We’ve all been there. We run out of content ideas. Some people call it writer’s block, and others shrug it off as a rut and move on.
Either way, you feel a cold trickle of sweat slide insidiously down your back as your mind runs in circles, looking for something, anything, to talk about. There is a lot of advice on overcoming this feeling, but what if I told you that you could prevent it before it even happened?
It’s true. You can.
I’ve done it before. Not to brag, but I haven’t had to search for a new idea in months. It’s been wonderful!
And I want to make sure that you don’t feel stuck again too. Most of these tips and tricks will help you with newsletters, blog posts, and social media content. You may even be able to apply some of them to your creative writing as well.
But before we get into how to come up with new ideas, we’ve got to evaluate our mental state. To specific, how we’re approaching our writing and content creation time.
Do You Need a Break or Are You Procrastinating?
I think we all have a moment when things stop working in our brains. No matter how hard we try, we can’t seem to grab ahold of something long enough to give it words, and what we do snag ends up being a worthless pile of garbage.
I was going through one such moment last month. I did what I always do in that situation, looking to someone else for inspiration and motivation.
As luck would have it, I came across this article by Copyblogger. It outlines some critical questions about when you actually need to take a break and when you’re procrastinating.
The truth of the matter is that sometimes we do need to schedule some downtime for ourselves. It’s actually beneficial to do so in specific scenarios, like switching between writing and editing.
As the author of the article pointed out:
Doing something other than what you’re supposed to be doing is part of being a writer. Just don’t miss your deadline.Stefanie Flaxman
The Lazy Test
How do you determine when you need that break or when you’re just procrastinating? Stephanie has a solution for you, and it’s called the lazy test.
Here’s how it works. You ask yourself:
Is your creative energy truly gone, or are you just feeling lazy?
You must be honest with yourself at this point. If you think you’re just lazy, get back to your keyboard, and start typing.
Within 20 minutes, you should know if you are getting into your project. However, if you don’t, it’s time to move on to take a break or start a new project. (Don’t forget those self or editor-imposed deadlines, though.)
Boredom Can Also Stop You from Creating New Content Ideas
The one thing this article didn’t address was that you could also be bored with the content that you’re writing. I know it happens to me and has probably happened to you as well at some point.
And the best advice I have for that is to shake things up in some way, as seen in Big Hero 6:
That can be by introducing a new element to the story you’re working on, by taking a walk, doing the dishes, etc. It doesn’t have to be fancy.
When I am having trouble getting through a blog post or coming up with social media post ideas, I usually know that it is time to either do something else for a while or switch to a new topic.
After two months of looking at the mystery genre and its subgenres, I needed a break. I was bored with talking about similar topics, so I wrote posts about the common literary devices in the genre, such as red herrings and Chekhov’s gun. This month, I’ve switched gears entirely and have been talking about marketing and social media.
Fool-Proof Ways to Come Up with New Content Ideas
Getting out of your head and into a new project is sometimes the best thing you can do when writing.
When you’re on the hunt for new material, it’s best if you have a note-taking instrument, like a notebook or your phone, to jot down content ideas wherever they strike. And write down anything that comes to mind, even if you think it’s a bad idea. Remember, you can always refine a bad idea into a good one with a little elbow grease.
With that in mind, feel free to try out some of these tried and true methods of drumming up new ideas:
This one should come as no surprise to any of you. Reading is part of your writing life. If you’re not writing or taking care of life stuff, you should be reading.
Not only should you be reading books, but also newsletters, blogs, and articles too. I have come up with so many different ideas for blog posts by reading blogs similar to mine. Or by checking out posts by K. M. Weiland, Writer’s Digest, Copyblogger, Christian Mahai’s Art of Blogging website, The Orangutang Librarian, etc.
Read whatever you can get your hands on. It doesn’t have to be fiction or about writing fiction. It can be whatever you like, but if you have a cool idea, jot it down. You never know if that idea will become the inspiration for a post, poem, or novel.
Keywords Everywhere for Content Ideas.
I’ve been using this free browser extension for about three weeks now, and it is so worth it for two reasons:
- It gives me the keywords people are using in the search engines whenever I look something up. It’ll tell me how much traffic is going to specific websites as well.
