Nobody enjoys staring at a blank computer screen, waiting for the words to come. There's even a name for this frustrating condition: writer's block. Some people refer to it as mental constipation, and the analogy, while a bit gross, is not inaccurate. If you're blocked, here are some ideas for clearing the neural pathways and writing the best article you can write.
The One-Sentence Summary
Ask yourself a simple question: What is this article about? Try to answer yourself in one sentence or less. For instance, "This article is about raising llamas for fun and profit," or "This article is about writing articles."
Who Are You Writing For?
Does your audience already have a basic understanding of the subject, or will you need to explain things carefully from square one? Farmers, for instance, will catch onto the idea of raising llamas far more quickly than city dwellers looking to start a new rural life for themselves.
After almost ten years as a writer, outlines don't do much for me. I've learned to outline in my head as I write.
But if they get your creative juices flowing, by all means use them. They don't have to be formal affairs despite what your eighth grade English teacher might have taught you. Just jot down a few of the key points you want to make.
Sometimes it helps to have a friend pitch in. Tell your friend the topic you're writing about and ask him or her to ask the first five questions that pop into their minds. (For instance, "Who would want a llama?" "How could owning a llama make you money?" "How would one take care of a llama?" "Could you keep llamas and cows in the same field?" and so forth.)
Use a Catchy Opening
Which opening sentences make you want to keep reading?
"Llamas are becoming more popular in today's farming world. The llama is..."
"Joe Brown, a farmer near Little Rock, Arkansas, almost went bankrupt last year. This year, he made enough money to take his entire family on a two-week Caribbean Cruise. How did he make this amazing turn-around? He discovered llamas."
If you're stumped for an opening, write the body of the article first and then come back and craft a snappy opening. In fact, doing the opening last makes perfect sense - your creative juices will already have been flowing for awhile, and you'll have had some time to think about your subject.
Write First, Rewrite Later
If you've got writer's block, the most important thing you can do is let the words flow onto the paper, even if the grammar and spelling are questionable, even if you're not entirely sure you're making sense. Just get that blank computer screen or sheet of paper filled.
Once you've written your article, you can proofread and re-write. I always read articles aloud before submitting them, because it's an easy way to catch mistakes, sentences that don't flow correctly, etc.
If you have a tolerant spouse, partner, or writing buddy, ask them to read your work and make suggestions. (I once gave a friend of mine a short story to proof read, and she pointed out that I had changed my main character's name halfway through. How embarrassing.)
Know When To Call It Done
I'll tell you a secret. You're not going to write the perfect article. Neither am I. The perfect article never has been and never will be written. But you can break through writer's block and write a perfectly good article that will educate and entertain readers.
Believe In Yourself
Everything is hard the first time you do it. And the second time. And the third. But if you practice a skill like article writing enough, you'll soon find that you encounter less writer's block each time you face a blank screen. In fact, hard as it may seem to believe now, the day will come when you look forward to filling that blank screen with words that will wow your readers and keep them coming back for more.