Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday's Five - Blogging through Writer's Block

Image Credit: David Castillo Dominici
Sometimes you just don't feel like blogging.  Maybe you don't feel like you have any good ideas.  Maybe you have too many ideas bouncing around in your head and are finding it hard to focus.  Maybe you're just not into writing, or your energy is focused elsewhere.

One of the reasons I started "Friday's Five" is to force myself to blog at least once per week.  I wanted to make sure that I meaningfully self-reflected, thought about hot issues in education, or examined pedagogical practices at least that often.  Today, though, I had a tough time deciding on what I wanted to write about.  One of my colleagues suggested writing about ways we (or our students) can overcome writer's block.  Here are five ideas:
  1. Read other blogs.  Often my first action when I am struggling to find something interesting to write about is to open up Google Reader and see what other people are saying.  Many times I stumble across a post that gets me riled up or thinking about things in a different way.  The Education Section of the New York Times gives me inspiration at times as well.  If our students are stuck we can encourage them to read blogs from their friends or others their age from around the globe who may have written posts on similar topics.
  2. Relate other interests to the topic of the blog.  When I was with my family at Walt Disney World in November, teaching was not at the forefront of my mind.  My post that week was on great educational opportunities in Disney World.  It turned out to be one of my more popular posts, and I got a great deal of enjoyment searching out experiences at Disney I otherwise may have passed over.  Our students would benefit from relating that which they are interested in with what they are learning in the classroom as well.  
  3. Talk to colleagues, co-workers, friends, etc.  As I mentioned above, this is how today's topic came about.  Think about conversations you've had with people lately.  What have they been about?  Maybe there's something in those discussions that will motivate you.  If your students are having trouble, often asking a friend for writing subjects can lead to great ideas. 
  4. Take a break.  At times everybody gets burned out.  Your brain just doesn't work.  A short break of mindless activity can be just the refresher you need to get it working again.  Do something you enjoy for a bit, and then come back to the computer.  Often you'll find that your block has lifted and the ideas flow more easily.  Our students need this break at times, too.  Let them take 10 minutes to read, play a game, or talk with a partner about a different subject.  They may just come back to work with better ideas. 
  5. Just start writing.  Even after doing all of the above, sometimes I'm still stuck.  At these times I just start writing whatever comes to my head, even if it's not any good.  I may have to delete or edit it later, but at least I'm getting ideas down.  Some of my most successful posts have been the result of this kind of "braindump."  After a few sentences are down I'll often find that my ideas are starting to gel into pretty good thoughts.  If students are not intimidated by failure, this strategy can work well.  Tell them it's OK not to have great ideas all the time.  They might just find that some of their perceived "lousy" ideas are inspirational to others. 
How do you get over writer's block?  What strategies do you use with your students when they are having trouble getting a blog post written?  Please share with us in the comment section below, and share the post on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Plurk so that we can hear ideas from others as well.  To see a list of past topics, please take a look at the Friday's Five Page