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24 Things to do When Stuck for a Topic to Blog About

Stuck for something to write about on your blog? Here are a few suggestions of things that might help get the creative juices flowing.

Stuck For A Topic To Blog About

1. Use Mind Mapping

I’ve previously talked about how Mind Mapping can be used to generate hundreds of ideas for blog posts. It can be used both to come up with fresh ideas for posts but also in extending previous posts that you’ve already written.

2. Change Your Blogging Environment

Sometimes simply writing in a different place can release a little creativity in you. If you’re fortunate enough to have a mobile device or laptop – hit a cafe, park, try a different room in your house, go to the beach…. You might be surprised what will come.

3. Answer a Question

The best posts are often those which answer specific questions. Questions tap into people’s needs or problems and can often be greatly appreciated by readers (this adds to reader loyalty).

There are lots of ways of getting relevant questions to answer:

  • Answer one of your own questions
  • Ask your readers to submit a question
  • Ask another blogger for a question
  • Ask your Twitter followers for questions
  • Check your comment section to find questions from readers
  • Visit other blogs and forums to search for questions from their readers
  • Put yourself in the shoes of a beginner in your topic and imagine what their questions might be
  • Look at your blog’s search engine referral statistics to see what people are asking to find your blog

Once you’ve got a question – answer it.

Tip: Start a ‘question journal’ of your own that you note any questions that you come across. Add any reader questions to it as they ask them – this way you’ll always have a question on hand to tackle.

4. Start with a Title

Most bloggers start writing their post first and add a headline later – however sometimes doing it the other way around can be fun. You might not end up using the headline that you start with – but it might be enough to spark a little creativity and get the ball rolling on a blog post.

5. Take a Break

One of the best things that I do to come up with ideas for blog posts is simply to go for a walk. Not a walk to think about blogging, just a walk, usually with my son. It is amazing what a little exercise and a little time thinking about something else can do for your creativity and ability to think clearly.

6. Give Yourself a Deadline

I have an unwritten deadline in my mind that I have to publish a post every night at midnight on both of my blogs (the timing varies a little from day to day but I have to at least have one ready to go by that time). I find that having this deadline in mind motivates me to come up with something. While there’s no one there to enforce the deadline it still seems to work for me.

7. Rid Yourself of Distractions

One of the biggest barriers for me in writing posts is getting distracted. Emails, instant messages, phone calls, family noise, online games, researching my next gadget purchase….. I could go on but even as I’m writing this I’m feeling the urge to do something else!

While there’s nothing wrong with any of these things – clearing time to write and putting barriers in place to keep the distractions at bay is important. For me one of the best ways to stop a lot of the distractions that tempt me away from writing is simply to get offline. Other tips include maximizing your screen so all you see is the document at hand, switching off email and instant messaging clients, using a tool like Writeroom (a mac tool that leaves you with nothing to look at on your screen except what you’re writing) etc.

8. Introduce ‘Random Challenges’

This is a little ‘odd’ thing that I sometimes challenge myself with – but on occasion I’ll challenge myself with writing tasks that are a little left of centre. I think I got this from Edward De Bono who in one of his books has a brainstorming exercise that challenges you to think of 10 ways that XXXX is like a XXXX. The exercise is designed to free up your mind and while most of what you’ll come up with is going to be rubbish it sometimes helps you to come up with new ways of looking at problems.

A recent example of this in my own blogging was a post on what the Mona Lisa Can Teach Portrait Photographers. While the Mona Lisa and portrait photography might not be too random – I actually started out to write a post that was about what Leonardo Da Vinci could teach us about blogging! The thought process that I went on led me to a much better topic.

9. Revisit a Previous Post

Once you’ve been blogging for a while it is easy to feel like you’ve said everything you want to say on a given topic. While you don’t want to be saying the same things every day – it’s OK to revisit previous topics.

The key is to find new ways to say those things you’ve said before, keep information up to date and relevant and to show that you’re developing and growing in your understanding of a topic.

