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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Your readers questions – Some 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 …
Table of contents for series: Topic Generation
- How to Generate Post Ideas When You Are Stuck
- Chunking and Outlining Blog Topic Ideas
- The Reverse-Process Technique of Discovering Blog Topics
- Using Mind Maps in Blogging
- Planning Blog Post Topics