Writers’ Block: Three techniques to generate ideas

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Introduction

Reading comments, tweets, from Twitter;  or free article directories can easily spur ideas for excellent posts.

Comments and discussions on other blogs.

Read posts on blogs that are in, or close to your niche.

Read the comments.

Look at blogs in your niche or subjects that are  close to your niche.

You will often find that the comments expand the topic or come up with unusual angles on the niche. You will find yourself agreeing with them and you can soon develop these into the outline of a post.

Other comments will make you mad, angry or you feel contempt for the writing.  OK use these emotions to write a better post, a post that make sense or a post that explains the issue properly.

You can also combine ideas from two or three posts and make three or four points and  - you’ve got a good post.

Twitter

Use a package, such as Tweetdeck, to monitor a set of keywords that are important to your blog.

Scan the tweets and you may get inspiration for a great post.

Alternatively follow the links to blogs – read a few posts, combine ideas from two or three  and you then come up with an outline, with a twist, that will lead to you approaching the subject with yet a different angle.

Free article directories

Do a search on your topics relating to your blog.

Scan through the shorter, often badly written articles, often crude, marketing message. Combine the ideas from two or three articles and you have a great structure for a great new post.

Over to you

What other techniques do you use to beat the problem of writer’s block.

Discuss Your Comments With Disqus

Shout down phone

Overview:

The standard blogging systems have good, built in comment systems.  However many websites are now using the online comment system Disqus.  This article discusses the pros and cons of Disqus and explains why ‘Beginning to Blog’ uses the system.

Let’s Go:  What is Disqus?

Disqus is simply an alternative to a blog site’s own comment system.  For most blogs there is a simple plugin, which when activated will as the name suggests plug in the Disqus system.

There are two big differences to the standard comment system:

A user logs in once and can then automatically comment on any website that has Disqus activated. So for example once signed in you could write a comment on Beginning to Blog, but you can then go to other blogs and comment there, or you can even go to two UK national newspapers, the Independent, and the Daily Telegraph, and automatically make comments there.

A user’s comments and approval of other comments are stored on the Disqus systesm. The user then has a separate, online file of all their comments on all of the Disqus sites they have used.  As Disqus has a great search system this can be useful in checking back on the comments they have made or someone else, possibly impressed by someone’s comments on one site , can follow that person’s comments on other sites.

The login

A user can log into Disqus using their Twitter account, their Facebook account, Yahoo account or their OpenID.  Once the link is established they can comment.

This has the plus point that the gravtar, or image they use, on that account can be drawn in.  It also means that when a person is posting a comment they can also opt for the details of their post to summarised and linked on the Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo system.

The positive advantages of using Disqus

for the user

The biggest advantage is that the user receives emails telling them when there are comments on their comments.  The links in the emails takes the user straight to the comment and so it is quite easy to engage in a discussion or argument with other users of the site.

  • It saves the user registering on lots of different websites.
  • The user can quickly access all comments they have made.
  • On most website users can click on a button to say they like a comment, which can give positive feedback for the writer.
  • The user has a summary of how many posts they made and how many people have rated their comments.

for the website owner

  • Disqus cuts practically all spam.
  • The comments are often linked to on at least one of these services Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo.  This then produces backlinks from highly rated sites, which in turn enhances the rating of the blog or newspaper.
  • It makes their site look professional.
  • It’s very easy to control comments.  Hostile or unacceptable comments are easy to delete.

The downside

  • A person has to actually register before they can comment, which may block some potential commentators.
  • If there is a fault with the Disqus system then there maybe no comments on the site or the site could be slowed down.
  • The website owner has little control of Disqus.  If say Disqus decided to withdraw the free service I would have to balance between paying a subscription or losing my existing comments.  I think this is unlikely.

Why I use Disqus

I think that Disqus will cut spam on my sites, will look more professional, will give me valuable back links. It will also enable me to check the comment history of my commentators.

Canny Comment to Content King

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The Ever Expanding Comment Show

Wow.  I’ve just turned an 85 word comment, (see below), on the very inspirational blog, Blog Tyrant, into a 1,700+ word post, Forums: Techncially very Helpful.

Alternatively I could have easily turned the long into around five smaller posts. I will, however rewrite sections of the long post and use them in free article directories. I will also use a summarised version of the post as a guest post on someone else’s blog. (I believe in recycling and promotion).

I enjoy reading the comments on blogs and I enjoy joining into the conversation. I try and write something useful and helpful, (it’s my helpful, supportive, further education lecturer instinct coming to the fore).

Boring Mechanical Comments

I avoid writing the ‘Great post Humphrey’ style of comment writing with the hey – that’s one more crappy backlink to my blog.  This mechanical technique of writing twenty or thirty comments a night is soul destroying, boring and I don’t see it being that effective.

Far better to be helpful, creative and do something useful.  It will make you happier and you will benefit from being helpful.  Instead of the quick posts write five, well thought out longer  posts.

What is really useful is commenting on other comments making suggestions. clarifying points or starting a discussion.  Do this and  you will be loved by the blog owner.

You’re too smart to spell it out – but I will, (you never know whose listening:

  • I recomend your don’t write anything negative, (but you can disagree as part of a discussion)
  • you don’t insult any comentator, (even if what they are saying is completely stupid
  • and life’s too short to worry about someone insulting you, (it’s their problem not yours – unless you’re on something like a political blog)
  • and don’t go against the spirit of the blog

Your longer comments have the following advantages:

  • they will be read rather than skipped over
  • they will lead to more visitors to your site
  • then owner of the blog will become aware of you, (guest posts, joint projects and other useful contacts)(Look at my third comment – Blog Tyant – one of my blogging heroes has responded.  Shows he’s on the ball and it shows why he’s a success).
  • you are demonstrating that you are professional.

I find comments inspiring

I am a reactive writer.  I like to respond to emails, queries and cries for help – I’m inspired.  I see something and I’m inspired.

So when I’m doing my necessary reading of other blogs in the niche and  I see a comment that interests me I respond – enthisiastically.

Then I think   through the comments I’ve made and hey – I an do something with that. I expand the comment a little and then I’m finding I have to clarify this, which means I need to explain that – and before I know where I am – well I’ve got 1,700+ words.

The part of the Blog Tyrant post comment that sparked my post

“certainly the worst part, at least for me, is the tech part. Sometimes you are really inspired writing about a great topic and suddenly you see something is not working: the server, the WP upgrade, a plugin,etc. I am particularly “obsessed” with security. I’ve hear many horror stories.”

My comment

Your concerns can actually help you promote your blog.

Look for technical support forums and join. Obviously make sure there they allow a link back to your website. Daniweb, an independent support site, is generally quite helpful.

One word of warning don’t spell out you have a security problem as there is a slight possibility you’ll alert a hacker.

State your problem or concerns clearly and generally people will help you. Though some forums, WordPress is noted for it, are a bit rude to people asking for something obvious and could have been found in a simple search.

Where you have a specific problem on a specific page then post the link. You’ll be surprised how many people will love to show you how to solve it.

Another good thing is for you to help solve the problems of newcomers. The techie people will note this and will be more supportive of you when you have a problem.

And not only are you being nice but, as most technical sites have a high page rank, you are developing some high quality back links to boost your own site.

Links

Grammar Girl:  How to Write a Great Blog Comment

How to Make My Blog: 5 simple steps to build blog traffic by writing comments

The Adventurous Writer: How to Make Good Comments on Blogs

Image: Flickr @sarchi

Over to You

Well come on now let’s have some interesting comments – I will be grateful.