21 Ways to Create Compelling Content When You Don’t Have a Clue

Sometimes you’re just flat out of ideas.

It’s not a matter of talent — you’ve written great stuff in the past. But lately, when you go back to the well for a fresh idea, it’s coming up dry.

This happens to the best of us — even veterans who consistently produce quality content have their off days.

Yet they continue to write.

They may grumble about how hard it is to get going and create something solid, but they still do. Again, and again, and again.

They aren’t super-human, and they don’t have magical content-producing powers. So what is the secret?

They do it by pulling out the well-worn toolbox of strategies for creating awesome content.

Steal content and ideas

If you’re flat-out exhausted and out of ideas, then get them from somebody else — either content, or ideas, or both.

I’m not talking about real stealing, of course — it’s more like “borrowing with the author’s blessing”.

Done right, this can produce some valuable content that the authors you “stole” from will thank you for using!

  1. Curate content. Find your ten favorite websites, and then find your favorite post on each of them. Publish a post listing these top ten posts, and explain why you like them. You don’t even have to think about being creative, and everyone you feature there will appreciate it. This is what we do with our Best of the Web feature, and there are lots of other examples.
  2. Ask friends for ideas. If you’re tapped for ideas, then reach out to your friends and colleagues, and ask them what they’d like you to write about. You can do this with offline friends, or with like-minded online entrepreneurs. If you’re not already part of a mastermind group, then reach out to a few bloggers that are about as big as you are, and suggest starting one. I’m in a mastermind group with Jon Alford, Paul Wolfe and Caleb Wojcik, and they’ve all been a great help to me.
  3. Ask your audience. You can kick the last strategy up a notch by reaching out to your audience. This can be done in several ways — it can be as simple as running a “what would you like me to write about” post (which is a bit lame), or it can get more interesting by asking for their input on a problem, as Marcus Sheridan did to create his tag-line, or by asking a question so that you can compile their answers into another piece of content, like nittyGriddy’s free blog posting schedules e-book.
  4. Do an interview. There are lots of reasons why interviews are great for blog content, but right now let’s focus on the simple fact that it’s a lot easier to write a handful of interview questions than it is to write an entire post! Plus, it can be a great way to connect with really interesting people. (I got to interview Randy Komisar, who is my hero in the business world – and all I had to do was ask!)
  5. Solicit guest posts. This is a great source of content, and it’s easier than most people think – find a handful of blogs that are your size or smaller, whose content you really like, and invite them to write a guest post for you. They’ll be flattered, and happy to get exposure to your audience. They’ll work hard to bring their A game, and not only will you get a great post, but they’ll happily tell their contacts about it, and bring you a few new readers in the process.

Create content without creating content

If you have to create your own content, then there are a whole bunch of ways to do it without “creating content”.

In other words, you can write something great without having to be creative or original.

This doesn’t mean that the content won’t be good — only that you’re going to rely on creativity and originality that has already been percolating in your mind.

  1. Create a best-case study. Think about your favorite blog, company, or product, and write a post about why you like them so much (like Marlee Ward did about Rise, Pushing Social, and IttyBiz). Explain what you think they’re doing right, and what others can learn from their example.
  2. Create a worst-case study. Same thing, but focus on a blog, company or product that you hate. This can be even more interesting, particularly if it’s a popular offering. Explain your frustrations with it, explain why it is successful anyway, and explain what you would do differently.
  3. Write a review. Think about a product that you like, and are happy to endorse, and write a review about it. No need to get too creative, just explain what you like about it, and why. And then write what you don’t like about it, and why — easy peasy. You can kick it up a notch by contacting the company and asking them to donate a product that you can raffle off to blog commenters, like Kristy Hines did with an IBM ThinkCentre M90z.
  4. Explain your success. Think about a time when something went really right for you, and write a post explaining how you got it to happen. Don’t just brag about successes — explain all of the steps that you took to get there. Draw out the lessons that you learned from the experience, the lessons others can learn as well. This is what I did when I shared how I landed Guy Kawasaki on Problogger.
  5. Explain your failure. If there’s anything that people love reading about more than a great success, it’s an epic business failure. A post about your most challenging experiences is likely to be powerful just by virtue of how intense the original experience was for you, and you don’t have to make up anything original or creative — just tell it like it is (or, was), and explain what you learned from the process.
  6. Link to old favorites. Go through your archives, and make a short list of your old favorite posts that newer readers probably haven’t read. You can even do a quick deconstruction, and explain what you were thinking when you wrote the posts, what worked, and what didn’t.

Borrow some name recognition

Okay, so maybe what you really want is to find a great original idea to write about, but it just isn’t happening.

In that case, all you need is a creativity jump-start; a useful constraint that can send you off in the right direction.

The idea is to take two unrelated things, and force them together into a really interesting post. It’s really easier than it sounds.

Start by picking something that your readers are interested in, and then pick something unrelated, that your audience will be familiar with.

Merge them together into a post with a headline that goes something like:

Are you starting to see the pattern?

