How to never run out of ideas for your blog
Blogging is an essential ingredient in just about anything you would like to achieve.
Want to sell your side-hustle products online? You’re going to need traffic. How do you get traffic? You create and distribute content. What is the most resilient source of content? Blogs.
Want to express your opinions and articulate the frustrations eating you alive? You’re going to need a platform. What is the least constrictive platform for sharing the real you? Blogs.
If I ever speak to somebody for more than twenty minutes, there is a good chance I will tell them to start a blog. The benefits are multifarious. Writing allows us to grow in so many ways – psychologically, professionally, personally, intellectually. If you have passion for absolutely anything - from baseball to mental health, travel to Tranmere Rovers - you should have a blog. The correlation is insurmountable. Try it. You will see.
How to create a content marketing pipeline
Once people have a blog, two things typically stifle their progress: time and a lack of ideas. Solving the former requires sacrifice, structure and unshakable determination. Solving the latter is far more difficult.
Firstly, you need to establish your goals, which will duly influence your motivation. Some superstar marketers and digital entrepreneurs have transformed writing into a scientific discipline, producing content in a way that ticks an SEO checklist. I admire the consistency and dedication of this approach. Embracing elements of the prevailing style is essential to surviving in the modern media landscape. Nevertheless, my style is far more lyrical than that of a typical marketer. I’m a natural-born writer with self-taught marketing skills, not a thoroughbred creative who sees writing as just another tool towards profit.
Writing is my passion. It plays a huge role in my recovery from depression and my management of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Writing is an outlet for my frustrations, ideas and angst. It’s the most efficient way of emptying a messy mind, splodges on a page limiting torment in the head.
My content tends to fly in the face of contemporary marketing dogma, but it works, at least for me, because it is not a means to some other end. I try to see writing as an intrinsically pleasurable endeavour. It is a self-contained joy. That it has the effect of articulating my feelings and, occasionally, entertaining or educating my readers, is a happy coincidence.
I could list online tools that will generate blog article ideas for you. I could show you how to use Google Trends, BuzzSumo or Quora to see what people are talking about online, feeding into your ruthlessly structured marketing machine. But that is not my area of expertise. I use those tools. I listen to the digital mood music, which is subsumed into my approach, but Neil Patel literally exists. Check out his wonderful website for more technical advice on all aspects of marketing, social media and content. Neil is great.
Why you need to write from the heart
My apparent ability to write cogent stories just kinda happened. I read voraciously as a kid, tackling tough books by eloquent baseball writers such as Dan Shaughnessy, Roger Kahn and Roger Angell. My evolving vocabulary and keen appreciation of where to place a comma are natural, instinctive and unthinking. I excelled in English and English Literature at school, achieving high grades, but my technical knowledge of writing as a discipline is inferior to that of your typical university graduate.
I may not be able to explain what a simile is, and my understanding of passive voice may be rudimentary at best. But put me up against anybody, absolutely anybody, and task us with writing about anything, and I guarantee my article will have more passion, emotion, feeling, drama and suspense than that of my counterpart.
Why? Because I write from the heart. I write from the soul. I don’t start with a goal of vacuous profitability and work backwards, stumbling upon blogging as a flat-pack vehicle to attaining metrics or a cookie-cutter engine of commercial growth. Writing in the digital age is definitely a science to be mastered through procedure, but I still cherish it as an art conveying emotion.
It’s all well and good knowing what a preposition or conjunction is, but if you don’t have the bravery to use them - to experiment and drop the mask of public pretence to actually write what you think and feel – that knowledge is wasted.
Sometimes, you just have to discard the rulebook, eschew the norm and break the formulaic stranglehold of process-driven acquiescence. Sometimes, you just have to trust the insurrectionist.
How to create ideas for your blog
The most important piece of advice I can give in forming consistent blog ideas is living life with your head up. Seriously, put the phone down and step away from the computer for a while. Stories are all around you. Inspiration resides in the most innocuous objects. Mundane trappings of everyday life are prompts to investigate, for there is nothing more interesting that reality itself.
Walk down the street with your eyes and ears open. Look at things. Hear things. Commit them to memory and think about them. Contemplate your own opinions, your own thoughts and your own assessment of what you see and what you hear. Don’t rely on the opinions of other people and don’t let social media dictate your interpretation. See things and feel things. The rest will follow.
