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7 Ways to Find Inspiration: Think Outside the Blog

A Guest Post by Amy Parmenter from The ParmFarm.com.

Have you ever wondered how Darren and other A-list bloggers generate so much fabulous content? It just seems to come pouring out: day after day, month after month, year after year, there is a constant flow of information and inspiration. Meanwhile, your well is quickly running dry.

As a journalist, I, too, am called upon to generate new stories day after day. While some of the stories generate themselves, most do not. There are plenty of slow news days and, with the advent of the 24-hour news cycle, there is almost always the need for another good story.

Over the years I have found that my greatest inspiration comes when I “think outside the newsroom”. I ask myself, “What are people talking about? What do people care about? Who has a problem I might be able to address?” And, with that, the story ideas start to flow.

It’s no surprise that I have found the same holds true for blogging.

When you’re looking for inspiration, you can spend all day online, reading what others have written and trying to rework it to call it your own. Or, you can think outside the blog. It takes a little more work, and a lot more creativity, but the end result will be truly original posts and the chance to develop a loyal following.

Here are seven ways to find inspiration by “thinking outside the blog“.

1. News

Given that I’m a reporter, you might think this would be a no-brainer, but as Darren and Kim at Regator have both pointed out, if you’re going to write about trending topics, you’ll want to offer a unique perspective. That’s easier said than done. Writing about the subject du jour in a way that is interesting, useful, and in keeping with your niche can be quite the challenge.

For instance, my blog is about growing personally and professionally. So, I wondered, how can I write about World Cup Soccer or the incessant blaring of those horns?

How about an article called “Silencing the Vuvuzelas”? I crafted a post comparing the non-stop noise of the games to that non-stop noise in your head that criticizes everything you do. Once you can accept that it’s just part of the game, it will be easier to tune out.

2. Exercise

I realize that not everyone exercises, but here’s another reason to do so — even if it’s just going for a walk. To me, walking (or running, or swimming) is thinking. Sure exercise is good for your heart but it also clears your mind (silencing the vuvuzelas!) and more often than not, new ideas just pop in or cross your path.

For instance, as I headed out for a bike ride the other day, I saw a beautiful goose toying with the idea of crossing the road. Sadly, on my return trip, that same goose was on the opposite side of the road, minus its head.

Ouch. How could I possibly write about that? Remember, I write about personal and professional growth.

My next post was entitled “The Life Lesson I Learned from a Goose”. And the message was simple: if God gives you wings, use them.

3. Your personal life

This is a tricky one, and it’s up to you to determine where to draw the line, but one of the things that makes ProBlogger so successful is that it’s so personal in nature. Even if Darren doesn’t know you, don’t you feel as if you know Darren?

He’s shared about his family, he’s referenced his faith, and we know he loves photography because each of those things, at one time or another, has served as inspiration for this blog.

4. Mistakes and failures

Mistakes and failures are not the same thing, but they can both provide inspiration, albeit painful. For my purposes, a failure is something you tried that didn’t work out as you may have hoped, but a mistake is something you shouldn’t have done in the first place. Either way, if it results in a blog post, something good has come of it.

For instance, recently I wiped out all the files on my computer and didn’t have a back up. Then, frustrated and angry that I had only myself to blame, I lashed out at my husband for no good reason.

While I am ashamed to admit both, I’m darn proud of the blog post it produced: “What I learned about my relationship from my computer: If something is important to you — protect it.”

In terms of failures, some of the best bloggers will write regularly about the things they’ve tried that haven’t worked out. Not only is this useful information, but it is also inspiring because you can see that even those who we identify as “successful” have had disappointments along the way.

To clarify, we are thinking outside the blog here, so the failure I’m referring to is not about falling short in the number of subscribers you hoped to have by a certain point in time. A better example would be one of the most popular posts on Darren’s digital photography blog about taking blurry pictures.

5. Conversations

This is an easy one. How often does Darren write about a question someone asked him or something that came up in conversation? Rarely does a day go by when I do not have a conversation that I could parlay into a post.

For instance, I recently had a conversation with a friend who was frustrated in his work. He wasn’t going to walk into his boss and quit on that very day, but he had come to realize he needed a change.

Blog post!

One brief phone call was the inspiration for “What’s Next?”, a post about the importance of thinking ahead.

6. Your day job

While we all want to be probloggers, most bloggers are pros at something else. I’ve already told you that I am a reporter by day (and sometimes by night…) but that doesn’t mean that news is the only inspiration I find in my work.

For instance, we all know media is changing and believe me, I’m in the thick of it. Like so many other industries, there is little job security and those who are still employed are doing twice as much for half the pay.