Just to get your brain going, here are some of the things that you can plug into the “fascinating hook” part of that equation:

  1. Use a movie. Use either the name of a movie, or a character from that movie. Think about the last movie you’ve seen, and think about what you can learn from that movie about your topic of interest. There’s always something there, if you dig deep enough. It doesn’t have to be a recent movie, either — it can be an old favorite, like the Princess Bride, which Brian references in his Inigo Montoya’s Guide to 27 Commonly Misused Words
  2. Use television. Same idea, but this time pick a television show that your audience is likely to watch. That’s what Jon Morrow did in his super-successful Mad Men Guide to Changing the World with Words post, and I did the same when I wrote Desperate Housewives on Writing, Storytelling and Selling. For extra credit, you can make a list of the top five TV shows you can think of, and do keyword research to see which one is hottest.
  3. Use a book. Just make sure it isn’t a book about your subject matter (“What How To Win Friends and Influence People Can Teach You About Winning Friends and Influence People” is kind of lame). As long as it’s off-topic, you’re good to go. It doesn’t even have to be the book, it can be the author (“What Tolkien Can Teach You…”), a poet, or even a line out of a poem.
  4. Use a comic. There’s a reason why they’ve been remaking movies about Superman, Spiderman, the X-Men, and half a dozen other, more obscure comic book characters. Unless it is a spectacular failure, you can pretty much count on a certain volume of sales at the box office. By the same token, if you lean on the super-powers of one of these characters, your post should perform just as well!
  5. Use a celebrity. This is a blanket category for any kind of icon that your audience would recognize. It could be your favorite pop star, movie star, or blogging star (whether it’s a big name like Brian Clark, or an equally awesome but slightly lesser known blogger like Jk Allen) … as long as your audience would recognize the name, it should be solid.
  6. Find out what’s trending. While we’re on the topic of celebrity, take some time to see what else is currently trending. Visit google.com/trends, click on the “More Hot Searches” link, and pick something from the list.

Get inspired

The last thing you can do when you’re fresh out of ideas is to recharge and get inspired.

This may sound difficult when you’re looking at a desk covered in crumpled note papers with lousy ideas, but it can be done.

There are at least four ways to do it.

  1. Go for a walk. This is the generic advice that you’ve probably heard a hundred times before. If you just can’t do it anymore, then take a break, go for a walk, and get some fresh air. It’s not quite that simple, but it’s close: we all have routines and practices that are good at triggering high performance mental states. It’s just a matter of finding the right triggers for you.
  2. Go to the theater. The theater is a fantastic source of ideas — much better than just going to a movie, because there’s so much more atmosphere, and so much more happening, which means there’s that much more for you to deconstruct and draw analogies from. Find a show in your area, get out of the house, and come back refreshed and ready to start writing.
  3. Explore new cultures. No, no, I’m not suggesting you book a vacation every time you’re out of ideas. You don’t have to fly half-way around the world — why not start with an authentic restaurant? Go somewhere that you aren’t familiar with, and really pay attention to the experience. All of this is fodder for analogies that can get your creative juices flowing.
  4. Tell your story. This is if you’re ready to kick yourself into overdrive, and write a post about an experience that is powerful and deeply personal. For this, you’ve got to dig deep, and pull up a formative story in your life — share a real crisis that you overcame, and how you became a better and happier person for it. This isn’t an easy thing to do, but you don’t really need original content, because it’s all stuff that has already happened to you. And the results are stories that stick with people for a long time, like Danny Brown’s failed suicide attempt, Jon Morrow’s childhood fight for survival, and Brian Clark’s subdural hematoma.

Bonus #22 — Write when you do have ideas

You can fall back on these strategies when you’re fresh out of ideas and don’t feel like writing, and with a bit of discipline you’ll be able to create a really solid post.

But that doesn’t make it easy.

The reality is that when you’re feeling uninspired, it isn’t the best time for you to do your writing. That’s why the last strategy is to do the writing when you are feeling inspired.

Write a handful of articles and keep them in an “emergency posts” folder, to run when you absolutely don’t feel like writing.

And of course, you can use any of the ideas described in this post as a starter for filling up that folder. So go to it — start writing! But first, join the discussion …

Which of these methods has worked for you? Which one do you plan on trying first? Leave a comment below and let me know.

About the Author: Danny Iny is an author, strategist, serial entrepreneur, and proud co-founder of Firepole Marketing, the definitive marketing training program for small businesses, entrepreneurs, and non-marketers. Visit his site today for a free cheat sheet about Why Guru Strategies for Blog Growth DON’T WORK… and What Does!.

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Comments

  1. Thanks to the Coyblogger team for running this post.

    I know that this isn’t an exhaustive list, and I’d love to hear other ideas. How do other people come up with content ideas when they’re feeling stuck?

    • Thanks Danny for the ideas. We are all connected in this world…including how we think and collaborate when creating our own ideas. “The hunches start off as quiet whispers and grow louder when combined with other’s thoughts.” Those are words from Steven Johnson but it is what I thought about when I saw your post. Keep planting thoughts…they will be sowed with other’s ideas and from there greatness will spawn.

  2. These are all great ideas for when you hit a content wall. Personally, one of the first things I do when I need some inspiration is dig through my older posts. When I come across a list post (similar to this one), I just pick a single point and write a whole post around that idea!

  3. Hey danny

    Awesome list – thanks for the shout out too. The Mastermind Group was a great idea.

    One thing that I do to make sure I’ve always got stuff to write about is to create an ‘Idea Bank.’ This can be a spreadsheet, a word doc, evernote, or scraps of paper in a file. The important thing to do is to get into the habit of putting your ideas into the idea bank.

    I find that one of the richest source of ideas are comment threads – either over on my own blog, or on other folks. I’ve written at least a dozen posts (it’s probably more) where the nucleus of the post was generated by comments I left on other blogger’s blogs.

    When it comes to ‘getting inspired’ I like the Peter DeVries quote: OF course I write when I’m inspired. And I see to it that I’m inspired every morning at 9AM.

    Regular readings of THE WAR OF ART by Steven Pressfield help too.

    Paul

    And a big shout up for the favourite post of all the ones you linked – the Inigo Montoya post.

