How to Not Run Out of Ideas – Making an Idea List
Last updated on August 6th, 2019
So, you decided to start a blog and you cannot wait to post all of your thoughts and ideas for the entire world to read or see. The problem is you cannot decide what to write when it is time to actually record those thoughts in your new home on the web.
As a new blogger, this was something I thought about but did not acknowledge until I created a content schedule.
I thought to myself “One written post per week? I can certainly come up with one idea per week.” Then it came time to produce a piece of content. I have no idea what to write because I had so many thoughts and no direction for those thoughts.
My niche is side hustles. My focus is on sharing the experience, while also sharing how you can pursue the same money-making ideas. There is no reason on this planet I would not have any ideas on what to write.
Last Thursday (which is the day I set as written content day), this was the case. I had no idea what I wanted to share. Luckily I had a post drafted from the previous week I could use, but moving forward, I had to have something I could go to when I’m not sure what to include.
There are many bloggers and posts with ideas methods on how to keep the content flowing. I thought I would take some time to share what I am doing to keep the well from running dry.
Make a list of all the general topics your niche could include
For me, my niche is side hustling, so my general topics are categories that can house various activities. For example, one category would be Side Hustle. Another category would be Blogging. Those are exactly the categories I chose.
Why did I choose those and why did I choose only two? There could be others that I have not considered, but when thinking deeper about the content I could include, everything fell into one of these two categories:
- Side Hustle
Break down your general topics into sub-categories
Now, I could argue that everything is under “side hustle” since the blog is part of my master plan (I imagine a villainous laugh following with thunder and lightning). As I thought about the various topics and specific posts I could do, I realize that would fit within one of these two items. Then, I expanded that list with sub-categories:
- Side Hustle
- Voice Over
- User Testing
These seem like pretty general topics than anyone with a blog like mine would include. That is correct. The goal of this list is no to come up with the next great idea. The goal of this list is to make sure I can provide decent content that gives you, the reader, something of value.
You’ll notice that I have “analysis” under both main categories. Because of my goals with this blog, analyzing the activities for success and failure rates is something I will want to do overall for everything.
Every general topic listed is carefully selected to make sure it aligns with my goals for the blog. I want to share my experience and the lessons I learn as I move forward. These topics allow me to do that and share any working knowledge I have or gain.
Jot down every topic you can come up with for each sub-category
Some of these topics may not provide a ton of content over time but do add to the overall body of work. For instance User Testing. There is not a lot to write about user testing other than where to go and how to get started, but topics like Vlogging and Voiceovers have already produced months of potential content for me to write.
Would you believe this post was one of the ideas included in my list?
To get to the specifics, I created a simple table in a word document. It is very easy and really can be done in whatever way works for you. You start in one column with the main topic. For me, that would be “side hustle.”
Then in the next column, list one of the subcategories. Finally, in the third column, you start to list your topics. It should look something like this:
Again, you can do this however you’d like. The point is to not only create a cache of topic ideas but also organize your thoughts. Remember, in the beginning, I mentioned that we have all these ideas, but no clue where to begin. This puts the topics at your fingertips (or mouse pointer, since it is a file on my computer).
You could even break this down further by types of posts. There are a few go-to’s out there, but may you want to do a review and a “top 5” or “top 10” list about the same topic. Great! You now have two pieces of content from one topic.
Don’t limit yourself to a certain topic just because you are not an expert
My list currently has 25 topics and I only spent about 20 minutes on my list. Granted, most of the topics I have listed are topics I could write about either through experience or the research I’ve completed, but that doesn’t mean I will leave topics off my list just because I’m a novice.
The important thing to remember here is the value you are offering someone else. Maybe your post is about a topic you need to do significant research to articulate. Do you not think there is some other person on the planet that would benefit from the resources you’ve gathered?
Is that not the point of a good blog: To share the wisdom you’ve gain so others can solve their questions through your work?
Also, this should be a living document, ever-changing as your content grows and your audience builds. As more flock to your repository of knowledge, their needs may change as well. If we limit ourselves to just a handful of topics, how do we grow and evolve along with them?
Think about how many different ways you can present a topic
I mentioned this just a few paragraphs ago: taking the same topic and presenting it in different ways. For this blog, I have decided to do a blend of written content and video content. Sometimes I just want to write, and something I just want to ramble.
You do not necessarily need to think about different presentation types, but, as I mentioned, you could take a topic like Vlogging gear and create several posts about that. You could write multiple reviews about individual gear and software. You could also do “top 5” lists for each as well.
Just to give you an idea of the number of posts you could do with my example: I use a webcam, a microphone, recording software, video editing software, and image editing software for thumbnails.
I could review all the gear I use. That would be 5 posts. I could also compare my gear to other solutions. That adds another 5 posts. I could then do a “top 5” list for each piece of equipment based on other reviews and research.
I now have 15 blog posts I could compose based on the things currently in front of my face.
Again, this is not about originality. There are thousands of posts about how to make a Vlog and what equipment to use. Your job is to sell you take on it, not the concept itself.
Don’t forget to have fun and be yourself
Someone else on the planet, at this very moment, is writing this same blog post. There are billions of people. To think I am the only person to have this idea at this time is insane. But that does not stop me from shutting the attic door and frantically typing until my fingers bleed.
This was one of the first hurdles I had to quickly get over, and luckily for me, having someone successful at this say “Someone else already had your idea” was enough for me to get past the fear of not being original.
Go ahead, take a moment to search other blogs for “how to come up with ideas for blog content” and you see dozens and dozens of statements just like that.
Think about gamers on YouTube. How many Minecraft videos are there? How many for Call of Duty? How many speed runs of Super Mario Bros.? I watch gaming videos because I enjoy the personality behind it.
Sure, we have favorites, but you don’t just watch one gamer. I don’t only read one blog or one person’s posts. I read many from many different people. I read these posts because they are both engaging and have personality.
These bloggers do it their way. They are not trying to be someone else, even if the topic they are writing has been written 100 times. I’ve read 10 or more posts about this specific topic, and now I’m sharing my take on it with you.
The delivery is what makes it unique, not the topic.
So now that we have our topics ready to go, we have all the different ideas about how to deliver this information armed and ready for launch. There is only one thing left to do.
How do you come up with a stash of topics for when the ideas just aren’t flowing? Let me know in the comments below.