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16 Tips for Blog Idea Brainstorming

Lorelle's 2 Year Anniversary!By John Pozadzides (“Who is that eh?!?” … exactly.)

Idea Light BulbIn the last week at least 5 people have asked me, “how do you come up with so many interesting articles?” To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have chosen to write about this topic if Lorelle hadn’t asked me to (anything for you Lorelle!) because I’m afraid it will bore you people to tears! But I’ll do my best to make it somewhat entertaining, just keep plenty of Kleenex nearby in case I fail…

Before we get into the meat of this question (mmmm… meat), its worth noting that I enjoy writing. On top of that, I wrote a lot in my previous life as a corporate executive, so I’ve had plenty of practice (translation – I raise BS to an art level). As a result of my experience, I recommend that all Bloggers examine two fundamental questions:

  • Are you really a good writer? If you know you are weak in this area then you need to get some help. (Tip #1) Take a writing course at a community college, or at the very least have someone proofread your work before posting it. A poor writer can make the most interesting topic boring, while a great writer can turn the most mundane task into a true joy to read. (Example: Dr. Seuss on morning breakfast.)
  • Do you enjoy writing? Trying to be a Blogger without a fundamental love of writing would be like trying to be a dentist who finds halitosis repugnant. These things just don’t go together, and eventually you are going to quit.

And while we’re just getting started, I must say that I worry that the reason people are asking this question is really because they are searching for a “quick and dirty” source that will make this whole thing easy. I’m sorry to disappoint, but I spend as much time doing this as most people do at their full time job. So if there is an “easy way”, I don’t know it.

But I digress…

Philosophy and Methodology

Back to the topic at hand,

“Where do you come up with the ideas for all of these articles?”

Let’s see, in the last year I’ve written nearly 750 articles, so I suppose that I’m “prolific” in terms of writing frequency. Of course, this is in line with one of my most important personal goals – consistency. (I also appreciate regularity, but that is a different topic.) My readers expect me to deliver at least one new article each day, and no matter what – I do so.

It’s also interesting to note that I broke all the rules by having a blog that doesn’t concentrate on just one specific topic. Frankly, I’d get bored with that. Plus I didn’t start my blog to make money, I did it to share information with family and friends as well as document things for myself to remember and reference later. I’m guessing that these underlying characteristics have played a significant role in the incredible growth it’s seen. (Tip #2) And frankly I’d recommend that everyone else expand their focus a bit if you’re feeling too boxed in.

Many of the articles on One Man’s Blog are completely original content. I’m not sure what the percentage is, but I’d estimate at least 30%. However, I couldn’t fill up my schedule with original content alone because I wouldn’t have time to write that much. (Many of my original articles take a full day or more to write). So in between original content I fill in with interesting things I find elsewhere, or current news events. But I don’t just re-post other people’s content. (Tip #3) I always try to do a little more research and add to the original story with additional information or at least my thoughts on the subject.

Now, if I were to sit down each day and try to come up with something off the top of my head I’d be hard pressed to do so. On average I spend about 3 hours on each article I post. That means that whether it is something original I’ve authored, or something interesting I found elsewhere, 3 hours is the minimum. Problem is, I don’t always have 3 hours to spare.

Draft Articles(Tip #4) For this reason I always have several mostly-complete articles sitting in draft mode. With 15-30 minutes notice I can put out a quality article. If I can’t put out something that I’d want to read, then I’ll put out nothing.

One other thing, I’m always blogging – even when I’m not at my computer. (Tip #5) When I’m not connected, I make notes. Lots of them. Reminders of URLs I heard mentioned on TV or by someone in passing. News that I heard on the radio while driving. Topics of interesting discussions I have with people which are intellectually stimulating. (Tip #6) There are note pads and pens in the armrests of my cars, and I try to keep a little pad of paper in my back pocket at all times. I guess I’m just like a reporter in this sense.

Magazine Articles(Tip #7) If I’m reading a magazine and come across an article that inspires me I rip the page out and keep it in a folder. I’ve got hundreds of pages, and if I need inspiration I can search through the folder until I come across something I feel like writing about.

Sources

I don’t go searching specifically for content on the Internet. I just read a LOT, and part of the reason for launching my blog in the first place was so that I’d have a place to catalog the most interesting stuff I find while surfing so that I can find it again. (Tip #8) A few of my favorite places to read include:

I don’t just read online, I also read more magazines than anyone you know. I love magazines. The writers are usually quite good, and they’ve been facing the same issue as Bloggers since the first editor asked “…great story, now what are you working on for next month”? We can also learn a lot from their writing style.

John P. Reading Magazines(Tip #9) Some of my favorite periodicals include (I read 2-3 times this many magazines each month):

(Tip #10) Inspiration for some of my articles come from products I use. For example, I try to review many of the things I buy, especially if they are expensive or risky purchases, because I know other people search for things like that before they make purchases. Of course, I don’t write the reviews to try to get traffic. I do it to try to help people get an accurate assessment of what the product is like from a real consumer. Google will bring them to a well written article (that’s another subject altogether).

