09 January 2013

post-persation: finding inspiration for your blog posts

I ♥ My Blog: Finding Inspiration for Your Blog Posts
One of the biggest pains in the neck when it comes to blogging is maintaining a well-stocked store of post ideas. I’ve spoken to a lot of poetry bloggers who say that once they’ve written on the major poetry-related topics, they feel like they run out of ideas pretty quickly. Other writers, in all genres, fret that their latest great idea has been “done so many times before.” There are two truths you need to know about these concerns.

Truth #1: Both of these concerns are “valid”

As bloggers we are in the precarious position of having to produce worthwhile content regularly. So, naturally, it is a valid concern to think about the nature of the ideas and posts you come up with; it is only logical to be concerned about that constant “What comes next?” question. It’s also logical to say that if you can find twenty other posts about a certain topic, your post might be “less than novel.” The question is, what can you do about it? My simple answer is: Consider Truth #2.

Truth #2: Neither of these concerns are “valid”

How can something be both valid and invalid? Easy. You have valid concerns about your blog and the content you want to share. But just because you raise valid points doesn’t mean they are valid problems! That is, despite the fact that these are logical concerns, they should by no means keep you from generating good content. Let’s face it: a lot of what’s out there has been written, in some form or another, before! That’s no excuse not to say it again with your own “angle.” That’s called, in academia, subject dialogue. You’re joining the conversation and adding your own voice.

What does that mean?

These two truths mean a few things. First, it means that you don’t have to worry about making every post the first post on the topic ever written. Second, it means that when you’re running out of ideas you can use other people and blogs as sources of inspiration. Third, it means that when it comes to generating ideas and inspiration for your blog posts … the doorways are virtually limitless!

Where can I turn?

So, where should you go—which door should you take—to find inspiration for your blog? Here are a few possibilities:

Door #1: Other Bloggers. We all have favorite blogs we turn to for advice, ideas, or just because we like what the blogger has to say. Or maybe you have a blog roll of fellow writers. Take a day, or an afternoon, or an hour, to catch up with your reading. Stop by these blogs and read some of the most recent posts. Whether you leave a comment or not (and I always recommend you at least try to do so), the posts you read are bound to eventually inspire some new thoughts on topics that are important to you. Jot those thoughts down, and use them to inspire your own blog posts later. (Bonus: You can always link back to the posts that inspired you in the first place, to make it even more of a dialogue!)

Door #2: The Birds. Head to Twitter! Hashtags (those words or phrases preceded by a pound sign; i.e. #poetry) are a great way to check the “pulse” of current conversations related to topics you’re interested in. Whether you actively use Twitter or not, you can still follow a conversation to generate ideas.

Door #3: Quora. Quora is a site that describes itself as a place that “connects you to everything you want to know.” But, more than this, it also connects you to everything anybody else wants to know. Through Quora you can find thousands—I mean it, thousands—of questions people want answered about the topics you’re interested in! Simply log in (or create an account), search for a term (in my case, I might just search “Poetry” or “Writing”), and see what questions come up. If you have answers to any of them, guess what? You’ve got a blog post … and it’s something folks out there are actually actively searching for answers to! If you don’t have an answer, guess what? You’ve still got a blog post, only now instead of giving an answer you’re contributing to the unfolding of the question. In either case, you’ve given yourself a door full of doors to potential posts.

Door #4: Your Brain. Seriously. You’re a writer. That, by definition, means your brain is practically overflowing with ideas all the time. What are your passions? What are your questions? Who inspires you? What are you working on? What interesting or funny or miserable but meaningful thing happened to you recently? One thing to keep in mind is that not every post has to be about your primary topic; not all of my posts are about poetry or writing. The key is to find ways to make the puzzle pieces of your life fit what you’re trying to do. And remember, a part of what you’re trying to do, no matter what kind of blog you’re writing, is share your life as a writer, which can (and should) include things you do when you’re not writing.

Door #5: The Past. As I said, rarely is anything that you’ll write on your blog the first time anything like it has been written before. If there’s a topic that you really want to write about, write about it. If a favorite blogger wrote a post on editing manuscripts two years ago, add your voice to the conversation with an updated look at how to edit a manuscript and challenges you face with your own. If a friend wrote a review of a book, and you read it as a result, share your own review. If you wrote a post in the past that could use updating, update it. If you wrote a post in the past that got a major response, see what new direction you can take that topic in and write a sequel!

Your Turn

Your task for today is to think about where you turn when you need new ideas for blog posts, or writing in general. While you're thinking, consider jotting down some ideas for future blog posts and plugging them into your Editorial Calendar. Share your favorite resources or tips in the comments below!


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26 comments:

  1. Love this post. I only blog about once a week and still draw a blank sometimes. This year I want to plan more, but I still like off the cuff/ reacting to things that come up. Thanks for mentioning Quora -I haven't taken the time to look into it , bit I will now. I find Brainpickings.org is a great resource and I also get the arts journal newsletter (http://www.artsjournal.com/) which is much simpler than the website and you can flick through it pretty easy to see what's there. And of course Zemanta is always great both in terms of blog resources regarding content as well as images. Hope that helps you too :-)

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    1. Thank you, A.K., for commenting and sharing those resources you mentioned. I am eager to check them out!

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  2. Great information here, Khara. I will definitely take a look at Quora. Looking at other blogs also might inspire an idea for a guest post. You may want to invite another blogger to do a post on that person's area of expertise or you could do it as an interview. They might return the favor and ask you to do a post for them.

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    1. Thanks, Michelle! That's a really smart point you made about guest posting; there are so many great rewards we can reap just from the simple act of reading and engaging with other bloggers!