  • What have you written about previously in your archives that is now dated and in need of revisiting?
  • What have you learned about since you first started your blog that you could write a new post on?
  • What have new readers to your blog missed out on in your archives?

10. Speak the Post Out Loud

Sometimes I don’t get stuck with the initial idea of what to post – but the next step of refining it into an actual topic that I can write about.

When you’ve got the start of your topic it can be helpful to actually start talking about it – get it out of your head and explain it (even if it’s just to yourself). Sometimes the act of verbalizing ideas can crystalize them in your mind.

11. Free Writing

Similarly to verbalizing it – sometimes just sitting down and writing can release creativity. Many writers use this technique simply as a ‘warm up’ exercise – they sit down with their writing tool (pen and paper, computer etc) and simply write…. they write anything that comes into their mind. It might be total rubbish – but the exercise is not designed necessarily to come up with any ideas (although you might) but simply to get your brain into gear.

12. Switch ‘Voices’

Most of us as bloggers write the majority of our posts in the one ‘voice’ or ‘personality’. Sometimes forcing yourself to write as someone else would write can be helpful. The best fun I ever had writing a blog post was when I wrote 5 Things You Should Know about My Dad the ProBlogger - in the voice of my 1 year old son (I know – most of you thought it was really him…. but it was me!).

The experience of writing about my topic through the eyes of a family member was not only a lot of fun but it also brought a new perspective to a topic I’d covered many times – it also connected with readers in a different way.

13. Switch Styles

In a similar way – sometimes switching the style of writing can be helpful. By style I mean switching from writing ‘list posts’ to writing ‘rants’ or from writing ‘reviews’ to writing ‘case studies’. I’ve put together 20 types of blog posts here that might help you find a new one to experiment with.

14. Repurpose Other Communications

Many of the tasks that we do in the day to day of life can make excellent blog posts if only we’re on the look out to capture and repurpose them.

In my post 5 Ideas to Come up with Blog Content from Your Daily Life I examine these techniques for coming up with post ideas:

  1. using answers to reader questions
  2. using email communications as blog posts
  3. documenting how you complete tasks
  4. videoing yourself doing things
  5. recording conversations

Sometimes your next blog post is in what you’re doing right now.

15. Achieve Something Else

Sometimes it’s not the coming up with an idea that stops you writing – it’s that you need to be doing something else. There’s a pile of dishes in the sink, your dog needs a walk, the lawn needs mowing and an assignment at work or school is over due…

I find that when other jobs are clouding my mind and stopping me from writing well that if I pick one of them and knock it off that the sense of achieving something can roll over into my writing. So put your writing aside for 15 minutes and go and do those dishes and get it off your mind before sitting down to write.

16. Go Surfing

I don’t mean to grab a surf board and actually go surfing (although that would tap into a few of the ideas I’ve already written about and could work) – but go surfing online for ideas. There are a number of places to head:

  • Other blogs in your niche – what are they writing about? How could you extend what they’ve written? What have they missed? What are their readers asking? DON’T steal their ideas and DO give credit when they stimulate something that you write – but don’t be afraid to bounce off another blogger – that’s what blogging is all about!
  • Forums – one of the richest places that I find for idea generation is forums. It’s actually one of the reasons that I started a photography forum – because every day there is a treasure trove of ideas created in it.
  • Social Media - what is popular on Digg, Delicious or StumbleUpon today? What type of articles go viral and how could you apply the principles you see in posts that do to your own topic?
  • Social Messaging - ask your Twitter and Plurk followers questions, interact with them around their answers – you’ll find that quite often as you interact in these messaging services that ideas will flow.

17. Go Surfing for Ideas Offline

One of my favorite places to go trawling for ideas is a local news stand. Almost every time I go there I come away for ideas for topics after 10-15 minutes of looking through magazines there. Sometimes it’ll be a topic that a magazine writes about that I can adapt for my blog and other times it’s just the titles that I find inspire my writing.

