Why is that sometimes you’re bursting with more amazing ideas than you can even contain, and at others you can’t come up with an original thought to save your life?
The secret to having a constant arsenal of fresh ideas is to make your life your art. Instead of viewing content creation as a separate, contained activity, look at it as a 24/7 effort. This effort, incidentally, will make your job more effortless. If this advice seems a bit abstract, I’ve listed 15 ways that I keep the creative juices flowing in my own life.
The truth is you won’t always be brimming with inspiration, but by adopting these regular habits and constantly keeping tabs on your thoughts, you’ll never be faced with absolutely zero idea what to write about.
1. A trip to the bookstore.
Just 15 minutes flipping through books and magazines in your area of interest will breed new discoveries. Bring a notebook and leave with at least 25 leads to explore. Browsing through books in areas outside your normal interest is also a great way to make new connections and stimulate curiosity. Keep in mind, you can downsize and browse your own personal library as well–it’s bound to contain hidden gems.
2. Repurpose your content.
Get creative with different formats for the content you’ve already created. Play the opposite game with your work: If you have a listicle, pick an item from the list to explore further in an in-depth post. If you have a long-form article, make it short and sweet. Create infographics, e-mail series, SlideShares, Ebooks, or simply update old work and make it new (art is born in the re-write, right?). Work smarter, not harder, by reviving content you’ve already put work into.
3. Tap into social media.
Search trending Twitter hashtags and see what people are talking about. Browse relevant forums, LinkedIn and Facebook groups, Reddit feeds, Quora categories…you get the point! Social media gives you the power to know what people really care about.
4. Take notes religiously.
You know all those random nuggets that float through your head all day? Don’t let them drift away any longer! Become an obsessive note-taker, or all those seeds for content will never sprout. Whether you’re an old fashioned pen-and-paper person or prefer tools like Google Keep, record it all. Sometimes you’ll have epiphanies, and sometimes you’ll realize it’s nothing–either way, you’ll always have food for thought.
5. Doodle aimlessly.
Doodle, draw, or grab a coloring book. It’s like meditating, but without the pressure. Informal scribbling has proven cognitive benefits and sparks creativity no matter how unartistic you are.
6. Answer a question that’s always plagued you.
Time for a random example: Every single time I used to pass a graveyard since I was a little girl, I’d wonder, “What’s going to happen when there’s no more land?” Exploring this question led to a story in Earth Island Journal about the rise of the green burial industry. Looking into those questions you just can’t let go is a surefire way to write about something you find interesting.
7. Take a shower!
Hands down, I have my absolute best ideas in the shower. If nothing occurs to you, at least you’ll be re-energized and smell good.
8. Crowdsource from the comments section.
The comments section of any article or YouTube video is a goldmine of ideas. People post (and get extremely in-depth, as you know) about their opposing viewpoints. They ask questions and outright request future content. Why not be the one to step up and give the people what they want?
9. Look at other people’s stuff.
Analyze other people’s articles that are doing really well. Not to say that you should copy or imitate their style, but do you see a theme or something you can borrow to apply to yours? What kind of content is your audience eating up? Another trick is to look through quotes on sites like Quotery or BrainyQuotes–they’re great fodder for inspiration.
10. Live an adventurous life.
Being stuck in a rut in your daily life also impacts your ability to think creatively, whereas doing things differently gives you a new perspective. Take simple steps outside your comfort zone; write at a different time of day in a new coffee shop, talk to strangers, take a new class, get off at a random subway stop. Enjoying new experiences like travelling, learning, and meeting people translates to fresh ideas and more material.
11. Engage with a different generation.
Not saying I steal article ideas from my Nana, but she does clue me into so many things I would never otherwise be aware of. Kids are equally great sources of interesting ideas, and looking at things from their perspective will lift your spirits if nothing else. Conversations with different generations are especially good for uncovering stories about culture and human behavior that wouldn’t have occurred to you just speaking to peers with similar ways of thinking.
12. Work it out.
Get moving! I don’t mean hopping on a treadmill either–do something active that you find fun, whether it’s a hike, dance class, or yoga. The blood flow and endorphins will boost your mood and mind-power, plus combat the effects of slouching over a computer all the time.
13. Look through old photos and videos.
Taking a trip down memory lane makes you ruminate on your own stories…and readers always want to know more about your personal experiences. Give them a look into your own life to connect on a different level, as well as allow others to learn from your own trials and triumphs.
14. Keep a dream journal.
If you’re hitting a brick wall trying to think of a blog post, take a nap. You’ll be A) refreshed, and B) inspired by some potentially crazy dreams. Get in the habit of keeping a dream journal. Sometimes our subconscious provides breakthrough ideas–just ask Einstein and Edison!
15. Ask your audience.
This idea is almost too easy. It’s a win-win: you don’t have to come up with the ideas, and you’re bound to create something your readers care about.
Have you ever heard the quote, “There is no such thing as an original idea?” Well, there’s a ring of truth to that, but the point is that it’s a positive thing. The world is brimming with inspiration and places to look for material; creativity is a collaborative effort. Besides, no one besides you can truly see from your unique vantage point. All of the people, places, secrets, memories, and sights you’ve experienced give you the ability to spin a story that no one else quite can.
Now, I’m going to follow tip #8 and ask you: What are your favorite techniques for thinking of blog posts? Do you have any secret tips that help you in your content creation process?
Hannah Chenoweth is a conference producer and freelance writer based in Hoboken, NJ. She is a passionate storyteller who also also enjoys reading, yoga, travel, roadtrips, meeting new people, and adventures. Feel free to check out her past work at https://www.clippings.me/hannahchenoweth/ or say hi on Twitter @hannahchen2!