The importance of experience in content marketing
A blog is merely a vehicle for telling a story. The success of content marketing is embodied by the ability of a blog post to capture a moment, era or feeling and explain why that is relevant to the people reading it. Your motives for chasing such relevance are debatable, but a good story has many constituent parts, all of which are reliant upon one concept: experience. Without it, your stories will be flat, boring and unsuccessful.
Experience has little to do with age. We shouldn’t wait until we are thirty with kids to start writing a blog. Rather, experience is the art of doing things. You can be a raw kid or a passionate pensioner, but getting out there and doing what you love, doing it repeatedly and with tireless hunger, will separate you from everybody else. Why? Because you will see more things, you will hear more things, and you will form more opinions. Real opinions, not just regurgitated snippets of social media collateral.
Through activity and consumption, taste and experimentation, you will gain an appreciation of yourself. And once you reach that stage, the bridge between opinions and ideas is a great accelerator of production. Do things and your pipeline of ideas will grow.
Why you should carry a notebook at all times
So you are living life with your head up and tasting many different things. You are people-watching in Starbucks and backpacking through the Lake District. Ideas are flowing. Inspiration is soaring. Now what? How do you turn those ideas into content, and that content into blogs?
You carry a notebook, my friend, and you write down every thought, idea and scheme that pops into your head, no matter how brief, no matter how tenuous, no matter how stupid. Our capacity for remembering details isn’t all that great, so get it out of your head and let it live in a dedicated space.
Extolling the virtues of structured solitude
Once you have notebook brimming with scribbles, doodles and random thoughts, spending time alone is the key to forming full ideas, which then become plans, projects, articles and more.
Lock yourself in a room or steal half an hour to focus solely on expanding your ideas. My germination process from idea to article looks something like this:
- Brain dump of thoughts, knowledge, opinions, biases and suspicions
- Research and investigation of the above
- Challenging or affirmation of the above, possibly with the use of external insight through interviews
Without engineering space and time in which to think, in which to concentrate, the entire process will fall down. If you want to make this work, dedication is the key to smashing through the doubt barrier and unlocking a world of evergreen blog ideas. Just keep going, and just listen to your true self.
Why you need to start using content trees
Many bloggers rest on their laurels once an article is published. However, in terms of content idea creation, publishing is the start of a new cycle rather than the end of an old one.
At this stage, I would like to introduce the humble content tree, or article idea tree as I like to call it. This is literally a hand drawn mind map of subsequent ideas inspired by the post you have just published.
Content trees are an invaluable resource in creating a constant flow of blog topics. I believe they are the single most influential guarantor against writer’s block that ever came to pass. Capturing ideas while the inspiration is live helps establish an endless supply of content. A drawn tree, mind map, flow chart or diagram is old school, but it works. Give it a go.
If, like me, you suffer from idea-focused obsessive-compulsive disorder, the article idea tree could revolutionise your thinking. It has allowed me to find relief from the overbearing pressure of constant thought and irrepressible creativity. My ideas live in trees, and my articles form a rainforest. There’s a process there that limits uncertainty and stress.
How to brainstorm content ideas
The actual act of populating a content tree is very simple. Once again, find the time and space to focus on the matter at hand immediately after you have published a new article. Write the heading of said article at the top of your page, and then begin re-reading your work.
Think logically about what comes next in this series of articles. What topics stick out? What vignettes can be explored in greater detail? Did you mention a main character who can be investigated further? Write it down. Expand your thinking. Nothing is too absurd, nothing is too whacky.
It’s not uncommon for my content trees to begin with a mental health post then meander to some truly disparate places. Don’t worry if you soon find yourself at the uncharted intersection of New York Yankees history, communist architecture and The Libertines. That’s good. Such is the random, unquenchable nature of human imagination. Such is the genesis of a great story.
Start blogging today
Admit it. Your mind is now full of blog topics to last a lifetime, isn’t it? That’s great. Get yourself a notebook and begin exploring, begin interacting with the real you. Don’t be afraid to broach a topic. Don’t defer to social acceptability. Don’t fear judgment. Just enjoy life with a discerning eye and write about it from the heart. That way, you will never run out of passion, the ultimate fuel of motivation and productivity, and you will never run out of ideas. Let's get to work.