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How to Generate Post Ideas When You Are Stuck

One of the most challenging aspects of blogging is thinking up what to write about. It is something that impacts all of us at one time or another.

While it is true the more you write the better you get at it, you can still sit at the computer one day absolutely blank. When that happens it is good to have some strategies for generating new blog topic ideas and fast.

In this post I will cover some of the quick-fix inspiration triggers for when you are in a fix here and now. In future posts I will go into detail with some longer term strategies for generating ideas to store and use over time.

Before I share some tips, I do have to remind you that unless you are under contract to write today, it could be best to miss a day rather than turn out something less than you are capable of. Just saying!

Quick Fix Blog Topic Triggers

I call these triggers because rather than handing a fully formed idea they are meant as inspiration-starting sparks. Think of them as launch buttons for your imagination. You still have to come up with the topic, but you can be brought closer to forming the topic by making the appropriate connections between the trigger and your blog theme.

  1. Explore blog post types – There are many lists of types of blog posts around, here is my “10 Killer Post Ideas” Performancing article from 2005. Since I wrote it quite a few people have expanded the list but I maintain the core list is those 10 types and most new post types are simply variations of those themes.
  2. Look to the magazine rack – Take a magazine or TV headline and make it work for your blog niche as Brian recommends. For example yesterday I saw an advertisement for an upcoming TV show detailing the best and worst of 2007 and used it as the inspiration for a blog post at Invesp.
  3. Add to blog conversations – One of the great things about blogging is you can use other blogs as inspiration for article ideas. While not all blogs are well suited to doing this too often, readers can and do respond well to a good blog conversation. A good indication that you have something that could be made into a post is if you find your blog comment going into multiple points and paragraphs. Go through your feeds and see what sparks your interest.
  4. Converse with yourself – Once you have a good archive you can dig through your older posts to find inspiration. In many cases you will have skimmed over a subject, alluded to something you can cover more deeply, or even perhaps changed your mind. The end of the year is a good time to refer back, perhaps with a best-of for the year. As time goes on this becomes an ever more rich source of material.
  5. Joys and frustrations – What in your niche is making you happy? sad? angry? frustrated? laugh? Emotions are a good starting point, if something makes you feel then there is a good chance your readers will too and that can create a good connection.
  6. Your readers questionsSome of my best articles have come from reader questions. They work well because if one reader wants to know a particular answer you can guess many more do too. If you can’t find anything useful in your own comment area or inbox, go look at another bloggers comments or a forum.
  7. Picture a person – I mentioned this technique before when I wrote about how to think up ideas for guest posts. Say you write a photography blog, if you bumped into a friend who also likes photography, what would you talk about? For each blog I write on I have created an imaginary conversation partner or recalled a real person who would be interested in the blogs subject matter. You might imagine giving this person advice, discuss the latest news, or laugh about that funny thing someone did. When I sit down to write I pick up the imagined conversation where I last left it. It works because you rarely run out of things to talk about with your good friends.
  8. Phone a friend – You don’t have to always imagine a character to converse with. If you have had the foresight to make friends in your niche you could always just call and talk to one of them.
  9. Create a new category – At first this advice might seem bizarre, if you are having trouble thinking of topics for your existing categories how will a new one not just add to your workload? In fact coming up with a new category gets you thinking about related subject areas within your niche which in turn could reveal article topics you have not covered previously.
  10. Begin again – If you started over in your niche today, what would you need to know? What would you do differently? Where would you look for information and guidance? Write advice or an explanation for an absolute beginner to your niche or a facet of your blogs theme. It can be amazing how popular even the most basic advice can be. It still takes me by surprise how popular Darren’s article on how to hold a camera was. The great thing about this tactic is, your final article does not have to turn out as only useful to beginners, it could lead you to more advanced topics.

Hopefully if you refer back to this list something will get you moving towards a fresh article. Unfreezing the gray cells is half the battle, once you get some traction you can build momentum and have the finished piece written in no time.