Similarly – libraries or bookshops can also be good sources for inspiration.

18. Play Devil’s Advocate

One of the best ways to come up with a fresh post is to take something that you’ve written about previously where you’ve argued strongly FOR a particular way of thinking – and then write an article taking the opposite view.

You might not completely agree with the post – but can present it in a way that makes this clear. For example – I once wrote a post on why people should consider joining a blog network and then did a followup post looking at why they shouldn’t. While I personally resonated more with the first article the second one actually was well received as it brought balance to the topic.

19. Involve Someone Else

If you’re completely frazzled and incapable of coming up with any ideas for yourself – it might be worth involving someone else.

  • Ask someone to write a guest post for you.
  • Invite someone to come on and be interviewed by you.
  • Swap blogs with another blogger for a day.
  • Ask another blogger if they have any ideas for posts.

Sometimes an outsider’s perspective can give you the lift you need.

20. Identify Your Golden Hours for Writing

My best time of day for writing is mid morning. I regularly block out this time purely for writing.

For other bloggers that I know the evenings or afternoons are best. The key is to identify the time that you work best and then block out time in that window for writing. Don’t let it be crowded by less important tasks but diarize the time for what is most important – content creation.

Having said that – don’t feel you can’t mix it up. Some days when I just can’t get going in the morning I’ll throw in the towel and go do something else until later in the day.

21. Big Picture vs Small Picture Posts

One problem that I see many bloggers struggling with is being overwhelmed by the hugeness of their niche and the topics within it and feeling the need to cover it all in each post. As a result they write these mega posts with 40 points and then find themselves with not much else to say because they’ve just covered their whole topic in one post.

What I encourage them to do is to think about writing a combination of ‘big picture’ posts and ‘smaller picture posts’.

For example – this very post is what I’d consider to be bigger picture. While it is all on one topic it’s covering a fair bit of ground (20+ points). However over the coming months I could follow up some (or all) of the points in this post with more in depth expansions upon each one.

Alternatively I could have chosen to break this actual post down into 20 or so smaller posts – a series.

22. Ask Your Readers a Question

You don’t need to be the one with all the answers on you blog. Come up with a question to ask your readers that relates to your blog’s topic. You could run it as a poll or simply as a discussion starter.

When you ask readers questions there often will arise possibilities for followup posts including:

  • answering the question for yourself
  • compiling reader answers
  • compiling a list of resources on the topic you’ve asked about

Asking questions also gives readers a sense of involvement and develops community on your blog.

23. Set up News Alerts

If your blog has a ‘news’ focus you’ll definitely want to set up alerts using tools like Google Alerts or Technorati’s watch lists. These alerts will email you or notify you via RSS when a news service or blog posts about the keywords that you identify to be ‘watched’.

Such alerts are also useful for non newsy blogs also as they will let you know how other blogs and news sources cover the topics that you’re writing about. It’s often through these sorts of alerts that ideas for new posts will come.

24. Summarize what Others are Writing

One of the most popular posts that I’ve written on my Photography blog lately was 25 Great Photography Tutorials and Links from Around the Web.

The post was simply a compilation post of posts that other bloggers in my niche had written, plus a few from my archives and a few videos.

While the post is simple (it does take some work to pull together but it’s a different kind of work to writing your own tips) it was very popular with readers and did quite well on social media sites.

What I also found as a bonus is that in compiling the list I ended up with quite a few ideas for future posts of my own!

What Do You Do When You’re Stuck for Ideas to Write About

All of us struggle to find things to write about on our blogs from time to time – I’ve shared a few strategies of what I do – but what about you? I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on how you break though those dry patches too – share your thoughts in commetns below.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Pat Doyle says:

    Great ideas, Darren! Here is a post I did a while ago with some more ideas: http://www.patbdoyle.com/?p=25 (23 Great Ideas For Blog Posts).

