I know many people would prefer to write their own content without resorting to others’ ideas for inspiration. Writers often prefer to create unique content that hasn’t been shared a bunch of times before. I agree that would be best, but sometimes using others’ resources to inspire your own writing can be just as welcomed.
I subscribe to several blogs. I read as many articles as I can because that’s one of the ways I find topics for my own blog. I also use these articles to find best practices and other advice on blogging and other topics. I like to look at others’ contributions because it often helps me get out of my writer’s block rut.
This article examines the subscription approach to improving writing productivity. I go into detail about why you should subscribe to blogs, how to manage your subscriptions, what to do with each email you receive, and how to apply this technique to your own writing.
Why subscribe to other blogs?
As writers, we often get so focused on our work that we can’t see the bigger picture anymore. We are unable to see what’s best for our readers because we’re stuck in our own head. By subscribing to relevant blogs, we are consistently and frequently reminded of what’s going on outside of ourselves, which greatly improves our own writing.
Subscribing, as I’ve said, also serves as a great way to find inspiration for future articles. We can curate others’ work or write our own opinions on the subject. There are so many great ideas floating out there for people to grab hold of and use. The only thing we need to do is be willing to look for them.
Although not necessarily related to writer’s block, you can also find value in blog subscriptions in that it’s a great way to stay educated and up-to-date with current trends. You’ll never see a topic that doesn’t evolve over time, so it’s important that you implement continuous self-education.
How do I manage my subscriptions?
Okay. You’ve signed up for a few or more blog subscriptions, but you really don’t want all those emails overwhelming your inbox. Maybe that’s one of the reasons you don’t want to subscribe in the first place. The good news is: these emails don’t have to go straight to your inbox, and you don’t have to be constantly notified of their arrival. Most email providers give you options for organizing, or filtering, your emails into folders along with turning off notifications for them. Below are two email provider instructions to assist you with this process:
- When your first email arrives, select or open it.
- In the top menu bar where you see the options for spam and trash, choose “More.”
- From the drop-down menu, select “Filter messages like these.”
- At the bottom-right of the pop-up, choose “Create filter with this search.” Leave everything as-is with just the email address included.
- In the new pop-up window, choose the following items for maximum effectiveness:
- Skip the Inbox (Archive it)
- Apply the label: … (You need to create a new folder where you want your subscription emails to go)
- Never send it to Spam
- Never mark it as important
- Skip the Inbox (Archive it)
- If given the option, select the “Also apply filter to # matching conversations.”
- Click on “Create filter.” All following emails from that email address will go straight to the folder you created with the settings you selected.
This is a little more challenging to explain because there are several forms of Outlook, including the website and desktop application. As a result, these instructions are limited to the website only.
- Create a new folder by selecting the “+” next to “Folders.”
- Select a subscription email.
- To the right of where it says “Reply,” “Reply all” and “Forward,” select the “…” option.
- In the drop-down menu, choose “create rule.”
- Give your rule a name, such as the email source.
- Remove the option for filtering by subject line. You only need sender and recipient.
- Under “do the following,” select “move the message to folder” and select your newly created folder.
- Select “Okay” at the top of the window. All following emails from that sender will go directly to your new folder.
I only have experience with Gmail and Outlook, but I’m pretty sure these instructions can guide Yahoo and other email users as well. If not, I always like to play around with settings, so I recommend you do the same or use a help service from your email provider.
What do I do with all these emails?
It’s very easy to subscribe to all your favorite blogs, but it’s also very easy to lose track of the articles you like as well. Opening the email and reading the article aren’t enough. You need to save the URLs somewhere for future reference.
For the sake of your writing productivity, find a way to keep the most helpful articles easily and quickly accessible. You’re already in a time crunch because of your writer’s block, so make sure your countermeasures are helping you rather than hindering the process.
I use Bit.ly to save links and for more than one reason. I use it to shorten URLs to share on social media, but I also use it to organize my favorite links into categories, or “tags” as they call them. I highly recommend creating a specific tag for writer’s block that has articles you find most helpful for idea generation and overcoming your writing obstacles.
You’ve done everything above, right? You have your subscriptions. You’re getting the emails and organizing them efficiently. You’re saving your favorite links in one way or another for easy and quick reference.
You need to read the articles you’re receiving and saving. Scanning can be your BFF, but for the articles you really think could help you, you need to actually read them. If you find some great advice or resources in the article, take notes or do whatever you need to do to remember what you’re reading.
- Why did you like the article?
- What can you use it for?
After you’ve scanned or read an article, delete the email in the subscriptions folder you created previously. This cleans up your account and saves room in it as well. If you prefer, you can save the emails that have your favorite articles in it because that could be another great way to maintain a reference point.
I have two suggestions:
- Translate the notes you took from your favorite articles and create a curated post or even series of posts, depending on how much content you have.
- Find the subject(s) you feel would benefit your audience the most and create a post or series about it with your own opinions and advice.
I’ve heard that this process of subscribing to blogs and reading their articles can be more time consuming than helpful. I must say that can be the case for some. However, it’s a great strategy to overcome writer’s block if you have the time and patience to implement it.
Much of what I recommended above is a one-time task, such as organizing your incoming emails. Saving links to Bit.ly is simple and quick once you’ve set up the tags you want to use. The only high time commitment is when you actually read and take notes about an article you like. In that case, I suggest being very careful how many articles you mark for further reading.
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