- It lists everything remotely related to your search. In other words, it lets me see what other people are searching for, and that gives me ideas to work with.
This is what it looks like in practice for the search term “how to write a novel”:
Keywords everywhere show all of the keyword data in the right-hand corner. That bottom section is where you can get the most ideas as it displays related searches.
You enter your keyword into the platform, and it’ll bring up things that your potential audience is thinking about surrounding that keyword. It’s like the water cooler in an office; you go there for the latest gossip.
Their system is extensive, and they have tutorials and courses on how to use it.
You’re creating all of this content for the people who follow you on social media and your website. Why not ask them for what they want to see, or answer some of their most asked questions?
You can easily do this in your Instagram stories or through a quick poll. Both ways are excellent ways to boost engagement and to interact with your audience.
We’re doing all of this for our followers, so take the guesswork out of your day and ask. I’m sure they will be more than happy to tell you what they want from you, especially if they have a good relationship with you.
Speaking of feedback, if you haven’t filled out my short survey, you can do so by clicking here. It’s only four questions long, and it would help me create the content you want to see.
Mine Your Old Posts for Content Ideas
Your old content shouldn’t be left to die in the void, especially if it was a good post.
Why not fix it up by bringing the links and images up to date. You could also take a bad article and bring it up to date with how you write things now. You can also look for topics you didn’t cover in a post and create new posts about them.
Repurpose Your Content
Regardless of whether you use old or new posts, you should be squeezing as much as you can out of it. That means using it in different ways in different places.
For example, in my newsletter, I “republished” content that I wrote earlier this year on giving and receiving feedback. I took the article’s main points, condensed them, and reframed them, making “new content.” Here’s the side by side comparison:
For every post I publish, I take snippets from it and publish it on my social media accounts to promote my blog. Again here’s an example of what I’m doing:
Doing these things not only makes marketing a breeze, but it gives me new ideas for what to do across my channels, especially when I don’t particularly know what to do for my social media accounts.
If you want an easy hack for getting interesting quotes from your content for republishing purposes, check out Missinglettr. They’re free to use and will pull out passages that you can use to help promote your post and create hashtags for those posts.
I recently started using it, and I like that it pulls out the quotes instead of hunting for them. I haven’t used the platform long enough to form an opinion on their other features.
Talk it Over With Someone Else
Sometimes taking a break and talking to others will spark new ideas. I’ll often troubleshoot my problems with my husband, and he’ll come back with things I didn’t consider.
My Dad is also a wealth of blogging inspiration. He will often send me weird little articles or snippets he came across while looking for something else. Or one of us will have a story that eventually becomes a blog topic idea or featured in a blog article.
So don’t hesitate to talk things over with another person. I am always more than happy to listen and advise if needed.
See What Others Are Doing to Create Content Ideas
If all else fails, turn to your friend, the Internet, once more and look up articles on how to come up with content ideas. There are countless ideas out there to help you get over your slump, and sometimes your tried and true methods won’t do the trick.
To that end, here are some articles that you may find helpful:
- 189 Creative Blog Post Ideas That Will Delight Your Audience
- How to Come Up with 93 Blog Ideas in 10 Minutes
- 5 Creative Blog Post Ideas for Writers [Author Platform 101]
- 365 Blog Post Ideas for Authors and Writers
- 50 Great New Blog Post Ideas for Authors (Plus Book Marketing Tips!)
- 40 Blog Post Ideas For Novelists, Poets, And Creative Writers
Hopefully, one or more of those ideas helps you craft killer content for your blog and social media accounts.
Whatever you do, though, don’t give up. You will come up with a nugget of genius that you can publish. Just believe in yourself and get to work.
And if you’re thinking about giving up because you have a “useless empty brain,” read this article instead. As Christian points out, success is all about your mindset, so instead of giving up, maybe take a small break. If you’re feeling lazy, chain yourself to your computer until you finish your next blog post.
There is a wealth of ideas out there; you just need to keep your mind open to the possibilities.
What do you do to come up with new ideas? Do you have any tools or tricks that you use to get out of a funk?
Stay safe, everyone.
Until next time.