    • I do that, too, Paul, I keep a running file of post ideas, along with any notes I might have about what I want to elaborate on. I find that extremely helpful.

      • Sonia: My method’s a little old school… I do the same but I keep my written in my moleskine. I use post-it notes and a hi-lighter to remind myself what I want to post where and when. And a red pen to cross out those post titles/ideas I’ve already published.

        Can you say #geek?

        • Works for me. :) I do a lot on paper as well.

          • The other thing I try and do is to read between 10 and 50 times the amount of words that I write daily (which is 1000 – 1500). That was something I picked up from a fiction writing teacher called Steven Barnes. (Very clever guy btw).

    • Hey Paul, as I recall, it was Jon’s idea – but it was a good one. :)

      I like your idea about comment threads. You’re right – that’s a great place to look for ideas!

      • You may have heard it first from Jon…I definitely first encountered it from Steven Barnes (who blogs at Dar Kush). If you really wanna trawl his archives you’ll find mention of it back in 2005 and 2006 – certainly way before I got interested in blogging (maybe 2009).

        And you’re right, it is a great idea wherever you encountered it. I just went back into Steve’s archives to find the earliest mention I could of it, and there’s an element of his advice I left out which is good,

        He advises: read 10 to 50 times the amount you write AND read one level up (in qualitative terms) from the level you aspire to write at.

        And comment threads rock.

        Go get some sleep!

        Paul

  4. These are great, Danny. You’ve covered some of the ones I use like reading a book and going for a walk, plus you gave me some new strategies to use. Thank you. I also like listening to interviews to get new insights and ideas. I haven’t actually interviewed anyone yet, but I’d like to.

    It’s been awhile since I’ve read comics, but that sounds like a great idea and fun to tie into content. :)

    • Listening to interviews is a great idea – I hadn’t thought of that.

      (funny, that I should think to do interviews, but not listen to them…)

      • Hey Gabrielle & Danny,

        Speaking of listening to interviews… I fire up a bunch of podcasts to listen to when I go to the gym or even to listen to while at work.

        Some of my favorites include:
        – Copyblogger (of course)
        – twistimage.com/blog with Mitch Joel
        – Blogcast.fm

        To name a few. Some good content in there.

  5. Hi Danny,

    Aren’t you a guy that gets around (in a good way)!

    I am actually using your interview tips today with a woman who is doing a teleseminar. I wanted to learn how to do one, so I figured interviewing someone in the midst of doing one would be helpful! :)

    I really like your ideas for piggy backing your content off a recognized name, movie, book or event! I use that tip frequently and I find it to be a great way to get fantastic content as well as some extra traffic!

    Great job on your post, Danny! I’m saving it for future reference!

    Heather

  6. For me, domestic works is the best way of generating new ideas. Yes, I am a man :-)

    When you do dishwashing or vacum cleaning your brain can rest as you do repetitive movement. In these cases I tend to lead an internal dialog that always generates a handful of decent ideas. I note them down and then develop later. When I do it, I try to recall feelings and the dialog I had before. It really works and it’s strange but it’s actually more efficient than running.

    And emergency folder puts quite a lot of pressure off my back.

    • Mowing the lawn works along the same line, especially if you have an hour + to ride around like I do :-).

    • I’m actually the same way, Nicolas. I’m working on a post about that right now, actually – when things are going crazy for me, the first step is to wash the dishes and take out the trash, it’s a way of reclaiming control over my environment. :D

  7. My blog-article ideas usually show up in pairs. I’ll struggle for days to come up with something interesting, and suddenly, I’ll pop off two rough drafts in a couple of hours. It’s an unpredictable process, and the tips you’ve given are useful for getting off the dime. Thanks!

  8. These are some really good suggestions.

    When I hit a block, I like to do two things: 1. as Nick said, I’ll look through my prior posts and find something to expand on or reframe; 2. search some forums. If a topic is really popular on some of the forums, it will likely be popular on my site. Plus the forum gives me an idea of what people are wanting to know on the topic, meaning I can be a good source of information for everyone.

  9. I try to stay tapped into the latest news, events, etc. so I can remain relevant and compelling.

  10. Hi Danny!

    Super great ideas! I can’t wait to start on one of them. Number 4, Do An Interview, is appealing to me the most. Thanks for sharing these ideas. These are perk-me-ups when I’m in a rut.

    • Elmar: Any time I go to a conference or meetup, I take my Kodak Zi8 with me and take it as an opportunity to interview clients and other bloggers to share their best tips. I use this as content on the blog!! So far, readers seem to love it (it’s good to mix it up ya know).

      • That’s a great idea – thanks for sharing it! Yeah, it’s live, it’s energetic, and it’s pretty easy to pull it off. I like it!

      • I love this re-purposing mindset Ricardo!

        Another idea for using bloggers to spark the creativity to write a kick ass guest post is something I got from Terry Dean.

        He gave me the idea that if I ever wanted to get a guest post approved for a site I’d like to contribute to, that I should dig through their posts to find one that lays out a strategy and an action steps that I’ve actually implemented in my life and then to use #21 on Danny’s list to write my story about the results I got from using this advice.

        I’ve yet to give it a whirl but it makes sense to me to try it if I ever get the itch to do a guest post and wanna shave some minutes off of my creative brainstorming. :)

      • Hi Ricardo!

        That’s a super great tip! Thanks!

  11. I’m in favour of taking two unrelated things and force them together into a really interesting post. It may sound imposible but as you say Danny “It’s really easier than it sounds.” Great article! It’ll be really useful to me!

