I’ve learnt a lot from my time as a fiction writer. While I believe writing is at least partially something you are born to, it is also a learned skill, and it is possible to improve massively with practise. Non-writers ask how writers come up with ideas, and the truth is that ideas are the easy part of writing fiction, once you get into the habbit of finding them. There’s a knack to it, and it requires shifting your focus so that you regard the world as fodder for your writing. The same is true of blogging.
Making the decision to become a regular blogger is a bit like stepping out over the invisible bridge in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. You are putting your faith in having something to blog about, in an interesting and readable way, on a regular basis, for as long as your blog stays up.
One way or another, that’s a terrifying idea, but don’t panic just yet, as coming up with ideas is a skill that gets better with practice. The more you write, the more you learn to look at every aspect of your life for ideas, and the more ideas you have.
If you’re really having trouble coming up with ideas, perhaps you could consider opening up the scope of your blog. A wider variety of posts keeps things fresh both for you and your readers. Think about where you want the blog to be in several month’s time. Is there anything specific you would like to start blogging about?
In the meantime, here are some ideas you could try:
1) If you don’t have a blog planner get one. You need somewhere where you can keep all your notes, keep track of stats, the financial aspect and crucially ideas for future posts. Have a diary section and you can plan ahead and come up with posts to coincide with upcoming events, such as World Breastfeeding Week or World Book Day.
2) Next time you’re writing a particularly in-depth comment, ask yourself whether it could be the start of a blog post. Same for reading posts from other blogs; do you agree with their point of view, or disagree? Do you have a different take on it? Do you think they’ve missed something?
3) Inspiration often comes out of nowhere, a sudden spark of an idea that also disappears in a flash. Be open to those ideas and don’t lose them. Jot them down no matter how incoherent the idea might be. It might be a single sentence or a scrap of a thought, but that doesn’t matter — write it down anyway and let it simmer for a bit. Chances are your subconcious will work on it and you’ll come up with a way to make it work as a blog post.
4) Start a regular series, something which makes it easy for you to come up with ideas. Maybe it could be a weekly round up of the best recipes you’ve seen around the internet recently. For me, it’s reviews of my many cookbooks. I’m also thinking of starting a Sunday lunch series, either recipes of my own or links to recipes around the internet.
5) Start deliberate brainstorming sessions. Not all ideas are the result of divine inspiration, and it’s well worth learning the art of generating them. Aim to generate 1-3 a day and you will soon build up a backlog of useful and interesting ideas to tap into for those days when the well of inspiration runs dry. If some of the ideas seem a little shallow that’s okay; perhaps it can be combined with another idea or if you let the idea percolate for a bit you may figure out a way of fleshing it out.
6) Use current events for inspiration. Is there anything controversial going on in the news, or any recently published scientific or sociological studies that could provide inspiration for a post? Read as much and as widely as you can, and try to consider everything through the lens of your blog: what could I write about this?
7) Extra-long post? Consider breaking it up into two or more shorter posts. And while we’re on the subject of posts you’ve already written, are any of your older posts due for an update? Have you changed your opinion about anything?
8) Use ‘story-starters’ as inspiration. In her post about writing brilliant blog post headlines, Natasha from Natasha in Oz drew my attention to an incredibly useful infographic featuring 75 post title templates. I won’t reproduce it here, but please go and check it out. Think laterally; slot in words, mix and match. Try and come up with some potential ideas that you could use.
9) Use photos as inspiration. Check out free photo sites like the fantastic Unsplash.com, which provides stunning images for you to use pretty much however you want. How useful this is may depend on what you want your blog about, but the best bit is that you will have a perfect, high quality image to use with your post (depending on the terms and conditions of the site you use).
10) Linkys. There are innumerable linkys available for you to join, and many have particular themes. Picking out a selection of themed linkys will give you a structure to your blogging week and since you’ll see a lot of the same faces returning you’ll start to build connections with other blogs. Be sure that you join in with the visits and commenting too. The best way to learn about being a good blogger is to read other blogs. Be careful though; linkys can be addictive and a massive time suck.
If you have any further suggestions, please share them in the comments. How do you come up with your ideas?