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“.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.