Blog post!

Witnessing my fellow journalists struggling to re-invent themselves, I wrote the post “Wait for Your Change”, a little anecdote about what to do when you don’t know what to do next.

7. Your fears

This is an easy one because it’s the one everyone can relate to. What are you afraid of? What are your readers afraid of? Write about it. You don’t have to eliminate the fear: simply acknowledging it will build a sense of camaraderie, build your following — maybe even eliminate some of your fears!

For instance, as a blogger you must wear many hats at once. But what if nobody reads your posts? What if somebody leaves a comment and you forget to respond? What if you don’t post as regularly as you had promised? What if…

It’s all so overwhelming! So Darren wrote a great post about feeling overwhelmed that made us all feel a little better.

Inspiration is all around you. Just look.

See it. Feel it. Write about it.

About the Author: Amy Parmenter is an award-winning journalist who blogs about personal and professional growth at The ParmFarm.com. She will be speaking at BlogWorld, October 15th, about How to Get Media Coverage of Your Blog. Go.

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Comments

  1. Ben says:

    This is a great post and has given me some great ideas off the bat.

    Lately I’ve realised that I’ve been too hung up on making my posts technically perfect in every way and I was probably sounding like a computer manual or something like that.

    So I’ve started again and tried to use more personality that others can hopefully relate to and some of those 7 points will do me nicely.

    Thanks!

  2. Excercise is a great point. I’ve noticed the same effect, it helps clear my mind and if I’m struggling with a post topic I usually get an ‘AHA’ breakthrough.

  3. Elena says:

    There are some really useful tips you gave here. I especially liked the one about the news and writing it in your own way. It gives the writer a fresh perspective of a typical story.

  4. Dave Gurtler says:

    Thanks for the great post! I’m just starting my blog and the info is very helpful.

  5. Well crafted. Ideas comes out of my mind as I read this post.

    Yes, my Phd supervisor used to tell me that “our everyday life is a school”. We learn from our success, failure, mistakes, other’s mistakes and so on. So why not blog about it? It is great to learn ourselves and also to help others to learn from.

    Thanks Amy.

  6. I’ve found that the more personal you get, the more you reveal that you are just as human as everyone else, your audience will gravitate to what you’re saying.

    I think that content comes to those that are the most passionate about what they do.

    When a person is just trying to make a quick buck and they are on the fence about their blog, it totally shows throug in their writing.

    When a blogger eats, sleeps, and breaths the topic that he/she writes about, then it totally bleeds through into the content as well. The money will soon follow later, once the audience catches on to the excitement.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  7. Exercise and my day job are my biggest inspirations for ideas. Every day when I take a mid-day walk I have ideas pop in my head. It’s interesting how the brain goes into a different mode when exercising and ideas seem to flow out.

  8. Really good post. And I can validate it – the posts I have written from personal experience that are outside the box – about learning systems thinking from Chess Master Bobby Fischer, about what spiders can teach us about building a great team, about dealing with the challenges I have with my voice, etc., – have attracted the most comments and appear to get people thinking.

  9. Allie says:

    Thank you thank you thank you! I needed advise like this. I am still in my beginning stages of blogging but this post helps me to see which route to take my blog.

  10. Sometime our competitor can also provide us great inspiration.

    Business model of any other kind of business can be also great inspiration provided you know how to implement that in your field.

  11. Steven says:

    I try to read a lot of blogs to see what is buzzing in the ‘sphere. I also try to keep up to date on scientific research in Psychology and Neuroscience (as I like to write about the mind). BUT – I also like to get out of my house, evoke life, listen to music, be social with friends, watch movies, and get in heated discussions.

    I consider my whole day a creative palette, and when a good idea springs to mind I catch it like a butterfly by writing it down or recording a voice memo (I write about this in my new post, “To Catch An Insight”)

    Great advice Amy. If we want to stand out on the internet we definitely need to think beyond the “blogging box,” no matter how vast it is.

  12. Alex Wells says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with Joshua – the more personal I get, the more my readers resonate and also comment and interact. Talking about my fears and my mistakes are another place where I get a lot of feedback.

    Who doesn’t like to hear about other people messing up and figuring things out?

  13. You are so right! It is a waste of time to look at your competition for what to write….or re-write.

    The best posts really do come from you. What you know, see and have to say about it.

  14. Samuel says:

    Awesome post! I agree with all your points. I guess sharing your failures with readers do help a lot. Because they would love to read it also learn from it. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Neville says:

    Inspiration comes from many sources and activities. I often find that my best ideas come while doing something that engages the body, but allows the brain to wander.
    Being out in the garden pulling weeds or similar is when the inspiration flows for me. The biggest problem is being able to keep those creative thoughts to get them down in writing.

