There’s a significant cottage industry online of people and companies who want to help people come up with ideas of what to write about on their blogs. Search for something like “how to get blog post ideas” and you’ll be confronted with an endless stream of lists as people offer places you can turn to and tactics you can employ to keep your blog active and attractive to readers.
I don’t mean to sound trite about it, but I’ve never really had that problem. There have been times when I haven’t published anything to one or another blog, but that’s usually because of time constraints, not a lack of ideas on what to write about.
The advice offered generally falls into three categories:
- External – This is where you go looking for topics and ideas. You’re running searches, you’re looking at industry news and trends and so on. It’s either commenting on some of that news or adding your own point of view to the conversation.
- Internal – This is where you basically look at your own audience’s preferences to see what you should be writing about. By analyzing your own metrics and seeing what’s popular with readers you may choose to write more about that to keep the traffic coming and keep them engaged. Corporate or business-related blogs employ this often because there are real goals to achieve.
- Self-Generated – This is basically where you make it up as you go along. Advice along these lines generally encourage writers to go for a walk, visit a coffee shop, doodle or engage in some sort of other activity to expose you to new situations and experiences that can be used for blog post fodder.
If you’re a long-time reader of this blog you’ll probably realize I rely heavily on the first and third categories. If I’m not countering or commenting on some recent news story, I’m writing posts like this one, which is a topic that occured to me while I was writing something else. Other times I get an idea while walking down the street or in the middle of a retail shift. There are probably a dozen topics just this week that I’ve had but wasn’t able to jot down quickly enough and so were forgotten.
I fully realize and admit that saying “I don’t need your advice, thank you very much” is a bit of a high-handed stance to take, but it’s more or less true. For myself, the act of writing is akin to breathing: If I’m not doing it often and in bulk, problems are going to develop quickly. Right now I have so many posts I literally don’t know what to do with them all. It’s a good problem to have, I know.
For those who need those kinds of prompts and guidance on where to find ideas for topics to write about, good luck to you. I hope you can eventually find a more sustainable approach than constantly spending cycles determining topics before you even get around to writing. Figure out how to make that process more efficient and do it quickly.
On top of that, don’t be afraid to get weird. The problem with the “actively go look for things” approach is that it inevitably leads to a lot of very similar material because everyone’s taking the same advice. You might be able to stand out a bit more clearly and uniquely if you give yourself a bit of latitude and give public voice to your interior monologue.
It comes down to this: Are you writing for yourself or to be popular? Your approach to establishing what it is you want to write about will be determined by the answer to that *very* important question.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.