  2. Louis Liem says:

    Sometimes ideas come as shorter posts than usual (such as tips). This way, I don’t force to expand the topic or it would sound like exaggerating. When this happens, we can post shorter articles into “quick tips” or any category fits in.

    I’m sure other readers find the list very helpful and allow me to add some ideas on more things to do to keep your blog alive when you’re tired of writing. See my name.

  3. Good list – lots of useful tips; I particularly like 13, 14, and 18. I’ll be trying all of them – thanks.

    I also keep a notebook with me so when I’m out with friends, clients, shopping, etc. and an idea hits, I write it down for when I feel creatively dry.

  4. Shanel Yang says:

    Except for lighter posts, when I’m searching for a serious topic really sink my teeth into, I ask myself only 2 questions:

    1. What would have helped me if I knew about it 10 – 20 years ago?

    2. How can I package it to make it interesting to readers now?

  5. Lisa says:

    Nice list! I’ve shared my ideas about how to overcome being stuck here:

    Blockbusters and Balancing Acts

    Some of these tips are included in the forthcoming New Writer’s Handbook.

  6. writer dad says:

    I like number 9. I’ve only been at this three weeks, but I already have posts sitting at the bottom that I quite like and will probably never get read. I like the idea of diddling with them and then putting them out for fresh eyes a few months from now.

  7. Sal says:

    Darren,

    Great article! I usually try to either change my location, ie hit the local coffee shot and take in the ambiance. Something that I have just started doing, I have always kept a list of things to write about, but now I am going back through that list to see if I have any further insight on any of the topics I wrote about earlier. This actually forces my brain to knowingly “update” itself and usually generates further stems from the same post, or corrections to thoughts from previous ones. Pretty much the same thing Writer Dad just said (now that I re-read the comments section again)

  8. PPC Fool says:

    #5 is a good one … someone of my best ideas is when I’m away from the computer, NOT when I’m sitting in front of it trying to write :)

  9. These are brilliant tips to help with inspiration for posts, Darren.

    As someone who is just starting out on the blogging journey, I have many ideas I want to explore in my writing.

    Your pointers will help shape my raw ideas into valuable content. It’s helpful to follow a systematic process.

  10. Justin Dupre says:

    I find chatting with a friend can raise some sort of issue or problem we might have in our lives. I can then turn around and relate that to the niche of the blog I am writing.

    Justin Dupre
    http://www.justindupre.com
    Affiliate Marketing with an Attitude

  11. Mind mapping, that was a technique I learned in grad school…very good pre-writing exercise I used when teaching…I have not thought of that in years.

  12. Blogguebo says:

    These are great list, Darren. Sometime I just can’t think how can you get all of these tips bind together in one article. Thanks a bunch! :)

  13. Great post Darren. The number one thing that works for me is just standing up and going for a walk. Or walking outside and just day-dreaming for a few minutes. It will clear your mind and help you zone-in on your ideas

  14. Dominique says:

    Excellent tips Darren. Was facing a mental blog this week when I had an e-mail from a reader with a question. It gave me a idea to create a 5 part series of post on Musical Notes.

  15. shawal says:

    Really good tips and writing, really admire it….

  16. Felicia says:

    Great post, as usual.

    So far, since my blog is so young, I find I have more ideas than time to write them all down. However, I’m bookmarking this post so that years from now when I’m all written out, I’ll bounce your ideas around to spark my blogging muse.

    Thanks!

  17. Fantastic list of ideas. I have to admit that I use the “Devil’s Advocate” process to generate a lot of ideas – you just have to be careful and make sure your own beliefs don’t get lost in your musings!

    I’ll be sure to bookmark this post and come back to it when I’m facing writer’s block.

  18. axel g says:

    That’s great inspiration for rainy days…

  19. SpaceAgeSage says:

    Two of my best mind-starters for writing are:

    1) Surf through photos (mine, my friends’ or on Flickr) to find something with a story-like quality or a metaphoric image I can springboard from. For example a butterfly photo is laden with metaphors about life, etc., or an empty park bench in winter might get me thinking about lost friendships.