  16. Denise says:

    These are really useful tips. So far i’ve managed to find something to write about each week since i’ve had my blog but often wonder if i’ll be able to keep it up.

    I like the idea of exercising to clear the mind. That’s something I don’t do enough of so time to decide what kind of exercise I want to do!

  17. Grace Wieber says:

    “Silencing the Vuvuzelas”? was a great jumping off point for me. Gave me a good direction for thinking in terms of contrasting & comparing. It made it easier for me to think outside the box. It sharpened the synapses. Thanks.

  18. amy says:

    Thank you so much for all your kind comments. I am especially grateful to those of you who have responded by adding to the list! Seems when you are in the right mind set there are opportunities in almost every situation. @jane – love our every day life is a school! @susan – who would have thought we could learn something from spiders?? keep ‘em coming! See you on the ‘farm! Amy

  19. Amy,

    Best way to write content is write about what you like, and show your true self. Sometimes writing about useful content to people helps.

  20. Oh its very true that Mistakes and failures are true inspiration…I have come a long way with that…Great tips

  21. Our mistakes are what define us. To reach the top you need to make plenty of mistakes on the way. I say try different writing styles, different ways of find inspiration and see what works and what doesn’t. Keep refining until you hit on the winning formula.

  22. Abel says:

    These are very useful tips. As for exercise, when I jog, I get ideas not from what I see but from what comes to my mind. Ideas are popping out to me just like that when I exercise. And for my latest post, I wrote from my presonal experience, many reasders resoanted with me and sent emails to me about that post. I shall explore other sources of inspiration as well.

  23. This is a good article. To look around objectively at your surroundings and experiences would help generate new leads to write about.

  24. Some great tips you have there Amy! The one about exercises really works. It is also a good way to get a break in all the doing we are up to. There is always a need for new ideas so your article is very helpful. Thank you!

  25. Kate says:

    Loved the ‘goose’ lesson. I did the same thing with frogs recently. I don’t stress too much over what to write about…it seems the next topic is always there waiting for me. Thanks for the informative post.

  26. amy says:

    @mike so true that writing about what you like makes it easier but, depending on how often you post, it’s a challenge at times to be relevant to your readers, ‘giving’ a good takeaway.

    @kate thanks! the goose lesson was a perfect example, to me, of trying to turn something i’d rather not have experienced into not only a blog post — but a positive lesson!

    Thanks for all the comment luv!

    Amy

  27. Thanks so much! The fresh idea well does run dry at times. It’s a challenge to come up with new content sometimes. I tend to not get too personal in my posts, I think I need to work on that. Appreciate it!

  28. What a wonderful post and comments.

    Neville’s comment “I often find that my best ideas come while doing something that engages the body, but allows the brain to wander” is so true. Also first thing upon waking up but before coffee or when taking a shower.

    Inspiration is everywhere. Recently, going through some old children’s books prompted a post on “Life Lessons from The Little Engine That Could.” Seeing a TV report on Hurricane Katrina 5 Years Later inspired a post celebrating New Orleans own Fats Domino.

  29. Great tips. It is very hard to think of what to write day after day. These will really help.

  30. amy says:

    Madeline! love the inspiration from children books — let alone the little engine that could!!! i’ve been wanting to write a post about ‘we learned everything we need to know from nursery school songs’ — love is something if you give it away…you end up having more. Thanks for the inspirations.

    TheHappypreneur, thanks for the comment. I have found the more personal I write, the easier. Let it out!!! Good luck.

    Amy

  31. Amy,
    Excellent suggestions – indeed, I have a list of ‘to do’ articles that pretty much never get written since something new ‘pops’ up in my experience everyday. Like something I just read about in Zen in the Martial Arts. The chapter on time management titled ‘Do Not Disturb’ urged me to write a simple post I believe is helpful. The book is great. Here is the link to the post if you like http://thewondertechnique.com/spending-time-or-wasting-time/
    Thanks for sharing,
    David

  32. Luis Garcia says:

    The 2nd item on your list, exercise, is probably my biggest source of inspiration. It isn’t so much that I encounter inspiring ideas in the gym, but that the physical activity somehow clears my head and lets me think.

    I guess, in some way, exercise isn’t so much a source, but a catalyst for the other 6 sources of inspiration – does that make sense?

  33. Anne-Marie says:

    What great advice – thanks! I have a few ideas for my blog (which is in its infancy at the moment) but am having a hard time getting started with the writing and worry that it won’t be right.