Some examples of my product reviews include:

(Tip #11) I also read a lot of catalogs and sometimes write about things I haven’t purchased, but think would be cool to have. Heck, sometimes it’s just something a friend told me that he bought.

(Tip #12) In addition to product reviews, I try to put up as many travel related reviews as possible (have you read about Lorelle’s travels). Travel decisions are very hard to make, and if someone has a great vacation I’d like to read all about it – in detail – so that I could duplicate it. Unfortunately most people don’t document their vacations the way I typically do. Here are a few of my travel reviews as examples:

Summary

To wrap things up I’d just like to make a few quick points:

  • (Tip #13) If you will note, in all of the sample articles I’ve provided there is extensive information, hyperlinking and multimedia. Emulate this style and ensure that your articles are authoritative enought that people really don’t have to go anywhere else to learn more.
  • (Tip #14) There is no wrong topic to blog about. As long as you take your time to write an article that is complete and authoritative someone is going to appreciate it. In fact your readers will probably welcome hearing a few “off-topic” stories on occasion, and it makes you more “human” to them.
  • (Tip #15) Let’s not forget, the more quality content you have on your site, the more search engine traffic will come your way. As your content grows you will eventually reach a critical mass which will allow your site to sustain an actual community. Keep plugging away and you’ll get there!
  • (Tip #16) You must allow comments without requiring registration on your blog. Comments add content, and content brings search engines as well as readers. On my blog people enjoy reading the comments as much as the articles. But you must police the comments and delete useless ones.

As a final note, I’d like to point out that my family is unbelievably patient and tolerant of my dedication to the blog. They realize that I really love doing it, and allow me to stay up half the night, or sit in my office for hours on end. So, if you’re like me I hope you remember to let your loved ones know how much you appreciate their tolerance.
:-)


This article was guest written by John Pozadzides, who is incidentally happy to be Lorelle’s friend. :-) He is also a Monty Python fanatic who would like to apologize for the excessive number of tips, links, and silliness in this post. We wish everyone to know that he has been sacked, and that those who did the sacking have also been sacked – for good measure.

19 Comments

  1. Posted August 22, 2007 at 4:40 am | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing these tips. One question that occurred to me – for those times when I feel like I’m inhabiting the world of tip #5 – always blogging – in the sense of thinking, reading, looking, words forming in my head, ideas for new bits of writing forming and demanding to be written – does your brain ever feel over-loaded? Do you have tips for ‘switching off’ if and when that happens?

    Best wishes

    Joanna

  2. Posted August 22, 2007 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    @Joanna: I take vacations away from the computer. I also find that my blog works better for me when I don’t post as frequently. I try to keep it to 2-3 during the week and a an automated link post on the weekend. Having a schedule you can maintain without aversely affecting the rest of your life is very important.

    @John: I highly recommend throwing some books in with the magazine reading. Takes longer to read, but I find you can often get a lot more out of a book than a short article. You just have to commit yourself to closing the book and putting it away if you aren’t getting anything out of it.

  3. Posted August 22, 2007 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    Thanks for suggesting that people allow unregistered comments. I’ll skip those blogs after a while!

  4. Posted August 22, 2007 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    Joanna,

    I think I know where you are coming from with that question, as I believe I have experienced this phenomenon too. When you are feeling kind of stressed, overwhelmed or full of anxiety you do need to just “switch off”. For me this means taking a break by running an errand, or getting some lunch, or anything that allows me to alter my routine to focus on something entirely different.

    To take this concept one step further, I purposefully let ideas stew around in my brain for quite a while. For example, this article was written as a response to an e-mail that Lorelle sent about a week ago. I’ve been revising it in my head a little at a time all week. But I didn’t rush it. After I felt it had time to bake, I sat down and let it out. I then saved it as a draft, did my daily errands, then came back and refined it before I posted it.

    I actually learned this method from the great architect Frank Lloyd Wright. On a visit to Taliesin West the tour guide told a story of a patron who had paid a huge sum for Wright to design a home for him, then waited months and months without ever seeing a draft. The patron kept calling and calling and Wright kept saying “I’m still working on it” until one day the patron called to announce that he was at the airport and on his way to come see the draft so far.

    At that time Wright sat down and first put pen to paper on what would become known as Fallingwater. His most famous work. When one of his aprentices questioned him about how he came up with it in just one hour Wright’s reply was, “I’ve been working on it for months.”

    So to summarize, my tips would be:

    Take your time.
    Let your ideas stew.
    Alter your routine.

    I hope that helps a bit!

    John

    • Neil
      Posted January 26, 2011 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

      That reminds me of a story I heard once about Michelangelo. He was standing in front of a huge lump of stone, just looking at it, and someone came up to him and asked him what he was doing.
      He said, “Sculpting.”

      PS Thanks for the great writing advice!