    Thanks a lot! ;)

  12. Great ideas! Thank you so much. I’ll be keeping this article close!

  13. One of my favourite things to do when I’m running low on ideas is to respond to a recent (or not so recent) blog post on another site that I either disagree with or have too much to say about it for a comment.

    • That’s a great idea. Actually, Heather Stephens did exactly that on Monday, to my guest post on Danny Brown’s site, and so did Gail Gardner (and so did I, on Firepole Marketing). It’s a great way to get a conversation going. :)

  14. Great Tips, Danny.

    One tip I have found useful for business blogging is looking back at your “sent email” folder to see if you have answered any questions lately via email to prospects or existing customers. The question is the title of the blog post, the answer to the question is the body of the blog post.

    If one prospect/customer has a question, there is a good chance others have that same question and will go to search engines to ask that question. :)

    @RBeale

  15. Using a comic is a fun idea, Danny. It gives you the opportunity to use powerful language and makes your actionable advice sound exciting (less like a chore).

    So, thanks for that tip and for the mention.

    I limit my TV viewing but commercials have inspired a few articles for me. It’s fascinating to study the ad strategies of the big guys. Just last night I watched a commercial that inspired a post I’ll tuck in drafts later today.

    Keep publishing, man. It’s great seeing you consistently churning out quality work like this.

    Jon

  16. I truly enjoyed reading this post, especially the last section, share your story. It’s the old age adage – write what you know about. We humans know life. Life isn’t always pretty and peppered with Norman Rockwell memories that leave a heart free of pain. Why not spin the time you lived in the middle east and your car broke down three times, in a riot with flaming coca cola bottles that took flight like flocks of birds going south for the winter, before ditching it and running like the wind for cover. You made it through that alive and back on USA ground, despite the plane carrying you home engine’s blowing up two times, thank god for that window seat, it gave you a birds eye view of the flames and a clear perspective as to why that emergency landing was needed. Not only did you endure that but you endured it two more times until safely landing back in the USA. Why can’t you endure the slow start to a new business if you can endure these passing moments? When you put your mind to it you can create anything – why not a successful business as an ARTIST! This post inspired me to write in a new way – thanks! And yes, all this is true, after all the exercise was to write what you know – share your story. Thanks again!

  17. Danny – Truly useful and practical ideas. All I need to do now is to have myself ‘cloned’ ASAP so I can first review all items on your post and then begin implementing them, :-)
    Thanks a lot.

  18. Wonderful tips here, Danny. It’s been hard for me lately to come up with ideas to write about. I have a bunch collected over the past weeks but I can’t seem to find that “something” and I haven’t finished a single thing. I am not sure if it’s lack of inspiration really or more on the fact that although I may have these ideas, I don’t have enough spice to back it up and present it as my final output. It’s really frustrating. But with this post you have, I hope I can break-free of this state soon. Thanks for sharing.

  19. Thank you Danny, these are some fantastic ideas to get inspiration to write. As a writer I fully understand the challenges of coming up with fresh content. You have listed some very good and unique ideas for us to get some inspiration. :-)

  20. This is a quote I read somewhere: “Write even when you don’t feel like it. And when you can’t write, read!”

    As a blogger (especially a small business blogger) you should be stocking up on content ideas always. The more consistent you are, the greater your chances of success. When you run out of ideas, pick up something fresh to read for more ideas. Heck, you’ve listed a ton of them here!! Here’s a tip I’d add… Go through your sent folder in your email inbox – look at the emails you’ve sent that answer a client question. If you can send email, you can write a blog post. Turn those Q&A emails into blog posts!! Just sayin’… That’s content too.

    As for me, what works to get the creative juices flowing again? It’s nice to take a break and catch some sun. For me, that includes a mid-afternoon trip to Starbucks with the moleskine and pen in-hand. Or a walk by the pier just to enjoy the breeze and the sound of the waves. No phone, no checking email. Just relaxing for a few.

    Anyway, great list of tips Danny!

    • Great quote Ricardo. I am not a writer by any stretch of the imagination, so you can imagine how much tougher it gets. For me it’s a means to an end in order to build my number of viewers.

      • John: You don’t have to be a poet. And it’s totally ok to write like you speak. Often times, I’ve found that that kind of writing style connects with readers the most. It’s conversational. it’s natural. It’s human. And readers can relate to that. They relate to that best.

        Often times I’ve found that’s it’s more a fear of putting ourselves out there that hinders us. So here’s what you do:

        1.) Make a list of everything you know about your subject,
        2.) Make a list of everything you don’t know and/or want to learn,
        3.) Make a list of some of your favorite hobbies and passions – find ways to relate this to your subject (if you’re writing a business blog). This works well for example if you’re a real estate agent/blogger – what are you passionate about in your community?

        Then, grab a beer, pen and paper or your laptop and start typing away. Act as if you’re having a casual conversation with a friend about anything from #1 and/or #3. Write what you know. Get conversational. Then just edit, re-write, edit again, and publish.

        But don’t get caught up editing and rewriting or you’ll waste too much time and never get around to publishing anything. At the end of the day, remember, practice makes perfect. It doesn’t have to be perfect the first time around. And it probably never will be. And that’s ok.

        Just write. Then write some more.

        Hope that helps :-)

  21. Thanks for this article. It’s really enlightening. I’ve found a lot of success in borrowing some name recognition on my own blog.

  22. Hey Danny, Excellent post with lots of helpful tips that we can all use!

    I find my best content ideas come to me just as I am relaxing and falling asleep. I also tend to get some ideas from conversations at networking meetings.