In future posts I will outline some strategies I use for preventing getting to this “no ideas” point in the first place!

Got any other instant-inspiration-starters? Please do share your tips and links in the comments …

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Comments

  1. Great post, Chris. I especially like #10. People are always looking for ways to get started with writing. I also think looking at posts you have written around a theme and doing a roundup can generate a useful new post – and you can do the same by looking for posts others have written.

  2. Great post, Chris. I especially like #10. People are always looking for ways to get started with writing. I also think looking at posts you have written around a theme and doing a roundup can generate a useful new post – and you can do the same by looking for posts others have written.

  3. Thanks for this Chris- I’ve been in a bit of a dry spot lately, so this is very helpful. Another good post starter is to look back over things that you’ve learned in the past month. A new trick, skill, shortcut? One of the best pieces of advice I read about blogging some months ago is that there is always someone just behind you on the learning curve.

  4. Thanks for this Chris- I’ve been in a bit of a dry spot lately, so this is very helpful. Another good post starter is to look back over things that you’ve learned in the past month. A new trick, skill, shortcut? One of the best pieces of advice I read about blogging some months ago is that there is always someone just behind you on the learning curve.

  5. When I was in college I used to do lot of trouble shooting for my friends right from installing things. They still call me sometimes to find if I found new resources.

    Being a tech blogger, I find some Technical shows or even a technical channel to be useful .

    Another way is find out the category which you have but does not have much article. That can trigger you to look around for stuff that can fill .

    Good one

  6. When I was in college I used to do lot of trouble shooting for my friends right from installing things. They still call me sometimes to find if I found new resources.

    Being a tech blogger, I find some Technical shows or even a technical channel to be useful .

    Another way is find out the category which you have but does not have much article. That can trigger you to look around for stuff that can fill .

    Good one

  7. Very, very useful. Nice work, Chris.

  8. Very, very useful. Nice work, Chris.

  9. I like #4. I’ve been meaning to do this on my blog. Thanks for the reminder and the other great tips.

  10. I like #4. I’ve been meaning to do this on my blog. Thanks for the reminder and the other great tips.

  11. Brian’s headline trick spurred me to write one of my better posts recently, I absolutely love the technique & am adding it to my permanent roster. A great “whack in the head” technique! :)

    This one seems basic, but it’s been working well for me–I keep my eye open for fresh posts on my favorite “A-list” (do we still say A-list?) blogs, then when I find an interesting one, I riff on it with a trackback. It’s really a variation of your #7–a conversation with Seth or Brian or Darren or whoever.

    Not only does that spark fresh ideas, but if I’m high enough in the comment queue I’ll often get a good number of clickthroughs as well. (The headline is critical for this one–compose it with that trackback traffic in mind.)

  12. Brian’s headline trick spurred me to write one of my better posts recently, I absolutely love the technique & am adding it to my permanent roster. A great “whack in the head” technique! :)

    This one seems basic, but it’s been working well for me–I keep my eye open for fresh posts on my favorite “A-list” (do we still say A-list?) blogs, then when I find an interesting one, I riff on it with a trackback. It’s really a variation of your #7–a conversation with Seth or Brian or Darren or whoever.

    Not only does that spark fresh ideas, but if I’m high enough in the comment queue I’ll often get a good number of clickthroughs as well. (The headline is critical for this one–compose it with that trackback traffic in mind.)

  13. I take a look at some of the active forums in my niche as there are often some new topics that attract a lot of attention. These can provide useful material for a post and this has the added benefit of bringing some of that forum traffic to the blog.

    There’s some great ideas here too Chris.

  14. I take a look at some of the active forums in my niche as there are often some new topics that attract a lot of attention. These can provide useful material for a post and this has the added benefit of bringing some of that forum traffic to the blog.

    There’s some great ideas here too Chris.

  15. Some great ideas here. They must work well, since you are so prolific. :) One method that I came up with that always seems to work is that you can simply write up something nice about another blog or blogger. It makes their day, which in turn makes yours, and you wrote a post when you thought you had nothing in you.