  5. Posted August 22, 2007 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    Engtech,

    Yes, I agree. I also read books (with less frequency), but normally only non-fiction. Things like The Dialogs of Plato, or Freakonomics. I have taken the time to listen to unabridged versions of audio-books such as the Harry Potter series and The Millionaire Mind while driving, but I can’t say that I get much blogging inspiration from books.

    Having said that, books do change the way I think and often rattle underlying philosophies so I guess indirectly they stimulate ideas as well.

    Take care,

    John

  6. Posted August 22, 2007 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    John, thanks for getting back to me with such a full reply. Letting things stew has a lot to commend it – the results tend to be richer too.

    Joanna

    PS Oh and thanks for a great story!

  7. Posted August 22, 2007 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    I appreciated this post quite a bit, I am constantly reading how bloggers must pick a topic and stick to it, focus their vision to one area and never deviate from it. My blog encompasses the things I like–which are wide and varied–and I couldn’t have fun or write enough if I was regimented to one tpic only.

  8. Posted August 22, 2007 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    I’d like to say that this is an incredible article. I do have a question.

    What do you mean by “Are you really a good writer?”

    When I was a student, I don’t think I had ever received above a C on my papers. But, on my blog, I have many people telling me it is a “breath of fresh air” to read.

    If I had read your article before I had ever written my blog, I might have been too scared to attempt writing. Remember, Michael Jordan didn’t make his high school basketball team. Einstein did not do well in school.

    The only way you can become great is by practice.

  9. Posted August 22, 2007 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    John, I love the statement “I’m always blogging.” That is SO RIGHT. Everything is a blog idea. It’s overwhelming.

    After an incredible couple months on the road researching articles and historical information, I found myself overwhelmed with too much to write about. Ideas exploded out of my head and I couldn’t catch up. There is such a thing as being so overwhelmed you are “whelmed” and I was.

    I still haven’t written 75% of the ideas and concepts I came up with. And they haunt me. I want to, but finding time for all of them when work calls is tough.

    So it is hard for me to understand how challenging it is for others to come up with things to blog about when I don’t have enough time in the day to blog about all I want to blog about.

    Which brings us to the most important point you made: Do you enjoy writing?

    Brilliant!

  10. Posted August 26, 2007 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    The first 8 tips are really golden advices especially to us who do “personal blogs” (instead of a specialized one). I’m so glad I’ve come across this article. Thanks for summerizing it so well.

  11. Posted August 27, 2007 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    That is amazing! I can’t believe you have written 750 blogs in one year! I haven’t blogged much on my site, lately, so I will use this to fuel my creativity.

    I think someone posted an open brainstorm about blog subjects at Brainreactions.net. You and your readers should add to the list, so that other people have more fodder for the flame!

  12. Posted August 29, 2007 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    John- thanks so much. I am new to blogging and your words of encouragement and sound advice are extreemely helpful. I find that some of the things you mentioned: writing drafts to return to, carrying a notebook (and camera) are natural to me. Other suggestions, like tearing pages out of magazines are new and welcome. I feel lucky that my topic–food and cooking–touches on so many other parts of our life, so I probably couldn’t be a ‘single topic’ blogger even if I wanted to be. But i bet other people’s topic touches on just as many, if they do a little digging. Thanks again.

  13. Posted September 3, 2007 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    John – Great tips! I especially like your take on the “only one focus on a blog” idea. This has been an issue for me with writing, even before starting my site. Everyone always told me to focus on doing one subject. Problem is, I am a bit of a “universal man” (definition: the highest form of ADD known to affect humans). I also read lots of magazines, carry small notepad everywhere and have file folders, and bookmarks, numbering in the thousands. I write because I like the process. I have skipped writing about numerous things because I thought they did not fit tightly enough in my “area”. Thanks for cutting those like me some slack!

  14. Posted October 24, 2007 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    i need to do a brainstorm on my study area

  15. Posted September 29, 2008 at 1:53 am | Permalink

    thank you very much for such an informative article sir. i have just started my blog. i do enjoy it but i know i still have so much to learn. this article is such a great help. more power and thank you. Mabuhay!

  16. Neal
    Posted September 8, 2009 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for a clear and engaging piece of writing. I’ve been at odds with my novice effort at blogging for months, and 5,10,11, 16 were all little whacks to the head that whacked a little harder for my particular noggin.

    One friend tells me that once you have comments from people, you start to have validation in your ability to hold someone’s attention… and a readership that motivates you to keep posting.

  17. Emily
    Posted June 15, 2010 at 4:01 am | Permalink

    I have never been much of a writer
    English is my worst subject at school!
    I don’t care if nobody reads my blog, but I use it to express myself.
    I hope that my blog will inspire other people but most of all me/.

  18. roy
    Posted April 5, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    Take a writing course at a community college is a very good advise because it will improve your ability to write in good English but i suggest that for practice one should just start writing as much as he can.

    let yourself write and write make mistakes learn from them and you will become better and then you will have the best combination, “studding and practising”.

    you will become better faster.

    and don’t forget enjoy writing and write at the beginning about topics which are close to you and that you understand better on them.


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