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  3. Khara, you are always a source of information! It must be that not sleeping thing. I am in awe of the ideas and creativity you show. I am on my way to Quora now...

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    1. I appreciate that, Carol! I won't say the not-sleeping thing has been a benefit ... But I won't call it a drawback, either! :)

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  4. Khara, Wow, thanks for suggesting Quora. I'll definitely check that out. In his tips for writing killer blog posts, Michael Hyatt recommends thinking of your readers and what they want to hear- the Quora idea could definitely help that. I get ideas from my personal experiences, as well as pieces on reading and books that I get via NPR, The Washington Post, etc. Twitter and Google Reader help me on that front. I love using apps like Pocket and Evernote to save inspiring content I see on the internet to use for later posts.

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    1. Thanks for sharing those tips, Julia! I love that idea of thinking about what your readers want to read; sites like Quora ( and even Yahoo! Answers) are definitely great ways to figure out what people want/need to read about!

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    2. Khara, I'll jump in with everyone, saying thanks for mentioning Quora -- I'd never heard of that.

      Also, seconding Julia's comment, I use an aggregate of the data from my blog and reader response to get a sense what readers are most intersted in. I notice which posts instantly provoke people to "follow", which provoke comments or likes, and then, longterm, the ones that tend to keep drawing visitors months down the line (anything twitter related!). For ex, photo-posts and reading lists are easy fan pleasers. My posts on writing character draw hits -- especially from people searching the term "internal and external story conflict." I notice popular search terms, and go back and add those in as tags (and *description* behind post pictures). I also notice which kinds of layout provoke more response. One last popular draw: I underestimate how much people want to read samples of my actual fiction -- I get more likes when I post bits of a WIP. In general, it helps to use any of that kind of data to better know what readers appreciate.

      Thanks for a great post, Khara!

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    3. Thanks, Elissa, and great remark on following your readers' responses and attentions. That's something that, once a writer knows her or his place in the writing world especially, is so helpful when it comes to generating ideas and, perhaps more so, maintaining both voice and audience!

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  5. This is so helpful.Usually I go back to my "mission statement" and reread my intentions and I come up with something. I'm not much of a planner (in writing). Thanks to you and the commenters, Quora and Zemanta are new resources that I'll investigate.

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    1. I really like that idea of returning to the mission statement to get inspiration, Monica; it's a nice self-reminder of why we're doing what we do, and a great way to keep going back to the question, "What should/can I say or provide on my site that both maintains and propels my mission for this site?"

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  6. Quora is also nice for traffic. Fill in your profile, and when you answer questions, answer them briefly on quora and then offer a link to your blog post that expands on the answer. I've not gotten a lot of traffic from there but I've gotten a little, and I've not invested a ton of time in it.

    Because of the nature of my blog, I get inspiration from church, the radio, reading the Bible, and skimming my class notes from college.

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    1. Thanks for your insights, Kirra. I love the idea of skimming through old class notes in particular; for many of us, we have those memories of past educational experiences that helped us fall in love with our subjects, and old notes could be a great reminder (if we've kept them).

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  7. Inspirational and informational...I will check out Quora. Thanks Khara and all who have commented. Will read this post again.

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  8. Glad to know about quora. And I'm always at a loss for topics! But I like to read mags on the elliptical or see what people are complaining about on fb. Lol. Great blog, Khara!

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    1. Thanks, Bolton. They say running/walking wakes up the brain to ideas, and magazines are great places to find ideas ... so the combination could be quite fruitful :)

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  9. Great post, Khara! My main help for writer's block or creativity block is to not only keep a scedule, but to allow that schedule to include some not-so-creative categories. Things like art/photos, "borrowed" humor and inspirational quotes. Takes some of the pressure off. I love your idea of looking around in places like Twitter and Quora, as well as other blogs for ideas and inspiration.

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    1. I like that idea a lot, Anne, and agree that it would definitely both take away some of the pressure of content development and be a time saver! Thanks for sharing.

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  10. That's a wonderful post, probably one of the best I have read on the topic. I am checking out Quora, too. Sounds like something I might put to use.

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    1. Thanks, Lena; I'm glad you found it helpful! I hope you find Quora to be as helpful.

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  11. For a short time I struggle d with the, "its already been written," syndrome...it was a muse dampener for sure. I got over it...I'm not sure how but when I did it became much easier to commit to content and posting. Much good herein, Khara...that portion stood out to me. Thank you!

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Hannah. It's definitely one of the tougher notions to overcome--there's so much pressure on us as writers to "make it new" that we sometimes forget the phrase "make it new" comes from the idea of taking the old and renewing it ... not creating something out of nothing!

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  12. I'm really bad Khara, I have such a no-limit imagination that I never seem to be looking for a topic. The one things I don't do though, is if a challenge is being presented, like the Sunday Whirl, I never read the other bloggers posts before I write mine because I don't have enough brain space to hold my idea and focus on the ideas of others. I guess it's kind of like trying to figure out what to have for supper and there's a family member shouting out choices at me...takes away my freedom to chose. (Am I making any sense here? I hope so) Anyway, I always figure my life is unique to me and so are the things which happen and so is the way I handle those things and I write from that perspective, even when I write black and murderous poetry. But I'm really nice in real life! :)

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    1. That's not a bad thing at all, Veronica ... In fact, that's great! Let too many people in on that and they'll be trying to nab your brain :) In all seriousness, though, a limitless imagination is a great weapon in the arsenal of a writer!

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Thank you so much for your comments! Please feel free to share your thoughts here; I look forward to engaging in conversation with you!

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