    Thanks!!
    Darlene

  23. Many new bloggers struggle finding different content ideas to write about. This is the reason why most bloggers only last for a couple of months then give up

  24. Thanks for the ideas! Hopefully I’ll get to use a couple in the near future!

  25. Reading other people blogs and reading books are my way to generate great content. You will not run out of ideas if you keep reading blogs and books. There are a lot of ideas since internet changes everything. I use Google readers to track all my blogs and buy at least 6 books per month that related to my content.

    A good blogger is a good reader as well. I made this mistake before and that’s why I always ran out of content but it is not my problem anymore.

    Plan your content at least one year ahead, it helps too. :)

    • Very well said, Kent. Some people think that they can hole themselves up in a room and just write all day, but that doesn’ t make sense to me. I think the more you’re out there, and the more you engage with people, the more ideas are going to come your way.

  26. Danny!
    Have you turned to not sleeping?
    This is incredible stuff my friend. Love it. Printed it. Plan to use it! Thank you.

  27. Wow… who could run out of ideas after reading this post? :) Great ways to generate content for your website – thanks for including some examples from Kikolani too. Guest posting DEFINITELY helps busy bloggers get great content while only sacrificing a little editing time.

  28. Hey,
    I have been reading this blog for a while and let me tell you this is a great article… love this article a lot.T

  29. Nice ideas Danny…How about, list ideas on how to get ideas for blog posts..Does that work?

    Just kidding, these are definitely great and will be pulled out of the magic drawer when needed.

    Question: When you write posts, do you just keep them as Drafts in WordPress or do you write a bunch of Word docs and keep them in a folder? What seems to be the best workflow for you guys?

    • Actually, that’s a pretty good strategy! :D

      For me, I write in Word, and once it’s all done, I’ll copy it into WordPress and schedule it for whatever date I want – but the actual writing happens in Word.

      How about you? Does anyone else want to weigh in?

  30. This is one of my favorite techniques, a classic post from Copyblogger: The Cosmo Headline Technique for Blogging Inspiration.

  31. Just what I needed on a day when I’ve been staring at my screen waiting for something to just magically appear.

    Thanks

  32. This is the best motivational post for me. I can to this post after reading about copyblogger in problgger. Here is that post : http://www.problogger.net/archives/2011/05/11/7-habits-of-professional-bloggers/ I am now totally charged and got motivation to do more. Thanks for this awesome post !

  33. Thanks for these great ideas, Danny. In reading through your post and the comments one idea I didn’t see mentioned is jumping on the news and writing a blog relating it to your brand. I did recently in this post, “Twitter Post Breaks News of Osama’s Demise.” It generated one of my highest traffic days. Mainstream media from The New York Times to The Wall Street Journal have credited a Twitter post with starting the story that flew around the web. While people were searching for that story they might have bumped into mine. Others I’ve written include, believe it or not, a post about Michael Jackson’s death. What, might you ask does this have to do with social media (my beat)? Well, he just happened to be one of the greatest communicators of all time. So you might add breaking news to your terrific list of thought-starters.

  34. Thanks for the post.

    I definately like the idea of asking your readers what they would like you to write about, as it’ll give you another perspective and also you could be missing something that your readers are wanting you to post about.

  35. Danny,

    Man – I don’t know how you keep putting out all of this great work…but whatever you do and however you do it, keep doing it!

    I loved all of the ideas here. If we can just keep this within our memory we should never run out of stuff. And considering I have a printer – I’ll have these for the long haul.

    You made an excellent point in #22 – two write when we HAVE ideas. That’s key! Too often do I say to myself that I’ll remember some [good] idea that comes to mind, only to forget about it 2 minutes later. I have to get in a better habit of taking notes on the ideas that pop into my head.

    Great work as usual Danny.

    PEACE

    • Thanks, Jk!

      The trick I’ve learned to use is post-its; whenever I have an idea, I scribble it down on a post-it, and you just can’t go into very much detail on something that small. But I remember for later.

      Seriously, a small block of post-its in your pocket. It works. :D

      • May I add sending yourself a quick email and then putting it in a folder entitled “blog post ideas.” You’re always on email so it’s not likely you’ll lose the idea (or a post-it note – hey, whatever works).

  36. My golden goose right now is interviews. I remember a copyblogger post on 20 ways to get ideas for blog posts, I did a mash up and it’s a good post. Thanks.

    Also, I have a reality show video series where I chronicle which I think will definitely pick up. Good concept.

  37. Oh! Great thanks for this post, it’s so in time. You systemized so many methods. Sometimes I write post which connect currents news with daily life, what we can learn from it or smth else (I resume post with conclusion I need). Especially it works good when write about breaking news. People don’t stay indifferent if see how it influences and appears in their lifes.

  38. Thanks Danny. The timing of this post could not have been better for me. I’ve shared it on my blog – Launch Clinic – http://launchclinic.com/2011/05/what-are-you-waiting-for-write-that-blog-post.html. I’m inspired!

  39. Danny, this is such great list of ideas, and it comes at a very good time for me. I think my first idea to try out will be an interview with a well known figure in my industry.

    Thanks for all the great tips.

  40. Great Ideas. I have about 20 or so headlines unpublished in various states of incomplete. I flesh out these articles as I have time or fall back on them when I have nothing else to write. I appreciate all of your other suggestions that will be very handy for that inevitable writers block.

    • I do that, too. I’ll start with a headline, then fill in some subheads, then start to fill in the body. The intro usually comes last, once I figure out what I’m really writing about. :)

  41. Danny..great ideas here. Lately the well started running dry for me. So I wrote my last post about where we find inspiration. Turns out our best ideas often come from the stories of other people. People who’ve overcome struggles or people like you who inspire us to take our blog posts to another level. Thanks.