    And, of course, there’s the tried and true “I want to but I can’t seem to find the time” thing…

    But thanks for the inspiration – and the ideas… perhaps I should start with “my fears” about what to write! LOL And then there’s my day job… OH and the mistakes vs. failures…. hmmm… guess I’d better go get started!

    Thanks again Amy!

  34. Melanie says:

    I really needed this because lately I have been having a horrible case of writer’s block. Another issue that I have is that the ideas hit me at the strangest moments and I haven’t figured out an effective way to document them sometimes before I forget about them!

  35. Oh Amy, the goose one is tragic and brilliant. I’m dying to hear you speak and tap into your flow of ideas. I have a lot of good ones too but can’t seem to get them out fast enough. That’s my next goal! More writing and posting, less perfecting and editing:)

    Can’t wait to see you and hear you speak.

  36. Very informative & well said. The goose story is really interesting. :) Thank you for sharing with us.

  37. Let your mind flow on a river of dreams. That’s the best way.

  38. Barbara says:

    This is a fantastic post, very inspirational! You have covered so many areas in our daily lives where we can pick up inspiration for a blog. The goose incident struck home to me personally, because the same happened to me the other day but with a duck! I did think of writing about it, but dismissed it as being too morbid a subject – but then I see how you put a twist on your goose incident; it was brilliant. I can see that I have to learn to think outside the square. Thanks for this invaluable information.

  39. Betty says:

    Wow! I felt like this blog was a slap in the face to me. LOL I hate to admit that on those rare occasions that I get some “real” exercise I come up with the greatest blog ideas. But I never write them down. Needless to say, I soon forget what my great idea was. I’ve recently learned that my cell phone has voice recording. Voila! I found my solution! As soon as I come up with a great blog idea (great according to me. LOL) I simply record it on my cell phone. So now I have several that I want to work on. Hopefully, I’ll actually sit down and write them. LOL

  40. Johnny says:

    Darren,

    Great content for the weary….

    I’ve been blessed with a gift of picking up on people’s uneasiness in themselves. I can tell within minutes if someone is putting on a front…basically–not paying attention to your list.

    Luckily I’m not on earth to judge it–I just notice it.

    But anyway, the reason I probably can remain aware of what’s going on so well is because I use a little secret that wasn’t on your list……

    Quiet time.

    There’s a quote that says something like: “All of man’s problems exist in the world-because of his inability to sit quietly in a room—alone”.

  41. Inspiration itself can be very elusive. I enjoy writing, and probably do not do it enough. What I have noticed with myself though is as soon as the writing becomes an obligation, the moment I feel it is expected of me and it is no longer about me expressing myself, MOJO is lost and I am at a loss for words. Great pointers though, and they do work for me. You have just brought it to my attention.

  42. Alison Kerr says:

    Go Amy, thanks for the tips. I especially love “See it. Feel it. Write about it.” Isn’t that what blogging is all about? We write best when we are passionate about what we have to say. I rarely need inspiration, but if I get stuck I’ll know where to come :-)

  43. Carol Tice says:

    Great post, Amy — I always think most writers could benefit from moving their bodies around a bit more. I know I do.

  44. amy says:

    So many great comments i don’t even know where to start (blog posts!!!). See that? almost every thought is a post! @annemarie — it sounds as if you’ve got at least 3 blog post ideas just in the one comment!! just be truthful, get going, and write from your heart
    @melanie — if you have writer’s block – write about it!!! also, i carry a notebook around to jot down ideas because believe me, they go as quickly as they come, so just find a way that works for you. most phones have a note file also
    @betty – take it easy on yourself girl! no slapping! try the voice recording and if that doesn’t work, try something else, but just perservere. or write about the challenge of organizing your thoughts — that’s certainly something we can all relate to!!
    and @thabo — couldn’t agree with you more about writing under pressure or deadline. as a reporter, i face that challenge every day. that’s why i don’t really commit to a posting schedule. I try to post at least once a week but if i don’t or can’t — that’s just the way it goes. I believe in quality over quantity and i trust my readers appreciate that.
    thanks to all — hope to see you at blogworld!!! Amy

  45. amy says:

    @Alison and @Carol — thank you my a-list blogging friends. your support is greatly appreciated — more than you know, really.

    Amy

  46. Angela says:

    It is very hard for me to think of what to write day after day. your great tips will help,thank you

  47. amy says:

    Angela — just relax and let the ideas roll in. The harder you think, the more difficult is to FEEL…and you need to feel to write. Good luck!

  48. Jack says:

    Sometimes my mind is really “blank” that it is very hard for me to think on what to write on my very newbie blog. And you have just given me 7 very good ideas!

    Thanks a lot.

    - Jack -