Even as someone who writes for a living, I’ll be the first to tell you that sometimes the hardest part of a project is coming up with a topic—and there’s nothing worse than staring at a blank page. Blogs need regular updates, and whether you’ve been blogging for a few weeks or a few years, you probably know that terrifying feeling that comes from running out of ideas. What should you do when you need new inspiration? Where can you go to find topics?
To help solve that problem, here are a few creative techniques designed for everyone from the bored blogger to the truly desperate—five tips to generate great blog topics you haven’t tried!
1. Get Tuned In: Read!
When you make it a practice to read what’s being said in your industry, you automatically set yourself up to be inspired with blog topics. Read publications related to your business, subscribe to blogs your competitors are writing and skim major newspapers and magazines. Other ideas: set up Google alerts for some of your most important keywords and follow users on Twitters who have interesting things to say.
Ways to Use This Inspiration: Post a blog responding to an article from a major blog or news outlet, linking to that source; use a topic someone else brought up and turn it into an informative post all your own; create a round-up of related links; grab an idea that catches your interest and run with it in another direction.
2. Tap into Someone Else’s Knowledge: Interview!
Is there a thought leader in your field you’d like to ask a few questions? Reach out to this person about doing a quick blogging Q & A, and publish it to give your audience fresh, valuable content. Extra bonus: exchanging ideas with brilliant people is not only a source of new content but also a powerful way to generate new links back to your site, as at the very minimum, the person you interview will be likely to link to you.
Ways to Use This Inspiration: Interview someone whenever you’re inspired, or make it a regular feature, such as once a week or once a month. Interview people in your industry to gain interesting info or talk to those outside of it, expanding your knowledge base. And while you’re asking questions of others—be prepared, someone may end up wanting to interview you, which is yet another way to expand your blogging network and scope of influence.
3. Think outside the Internet: Talk!
It may seem old-fashioned, but some of the best sources for blog inspiration can only be found by looking offline. Talk with friends, talk with associates, attend events related to your industry, go to events within your community—and see how inspiration strikes. Another idea: don’t overlook the power of talking to yourself: sometimes brainstorming or free-writing your thoughts, no filter, as they hit you, is the fastest way to discover something you’d otherwise overlook.
Ways to Use This Inspiration: Use real-life conversations to spur blog topics and ideas. Write a post about something you discussed at a conference, respond to an idea someone brought up at the office, share your opinions on the industry-related issue you were mulling over with friends.
4. Look to Your Readers: Listen!
Listening well is about more than good etiquette: it’s a sure-fire way to gain valuable insight. Tuning in to the comments readers are leaving on your site can often enlighten you to new post ideas—What are they saying? What questions are they asking? How could you use that info to come up with topics? Likewise, you can seek input from readers by conducting a poll, running a survey or coming right out and asking them what they want to hear about.
Ways to Use This Inspiration: Pay attention to what your readers say and ask in comments and turn those questions into new blogs. When that doesn’t reveal much, run polls to find out what their needs are, and try to meet them with new articles. And finally, don’t be afraid to use Facebook and Twitter and other social networks to come right out and ask for new topic ideas.
5. Take a Break: Relax!
When all else fails, it’s time to get away from your computer for a while and see if you can’t be your own inspiration: go to a park, run errands, soak in the tub, hang out with friends. Forget about blogging and coming up with topics, and focus on something else instead—because, for a lot of writers, this is exactly the kind of distraction that prompts new ideas. Extra tip: if you make your distraction a little exercise, you reap the added benefit of an activity shown to stimulate the brain.
Ways to Use This Inspiration: Experiment with breaks to see what works for you. Take off a day, take off a week, take off an afternoon, and go jogging, hit a few rounds of golf, kick around a soccer ball—then, when you come back to writing, you might be surprised by all the ideas you have to work with.
Shanna Mallon is a writer for Straight North, one of the leading Web design company.