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One of the most common obstacles to blogging is the feeling that you haven’t got anything to write about.
This prevents new bloggers from getting into the habit, and prevents more seasoned bloggers from keeping it going.
You want to write, but you need something to write about; what’s your subject going to be?
This isn’t just a matter of creativity either. I’ve heard this problem from many people far more creative than I am, so there is definitely something else involved here that goes deeper than just idea generation.
I’m writing this post because this has been a hurdle I’ve encountered time and time again, even when the solution is so very simple. So deceptively simple you wonder why you had the problem in the first place.
So I’m going to share my own tips and techniques I use to help prevent that well of ideas from running dry, and hopefully some of them will be enough to keep you blogging with the full enthusiasm you need to keep the habit going week after week.
Find inspiration in your daily experiences
One of the sources of inspiration that many of us don’t make full use of is our daily experiences working in whatever industry we happen to work in. Most of us come up against unique challenges every week, many of which could easily translate into an interesting blog post or two.
For example, I was recently putting together some examples of physical product landing pages for a client and found there to be a complete lack of resources on the web focused on physical products. The result?
I wrote a blog post for listing eight great physical product landing pages I had found after researching in excess of 200-300 different examples. If you’re interested, you can read that here.
There will be many instances where you’re coming against something which you’re not highly familiar with that will fuel an excellent blog post.
Why? Because if it’s something that presented a challenge to you, it’s likely something that presents a challenge to others too. But it isn’t just challenges that are great inspiration - those things you do on a routine basis can also make for excellent reads. You’re likely using a method that you’ve refined over time, a method that other people would be super grateful to find out about too!
Accept that not every idea is completely unique
How many times have you not run with an idea because you were worried hundreds of people got there before you? This is common, and if you let it, it will happen all of the time. Because barely anything is truly unique. But that doesn’t matter. What matters, is what you do with the idea.
You will often have your own unique spin on a story or idea, so that even though you are writing about a topic somebody has written about already, the result will be different because it is you that wrote it.
And as soon as you’ve gotten over worrying that your idea is the same as somebody elses, a whole wealth of new content ideas will open up to you, not least because you can transform other people’s content into something original.
Find an article that you really enjoyed reading (more on that below), or one that other people have really enjoyed, and think about how you could re-purpose it into something new. Be careful here though - you’re not plagarising other people’s work by simply rewording it.
Let me give you an example.
On the editorial calendar we use at my agency, I keep a list of blog title ideas which I can pull from when I need to write something. I’ve had the headline “Where do you get your ideas from?” sitting there for a good few months.
I recently read a blog post here on Econsultancy by Matt Owen, called “How to keep making content...forever”, in which Matt talks about overcoming writer’s block. This inspired me a week later to return to that lonely headline and turn it into a blog post, putting my own spin on the subject.
Despite approaching the same subject as Matt, I think I’ve put enough of my own take on it to warrant publishing this post.
By using this very simple technique of re-imagining someone else’s content, you’ll find yourself with an almost endless gold mine of potential topics. Just please, make sure you don’t rip off over people’s work.
When you're not writing, you should be reading
It is important for any writer to read, and the more time (outside of your writing time) you can devote to reading the better. Reading other people’s content is one of my chief sources of inspiration for writing new posts, and not just for the technique outlined above. By frequently reading what else is being published online, you:
- Keep up with recent trends and events that are important in your industry.
- Learn from the way other people write, and use their writing to influence your own.
- Expand your knowledge and understanding, giving you more possible subjects to write about (and add more authority to what you write).
- Discover gaps in areas where there should have been a blog post written, but hasn’t been (such as the landing page idea I brought up at the start).
This begs the question then, what should you be reading? First of all, as great as some of the content is being published online, don’t neglect the old fashioned way of reading: books. These may be printed or digital editions, but I’ve learned so much about honing the craft of digital marketing by reading books - as much as, if not more so than I have from reading content online.
While I can’t advise you on what you should be reading in your particular niche, I can suggest a few of my top digital marketing resources that I find especially good for coming up with ideas.
- Twitter. One of the best. If you’re following people whose opinion you value, every day you’ll be receiving a torrent of blog shares, many of which will be excellent reads.
- Safari Books. Safari Books is a subscription service that gives you access to thousands of digital editions of books, with topics being mostly business, technology, software, and web. It’s well worth the cost of a full subscription and I urge you to sign up.
- Inbound.org. This is a place where users can submit their favourite inbound marketing posts, where editorial control on what content gets most prominence is the responsibility of the users themselves. Thankfully, there are some quite big names in the world of SEO and digital using this service, and it’s helped me find content I would never have found otherwise.
Write frequently, and write even when you don’t want to
This one is so important if you want to improve every aspect of your blog writing technique, not just idea generation. Seems so simple and obvious doesn’t it? To get better at blogging, you need to practice it. And if you’re really serious about blogging, you need to practice even when you don’t feel like it. Because by writing in non-ideal conditions, you learn how to better push through difficulties you’re having, and become a better writer for it.
But let’s bring this back to our initial problem: writer’s block.
You might think that writing frequently depletes your bank of ideas over time and you’re going to find yourself more likely to be in the position where you can’t think of anything to write about. And there is certainly some truth in this. But what you gain from writing frequently vastly outweighs the usage of ideas you keep stored away.
You learn how to create an idea from nothing. You learn how to make a blog post work, even after you’ve written a paragraph and feel like it’s going nowhere (when otherwise you’d give given up, resigning it to that ever-growing graveyard of discarded drafts).
And the more you write, and the more you get published in front of large audiences, the larger your confidence will be. It’s this confidence that keeps you going and prevents you from doubting yourself (too much).
Also, if you do doubt yourself, don’t let that prevent you from publishing content. If every writer didn’t publish work they worried would be crap, we’d have significantly less writing in the world. And some of your writing won't be your finest work - and that's fine too.
By making writing a habit, it’ll become second nature to you. And the ideas will come.
How have you overcome writer's block in the past?
Let us know in the comments your own tips for overcoming writer's block, or your favourite sources of inspiration.