    2) Search for quotes about a subject, any subject, such as “respect,” and read several quotes from great minds, funny minds, or minds worth quoting. They usually have an angle or way of seeing the subject I may not have thought about.

  20. Aaron Riddle says:

    Great tips! I sometimes struggle with ideas when I actually get the free time to blog in between business and meetings. These will definitely help!

  21. Ian says:

    One of the issues I face with my blog topic is research. Sometimes it requires so much time that writing can be a little overwhelming. I think some of your tips might help for my bigger topics.

    Another thing I’ve done is break down big topics into quick tips. Something that could of been a massive post can be 5 or 6 separate quick tip posts. I will try applying this to some of my other topics, maybe as parts.

  22. Despairing says:

    Another great post which has got the grey matter churning. Thanks Darren!

  23. I’ve seen a similar list with 100 ideas and I tell ya… when your mind doesn’t want to cooperate… nothing will work. Best bet is to write entries when you’re in that writing frame of mind as #20 points out and use these tips to write as many as you can.

    I love using #12 (switch voices). My blog decided to write an entry by itself. OK, so it was really me… but it made for a fun entry.

    My computer has also done that, too.

  24. Great suggestions! Good timing too since I am running out of ideas :) I have found that I love story telling, so I try to write about the things I would tell as stories verbally to friends and family. My blog is actually for my work so the tricky part is finding a relevant tie in… It’s a lot of fun though.

  25. Ron Pereira says:

    Similar to your #4 (Start with a Title).

    Sometimes I go on a search for an inspiring quote or even a nice image from Flickr or iStockPhoto.

    Then, once I find an inspiring quote or picture I start writing.

  26. sarah says:

    these are great tips.

    my most effective approach is keeping a list of topics! so often, i think of a post topic, only to forget it later. i have a “draft” email saved with a long list of post topics to come back to if i’m stuck– and since most of them aren’t time-sensitive it’s very helpful to have these as a backup!

  27. Joseph Z. says:

    I do a regular Friday post of links. they get very good traffic and are more fun to write because I use an even less formal style than my regular blog posts.

    It’s also great to collect what’s going on in my niche and comment on it a bit.

  28. Karen says:

    What an *effing* fantastic post, Darren! Bravo! Gracias! Thanks so much!

    Seriously, I would have paid for this information. You rawk!

  29. L-Jay says:

    I have an ‘ideas’ diary. I keep it with me all the time so whenever a great idea pops in my head I write it down to save it for later.

    But the best way for me get ideas is to ‘do’ what I write about. I blog about dancing so the natural way for me to get ideas about dancing is to, well…dance. So I guess if you have a sport or activity blog – do the things you blog about – go fishing, go hiking, get writing, take photographs, do knitting, go cook, get out there and play!

  30. Jordan says:

    If I’m absolutely and completely stuck, I usually just leave the work area all together. I might call/email people and just say “hey, anything going on in the world today that’s on your mind?”. Usually between asking for input and removing myself from the computer for a while, something will pop into my head.

  31. Wayne Tully says:

    When I am stuck for ideas to write about on my blogs, I announce to my wife that the toilet won’t be vacant for the next hour and I take my notebook in there and write whilst demonstrating my straining face, it is a worthwhile excercise and it’s quiet in there too.

    I remember I did this at work once and I had to explain why I was over an hour in the toilet, I said I was blogging, and my manager said…oh that’s what you call it, here’s your written warning!!

  32. Davina says:

    These are all great ideas. I like the idea of starting with the headline. When I was writing poetry years ago, I’d scan a list of song titles to get an idea for a poem.

    I like to look at pictures for ideas too. A picture can offer a lot of inspiration.