  42. HI,
    love the list, it’s inspiring and informative. Will use it and broadcast to others. Thank you for your sharing.

  43. Danny,

    Love your list of ideas to get topics to write about.

    There are about 3 that I want to give a try soon.

    I like the first idea – Curate content. This one really sounds fun to do and I think a lot of ideas for other posts would come from doing it.

    I also like the idea of doing an interview. That would be fun and also really informative to readers.

    The last one that I want to give a try is to write a review. I have been thinking about writing a review but I like the added twist of contacting the company and asking them to donate a product for a raffle.

    Thanks again for all of the great ideas. I will definitely put many of them to use.

    Dee Ann Rice

  44. I get quite a bit of inspiration from the blogs that I read and comment on. There are so many topics flying about on the Internet so there should never really be a shortage of content to write on.

  45. I was getting a little worried until I saw the “Write When you DO Have Ideas” section! This has proven to be the most beneficial thing for me and what I teach my clients at http://www.bittybiz.com. I keep a journal with me that I jot ideas into whenever they come to me and a folder of longer articles, most half-written, on my laptop. That way I have a lot of fodder when I’m feeling uninspired. Just reading through my past ideas helps get the creativity flowing!

  46. Danny,
    Just the ‘kick in the backside’ I needed!
    Thanks

  47. This is a great post that should make all of us writers slap ourselves and start clicking the keys. Thanks for the KITB!
    Couple of my habits:
    1.Keep a folder bookmark of blog “ideas”- posts, articles, photos, etc. Revisit from time to time to see if inspiration comes or you see a thread of an idea forming.
    2.Scour the newspaper. Watch the news. Clip and/or jot notes.
    3. Write down comments from clients/colleagues that you can spin into a topic.
    4. Watch your dog. You never know…

    • The newspaper is a great idea, Cathy, and I hadn’t thought of it (goes to show you how often I watch the news… :P). Thanks for sharing it!

      I don’t have a dog, but maybe I should get one? ;)

  48. Tea silvestre :

    Posts like these are why I read you every day. Thanks for being awesome…i’ll be sharing with my Facebook and twitter friends.

  49. Well, as so many have (rightly) said already, mate, awesome list of tips and resources here. And the best bit? They’re ALL solid – no fluff with a number in the title just to grab some link-bait.

    Nicely done, sir. :)

  50. I absolutely loved this and think it is one of the best ones out there on creating content ideas. I was even comparing it with another one I saved and the two are very different but yours was even better. THANKS for your brilliance!

  51. Well I’ve got no excuses for neglecting my blog writing now.

    Case studies and reviews was a great tip. It reminded me of a rant I need to write about Best Buys customer service and why I won’t shop there.

    Thanks!

  52. Danny, this is just…so good. I think this is the best post I’ve read on the subject. I’m not kidding.

    I LOVE the “create content without creating content” part. Explaining success and failure is great fodder, but often overlooked.

    But my favorite is the “get inspired” part. People cannot be good writers by staying glued to the Internet 40 hours per week. The real stuff happens offline in a zen.

    I ate up Danny Brown’s post a few weeks ago but I’ve never read Brian’s and Jon’s. Those are so awesome.

    Thank you so much.

  53. Excellent post, thanks. I come from a video background, and one of the big things they teach you when writing a screenplay is never stop at your last thought. Save one final thought for when you start back the next day. I use a similar strategy in writing our blog posts. I pour out my ideas until the well is almost dry, and leave one final thought to start back the next day. It’s an excellent way to keep the creative ideas flowing and never running dry.

    Thanks again for the excellent post.

  54. Thanks for this post. I completely agree with writing “when you do have ideas.” You will find something that takes what it feels like an eternity to write (when not inspired) comes so easily when you have that idea fresh in your mind.

  55. Wow, what a great article. This will help me a lot to create content for my blog. This is easily one of the most useful articles I’ve read this year. In other words the content of the article is all positive and it is a great start of people would get a chance to read this.

    Great work!

    Juan

  56. Another way to come up with content ideas is to just go read your favorite blogs and instead of writing a comment, start writing a blog post in reaction to the post you just read. Did you agree with the ideas in the article? Is there anything you would like to add? Does the article raise other questions? Give your opinion or an alternative view. We all have opinions on the things we read, so why not share and use them for a blog post?

    Thanks again Danny for the inspiration!
    Wim

  57. I love #4 – I do interviews on my blog all the time. It’s a great way to get good-quality content without having to spend a lot of time writing.

  58. Carol Denning :

    I would love a little help in preparing to conduct interviews — my topic is active seniors – and my first interview will be with my primary care physician, who said he sees the whole spectrum regularly – young 90-yr. olds and old 50-yr. olds —– and seemed delighted to be asked. I have a domain name – — but not yet a website. I love to write and have a million ideas, scribbled notes all over the place — and am excited about the possibilities. I am a 72-yr. old woman with 3 careers going at the same time – but need to strike (write) when the muse speaks rather than always putting it on hold. Any thoughts would be much-appreciated!

    • Sure, Carol. If you’re interviewing someone, then you’re not the one who’s doing most of the talking – think about what questions you could ask that would allow the interview subject to really shine, and share their knowledge in areas where they are most competent and passionate. Does that help?

  59. Awesome post! This will be my ‘go-to’ list when I’m fresh out of ideas for content from now on..

    Another one you could include in the ‘Get Inspired’ section is read the news. I often find inspiration for a new post when I read a few news articles. I generally write on SM and just yesterday two separate articles covering different stories but a related topic inspired a post comparing the two.