  16. Some great ideas here. They must work well, since you are so prolific. :) One method that I came up with that always seems to work is that you can simply write up something nice about another blog or blogger. It makes their day, which in turn makes yours, and you wrote a post when you thought you had nothing in you.

  17. I’ve had that issue myself a bit lately, so this is quite a helpful post. =)
    I’ll be looking into trying to use some of these over the next week or so.
    I find 3 and 4 to be the ones I’ve used the most in the past. 6 Would be the best if only my readers would generate me some. ;P

  18. I’ve had that issue myself a bit lately, so this is quite a helpful post. =)
    I’ll be looking into trying to use some of these over the next week or so.
    I find 3 and 4 to be the ones I’ve used the most in the past. 6 Would be the best if only my readers would generate me some. ;P

  19. I usually try to generate a How To column a couple of times a month. I did one called “40 Uses For A Brick” that illustrated how to use creative thinking techniques to proliferate ideas.

    In fact, you can use those same techniques to proliferate ideas for posts. It might be a good idea to start each month by coming up with a list of potential post ideas based on a quota of 10-15, using some of tools I mention.

  20. I usually try to generate a How To column a couple of times a month. I did one called “40 Uses For A Brick” that illustrated how to use creative thinking techniques to proliferate ideas.

    In fact, you can use those same techniques to proliferate ideas for posts. It might be a good idea to start each month by coming up with a list of potential post ideas based on a quota of 10-15, using some of tools I mention.

  21. I almost want to be embarrassed to say it, but I actually took Tip #4 literally. I actually have a conversation with myself, which can actually be cheaper than Tip #8 “Phone a friend”, although the neighbors might want to know what’s going on if they know you live alone, don’t have a pet, nor a phone. Whatever, you have a blog to update. Take no prisoners! Thanks for the hot tips!

  22. I almost want to be embarrassed to say it, but I actually took Tip #4 literally. I actually have a conversation with myself, which can actually be cheaper than Tip #8 “Phone a friend”, although the neighbors might want to know what’s going on if they know you live alone, don’t have a pet, nor a phone. Whatever, you have a blog to update. Take no prisoners! Thanks for the hot tips!

  23. @Sharon – I love doing roundups but they do take time, not just in the editing and writing but the time between having the idea, gathering links and finally posting :)

    @Randa – I love the “what have I learned” idea, if it made an impact on you then you can guess others would also find it useful

    @Ashish – Yes looking at the gaps can be useful too, having a bunch of question-asking friends is probably a gift for an IT blogger :)

    @Jon – Thanks Jon :)

    @K Stone – It’s an approach I have used quite a few times and it really works :)

    @Sonia – Nice, article plus added traffic – cool :)

    @heather – Forums are an excellent source, especially as you can often link between them so win-win. I have posted about authority blogger forum threads a few times here.

    @Michael – Saying something nice is a great idea, I never thought of just complimenting someone to form a post – great stuff :)

    @Jeremy – Remember they don’t have to be your readers ;)

    @Innovation Catalyst – Working up ideas in advance is a good idea and how I am ending this series :)

    @Lucy – Heh, take no prisoners indeed :) I did meet someone once who liked to interview himself for publicity :)

  24. @Sharon – I love doing roundups but they do take time, not just in the editing and writing but the time between having the idea, gathering links and finally posting :)

    @Randa – I love the “what have I learned” idea, if it made an impact on you then you can guess others would also find it useful

    @Ashish – Yes looking at the gaps can be useful too, having a bunch of question-asking friends is probably a gift for an IT blogger :)

    @Jon – Thanks Jon :)

    @K Stone – It’s an approach I have used quite a few times and it really works :)

    @Sonia – Nice, article plus added traffic – cool :)

    @heather – Forums are an excellent source, especially as you can often link between them so win-win. I have posted about authority blogger forum threads a few times here.