  33. Hillel says:

    Great ideas – sometimes what I just stumble sites to see whats hot or what are others writing about, I then think to myself — How can I make that better? How can I express the information I just read in a much better way for my readers?
    Thats what helps me when I am stuck.

  34. Dan Mihaliak says:

    Thank you very much for this article. It came at a time when I really needed it. Thanks again!

  35. Getting in the car and driving does it for me. Even if it is just to do some errands. I usually can’t get home to the keyboard fast enough!

  36. Great tips! Most of them I already knew but you gave me some fresh ones. Thank you.
    I write (in portuguese language) at least 5 posts per day everyday. I prefer small posts (500 words) adn always with an original photo. When I do not know what to write I go swimming. Usually, it works well. I get good ideas while swimming.

  37. Shaun Carter says:

    I am a fan of freewriting. In the movie Finding Forrester, it is said that the first draft is written from the heart and you edit later.

  38. That’s an exceptional post. You’re very generous. Obviously why your blog is so successful.

  39. Ribeezie says:

    Looking for inspiration in comments is often my favorite; there’s just so much there! That is of course if it’s a two-way conversation and not just a one-way broadcast [have you notice that some people just 'never' respond to comments?]

  40. jhay says:

    Changing of environments have always been helpful to me whenever I suffer from “blogger’s block”. I go out on bicycle ride around town, visit a few friends and when I get back home, I’m oozing with ideas.

  41. John Grams says:

    I go to youtube. There is always something riduclous to rant about. But then, I blog about politics, so absurdity is rampant.

  42. Myrko says:

    I have to say “Answering a question” appeals to me the most. I almost never thought about it this way. Mostly I come up with a topic that I want to say about something because I felt it had a huge impact in my life and I know pretty much about it. So as a Personal Development Blog I come up with topics like Goal-Setting, Energy-Building, Vision and Purpose or Balancing Life.

    These are all pretty much the big picture. Maybe I really should just focus on one very specific question the next time!

    Does anybody have any about Personal Development or Spirituality? :)

  43. Sarah says:

    Wonderful tips to help bloggers who are running out of ideas. I prefer to take a break when I have nothing to write about and have a cuppa. Mysteriously, right after the cuppa, I will have an idea of what to write. Or else, I would just browse through the headlines and check out any interesting stories of the day.

  44. Perfect timing Darren, thank you for sharing :)

  45. Mike Nichols says:

    I try to keep ahead of myself with 3-4 posts partially written at any given time. That way, if I run dry, I can just finish up one of them.

    Also, if I have a good idea, I will start a “dummy” post and make an outline. I keep going back to these dummy posts and adding more to the outlines, so they are also available when the well runs dry.

    I try to plan in advance, so I’m always reading articles and books about my subject and taking notes. A good book will spark off enough topics to last for weeks!

    Great article!

  46. Dig deep into mind mapping , thats worked for me all the time

  47. Lindsay says:

    Nice list. Yes, I think a lot of the blogs that die (often just short of becoming profitable) are RIP simply because their owners ran out of ideas.

    In the classic book, The Magic of Thinking Big, David Schwartz recommends devoting some time every day to independent thinking (where you focus on a specific subject/problem or just let your mind wander) where you won’t be distracted by the world around you. I’ve found that very helpful for solving problems (i.e. How can I turn that idea into a good blog post…).

    He also mentions the importance of continuing to learn and investing in “idea starters” (books, magazines, etc.). I know that I often get writing ideas from things totally unrelated to my niches.

  48. DJ says:

    Why is it that whatever I need info about I hop over here and there it is, the answer? This has been a very helpful read! One thing that really has helped me has been google alerts! Thanks again for some great new ideas!

  49. bizztra says:

    Awesome post Darren… taking a break specially helps a lot…..

  50. Great post. I actually started writing on the bus today with no topic on my mind and came up with a unique post about the benefits of writing while on public transit.

    I like your idea of mixing up the types of posts. I’ll definitely use this post as a reference when I have writer’s block.

    Cheers.

    RW