    Cheers
    Dan

  60. Man, Are you serious?

    It’s like almost every article post that I read here is helping me understand at least something very useful and important for my own blogging…

    Very good ideas you gave here for creating content ideas, and I already have been using most of them, but now I know a little more, thanks to you :)

    Keep up the good work!

  61. Lot’s of good tips in this post. Thanks! I really liked the part about borrowing name recognition. It just gave me some ideas for future posts!

  62. I’m hooked (lined and sinkered)! I devoured this post, and it went down great with coffee :) The “ask friends for ideas” is especially helpful when you write articles for budget backpacking travelers. Friends who are living around the world have proven to be great sources of insider info.

    Thanks Danny! Awesome post!

  63. Archan Mehta :

    Danny:

    Thank you for contributing this post. I appreciate your attention to details. The listing method works for me.

    Personally, I find myself running out of ideas a lot of times. I am not the brightest bulb shining in the closet.

    It does not help that I also tend to be a bit absent-minded. Forgetfulness is part and parcel of my nature.

    What helps is to keep a small note-pad and a pen and jot things down. Otherwise, I could never get anything done. It works for me to have a constant and ongoing to-do list. Helps me to keep the focus on completing tasks.

    For example, one of those tasks is to become a voracious reader: newspapers, magazines, journals, periodicals, texts and books are all fair game. Listening to the news on radio or TV is also great. And then a little music helps to soothe the frayed nerves. Taken together, this helps to jog the memory and keep the little, grey cells active.

    These seemingly unrelated activities can lead to profound and new insights. I have had eureka moments when walking in the woods. I would also recommend swimming for those in search of new ideas. When the body relaxes, you enter another zone. The subconscious minds starts to stimulae our conscious mind and ideas flow more freely. You start to make connections and come up with a totally new perspective.

    Sort of like synergy: 1+1=3!

    I have also been inspired through meditation. During my sessions, I have found that the subconscious takes over. A relaxed mind is more open to suggestions and new ways of looking at things; new angles on issues or events. Some of my best ideas I have “received” during such sessions. Sort of like a revelation or a miracle. If I feel stuck, I also tend to sing in shower with my awful voice. Some of my best ideas are showerful ideas. Hope this helps. Cheers.

    • Hey Archan, thank you for your detailed comment – I do the same thing with the notepad and the pen, I carry them around with me all the time. It prevents me from having to remember everything all the time – I couldn’t get anything done either if I kept trying to keep all the little details in my head… :)

      I think you’ve made a very important point here – the more we read, learn, and explore, the more material is coming into our awareness, the more ideas will be there to jog our memory and keep our grey matter active (memory and thought are both associative, after all)!

      I don’t meditate as much as I’d like, but I get a lot of ideas when I’m out for a run. I get ideas in the shower, too – I’ve looked for a shower fixture that might allow me to take notes, but haven’t found a good solution yet… ;)

  64. Sorry, what I meant was the “past indefinite form” , not ” past definite” as was wrongly typed.

  65. Hello. Kudos to you.

    I love this article so much that I placed it in my TA-DA LIST under my list of copyblogging/copywriting sources.
    My favorite tactic is: Borrow some name recognition tactic. It’s a great strategy! As a reader, seeing how this brand/name recognition helped me.

    I have different blogs and this article really helped me (and will continually to help me) to angle the titles and content in my future blog entries.

    I’m relatively new in blogging and this article will come in handy whether it’s for my religious blog, theatre blog, events blog, personal blog, and technical writing/product blog. What you wrote here will be pretty useful for me when I write my entries for each of them. It will help eliminate, or at least minimize, my writer’s block episodes. Thank you for coming up with such a wonderful list.

    • Thank you, Precious – I’m honored and flattered to hear that. Good luck with your blogging efforts!

      • You’re welcome, Danny. I can’t wait to read more of your other works. Not only are you very good in researching and unlearning what you know, you are also great in explaining things. Can’t wait to try out all your ideas here. Thanks again for this very practical approach to blogging.

  66. Very informative post and I think quiet a lot of bloggers are trying to do like that especially when you don’t have the knowledge or simply because you have no new ideas anymore. While reading the other comments, I feel better because sometimes I get a bit panicked because I have no ideas and I feel bad about paraphrasing someone else’s content.

  67. Wow this is certainly a very useful pointer! The next time I’m stuck for words, I know where to come for inspiration. Consider yourself bookmarked! :) Great resource.

  68. There’s lots of ideas here I haven’t tried; thanks for them all.
    My favourite things to do, personally, are to keep a notebook (actually, several) in which I jot down ideas.
    My second favourite idea is to keep some very good books about my blog’s subject (writing), both text-book types and inspirational, and dip into them often.
    I’ve also found it very important to have a file of blogs that are started, and at least have enough framework to develop reasonably easily.
    Thanks again,
    Janice

  69. Danny:

    Am I being marginalized for my comment on your following sentence ?

    “It’s not a matter of talent — you’ve written great stuff in the past.”

    It should have been —

    “It’s not a matter of talent — you wrote great stuff in the past.”

    Moreover, the word ‘stuff’ is now on the list of hedges like ‘aspect’, ‘feature’.

    • Of course not, Dr. Naquib. I think that from a grammatical standpoint you’re right, and thank you for pointing that out.

      The thing is, I don’t think writing is primarily about grammar; it’s about communication. While technically grammatically incorrect, that line follows normal speech patterns; there’s a “pivot” in mid-sentence, which is something people often do in conversation.

      I think it got the message across, and I didn’t get the impression that people had trouble following it. That being said, of course, if you can communicate effectively while following the rules, then so much the better. :)

      • Danny:

        I cannot but differ with you when you say–“I don’t think writing is primarily about grammar; it’s about communication.”