    @Michael – Saying something nice is a great idea, I never thought of just complimenting someone to form a post – great stuff :)

    @Jeremy – Remember they don’t have to be your readers ;)

    @Innovation Catalyst – Working up ideas in advance is a good idea and how I am ending this series :)

    @Lucy – Heh, take no prisoners indeed :) I did meet someone once who liked to interview himself for publicity :)

  25. Hi Chris!

    Thanks for the great article. Your critique of my site gave me a lot of things to fix as I was thinking about just doing #10 until you mentioned that you still thought the site’s technical problems could be overcome. By implementing most of them that I could, there has been a slow rise in the PR.

    Now as for topics, I found that adding to existing discussion to be a great way for me to find new things to comment on, and twists I would not have come up with otherwise.

    Also talking to people who are consumers in my niche about what they are looking for and what they’ve done is also helping.

    Finally, for the past few weeks, I’ve thought about creating a new category. That category would allow me to explore something I wanted to do anyway and have fun writing it off.

    So…thanks again for the great article. There are too few blogs that are actually worth reading. My goal is to become one of those.

    Be well,
    cj

  26. Hi Chris!

    Thanks for the great article. Your critique of my site gave me a lot of things to fix as I was thinking about just doing #10 until you mentioned that you still thought the site’s technical problems could be overcome. By implementing most of them that I could, there has been a slow rise in the PR.

    Now as for topics, I found that adding to existing discussion to be a great way for me to find new things to comment on, and twists I would not have come up with otherwise.

    Also talking to people who are consumers in my niche about what they are looking for and what they’ve done is also helping.

    Finally, for the past few weeks, I’ve thought about creating a new category. That category would allow me to explore something I wanted to do anyway and have fun writing it off.

    So…thanks again for the great article. There are too few blogs that are actually worth reading. My goal is to become one of those.

    Be well,
    cj

  27. I’d vote for “Read” being on this list. There’s no way that you can read every day — newspapers, blogs, mailing lists, a book in your field, etc — and not find inspiration for something to talk about. My problem is finding too much inspiration and then I have to decide what to do with all those ideas … write it now, save it for later, skip it, etc.

  28. I’d vote for “Read” being on this list. There’s no way that you can read every day — newspapers, blogs, mailing lists, a book in your field, etc — and not find inspiration for something to talk about. My problem is finding too much inspiration and then I have to decide what to do with all those ideas … write it now, save it for later, skip it, etc.

  29. I tend to be lost on what to blog. I’m glad this post to gives me some insights.

  30. I tend to be lost on what to blog. I’m glad this post to gives me some insights.

  31. @cheryl – A new category can work wonders provided it makes sense to be on that particular blog

    @Nikole – Yes reading is a great source of content, especially when you connect otherwise disconnected concepts

    @jesie – Hope it helps :)

  32. @cheryl – A new category can work wonders provided it makes sense to be on that particular blog

    @Nikole – Yes reading is a great source of content, especially when you connect otherwise disconnected concepts

    @jesie – Hope it helps :)

  33. Hello Chris,

    A special thanks to you for the great subscrition on blogging content. You truly are a master in you field. I downloaded your FREE ebook on the art of blogging, and I find your instruction esay to follow. I will begin very shortly on my own Blog, after I read the steps and the ideas you have provided. It now seems so easy, after reading your ebook. I hope to one day, to be the master that I find you are. I hope you will enjoy my photo,as the photo will be my start of my flagship content.

    Your’s truly,

    Ed Noctor

  34. Hello Chris,

    A special thanks to you for the great subscrition on blogging content. You truly are a master in you field. I downloaded your FREE ebook on the art of blogging, and I find your instruction esay to follow. I will begin very shortly on my own Blog, after I read the steps and the ideas you have provided. It now seems so easy, after reading your ebook. I hope to one day, to be the master that I find you are. I hope you will enjoy my photo,as the photo will be my start of my flagship content.

    Your’s truly,

    Ed Noctor