Stuck for something to write about on your blog? Here are a few suggestions of things that might help get the creative juices flowing.
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:
- using answers to reader questions
- using email communications as blog posts
- documenting how you complete tasks
- videoing yourself doing things
- 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.