        You are not writing a play or drama, and the relevant sentence is not a dialogue within a play. The blog you very effectively produced is a public document meant for public consumption. Moreover, grammatical accuracy is a prime need when we claim to be authentic writers, if we do not not, then there is no problem.

        Thanks for the response, and for not deleting my words.

  70. This is such a great article, Danny, which can resonate with bloggers both new and experienced.

    I especially like your advice on “reaching out for inspiration.” Even the most experienced content creators need to realize its okay to ask for help. Even Batman needed Robin at times!

    Also, your idea about taking two dissimilar concepts and forcing them together is so important as well. We can see this by a recent copyblogger post by Mark McGuinness which relates marketing strategies to the biography of Buddha.

    http://www.copyblogger.com/buddha-marketing/

    My inspiration creation advice is two words. “Pay attention.” A new article idea can be found in almost every moment of our life. It is up to the author to pay attention and analyze their experiences.

    Great work Danny.

    • That’s really great advice, David. The truth is that most of the strategies that I recommended are just crutches to help people do exactly that – learn to pay better attention.

      I just didn’t think Copyblogger would run it if that was all I said… ;)

      Seriously, David, that’s great advice – thank you for stopping by!

      • No problem Danny!

        And no worries, I think this was a better presentation of information than just “pay attention.” : )

        Look forward to hopefully reading more of your content in the future!

        • Well, I’ll do my best to keep up to Copyblogger’s standards, but if you really want more, there’s a steady stream of it at FirepoleMarketing.com. :)

          • Wonderful! I’ll check it out. I am sure as long as you keep up the informative articles, the postings will be inevitable.

            And for some great direct response marketing advice and tools check out directresponse.net as well!

  71. As always, great post. But, I’m a bit befuddled. By choosing to write a post based on any one of these ideas, am I not just imposing my opinions and thoughts? Is anyone really interested in what I think? I want to start a blog because I love reading and writing, but I want my content to matter and make a difference to someone. Am I being too hard on myself?

    Thanks for your input!

    • That’s a great question, Caroline!

      None of these ideas tell you what the message should be; you still have to decide what you see as valuable, and communicate that value. All that these ideas do is create a structure to help you get going when you’re not sure where to start.

      Ultimately, what will determine whether your content matters and makes a difference is whether your *ideas* matter and make a difference – and I believe that if you find the right audience, you will be able to do that. All these structures do is make it a little easier. :)

      Does that answer the question?

  72. What fantastic advice, I need something like this. I am not a great writer, but I have plans and projects ideas I have worked on for years. I’ve been given a lot of help and encouragement in the past, but there is a problem. I am dyslexic and struggle with words. I fear writing down what’s on my mind, I can’t state facts from research well. On the other hand, talking through the plans works better for me. I will use the strategy you have outlined, read through your comments again and give it a try. Thanks gain.

  73. Good article! I’ve found here a lot of interesting ideas. In fact, I have 3 sections in my media: News, Science Articles and Blog.

    In the section of the blog I write my opinion. I wrote a lot of opinion articles on politics in local newspapers, so when I have something interesting to say subjectively I post it into the “blog” category.

    Moreover, the news section is one way to have something to write. I read news into important newspapers and i write my own article. With my words, of course.

    Then, science articles section is where I post education resources. I love writing articles describing all things about the universe. There are a lot of books with interesting information, which one can use.

    Finally I have idols and I want to write about them. Still I didn’t but I’m in the way… For example, Punset, Goleman, Hawking, etc.

    I liked your idea about writing comments on products or services. It’d be interesting in my niche.

    • Gerard, thank you for your detailed comment, and for sharing your ideas with us. It sounds like you’ve got a really vibrant and active site!

      Thank you very much for stopping by, and I wish you lots of luck and success!

  74. A lot of fresh ideas for an upcoming content writer like me. I’m so fond of your posts and that’s why I don’t delay in reading them. You have taught me how to product great content when I’m lost with ideas. Most especially, studying other successful bloggers in my niche and writing about their best posts is what I love so much. Thanks and continue in your good works.

  75. These are excellent tips for creating content.

    You can also create a commentary type/reaction type content to a very popular/controversial post. A famous Indian
    director calls this the ‘Reactions To Reactions’ where he selects a few popular comments/questions from his blog and creates content on the comments.

    The ideas of using “movies” and “celebrities” are spot on. I use them quite often in my articles or when I try to explain a complex concept. It works like a charm.

    The key is to not only come up with great content but also to come up with engaging and entertaining content. In the words of Travis Sago, the Bum Marketer, people are looking for “infotainment”- information + entertainment.

  76. Garth Braithwaite :

    Great pointers and content. Being new to blogging I really am enjoying your insight into this world. I am literally going through all of your work building a best practise foundation on which to launch my blog..Thanks for your generosity.

  77. being clueless is one thing and having a writer’s block is another. But I see the pattern, it makes writing much easy when you aren’t sure what you want to write about. What you can do is make a list of things you want to write and keep updating it on any given day when you are out of ideas you can refer to it and you have a treasure of ideas waiting for you to write about. I still have a list of 30 or more unwritten ideas waiting for a clueless day to come by :)

  78. I am still amazed why did i not read this article on this website. Thanks a tons for this great article. It will always inspire me to grow my blog.

  79. Awesome list Danny. Excellent tips. You have not left a single point untouched :) Another helpful tip that sometimes comes handy to me is to research infographics. If you can gather a few quality infographics, you might have some great ideas to write posts and to put your own opinion there.