the more sophisticated program, Audacity, which enables you to (1) record a lot longer audio (some of my recordings are an hour) and (2) edit extensively (something you need for longer audio recordings).

Audioboo also has some restrictions on commercial use and may charge a fee if you are overly commercial in your use of the site and its services.  As with social networking sites, overt marketing is frowned upon.

However, Audioboo has recently introduced an upgrade service, Audioboo Plus, which includes the following features:

  • 30 minutes recording time
  • enhanced iTunes settings
  • posting to Facebook fan pages

Audioboo is a great place to start podcasting for small business owners.  You can practice and build up confidence with short podcasts and then upgrade to the new Audioboo advanced service.

Thumbnail Photo Credit: Audioboo Podcasting – by pixelsebi