Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Novice Blogger's Guide to What the Heck to Write About

If you're a blogger, you're a writer. It's a pretty big task, writing something on a regular basis, especially when you're not used to it. One question I get often from novice bloggers is, "what the heck do I write about?"

That's easy. Write about your kids, the traffic, your husband, whatever you like, and do it in a way that makes readers want to come back and see what you're going to write next. The real question is, "How do I keep finding new things to write about?" When you get stuck (and you will), try these tips:

  • Be a journalist: Read the news. Subscribe to feeds of the popular blogs in your niche and others. Talk about the issues of the day. Tell people why they matter (or don't).
  • Be curious: Ask a question. Do an interview. Ask for a guest post. Post a poll.
  • Be opinionated: Write a review of a book you read recently or a movie you saw. Talk about a magazine article you read. Rant about something controversial -- an ad, a trend, politics, whatever. Dish about a product you couldn't live without ... or could.
  • Be savvy: Talk about a blog, website, forum, or online tool you love. I like to save articles and websites that might be good fodder for blog post under a special tag in del.icio.us.
You're your own best inspiration. I'll prove it with this exercise: Go to your blog and create a new post. Look at the clock. Now spend three minutes writing down any blogging topic that comes to mind in a list as quickly as you can. Don't censor yourself. Some of your ideas are bound to be crappy, but some will be good. When you're done, give the post the title, "blogging ideas" and save the post as a draft. If/When you find yourself with a dearth of post ideas, look back at the list.

The first week or two after the launch can be tough (unless you were simply bubbling over with things to get off your chest), but after the first few weeks of blogging effort, you'll find yourself thinking more like a blogger as you go through the day, spotting potential post topics in situations as they happen. Keep something to write on with you at all times--especially beside your bed. Write down post ideas when they strike. Don't let them get away! You can also use your cell phone to leave yourself a message.

If you're still stuck, try picking up a creative writing book from the library or bookstore. Look for one with tons of writing prompts and creativity exercises. I've used Michael C. Smith and Suzanne Greenberg's Everyday Creative Writing: Panning for Gold in the Kitchen Sink for the past several years.

A blogger bereft of post ideas can also borrow a few tricks used often on established blogs. One is the link list. Point your readers to fab posts and articles elsewhere on the web (this also helps build your blogging network). Another common "filler" post is the "a year ago today" post, where the blogger revisits popular posts of her own from the past.

Launching a blog is a lot like starting a new workout. Both take time to become part of your normal daily routine. You'll find yourself hitting your stride after the first few weeks. At the same time, don't feel like you have to post every day. Once or twice a week is fine at first. As with a workout, if you push too hard, you may burn out and give up. Your brain, like your body, needs time to recharge.

Where do you find blogging inspiration?

Recommended reading:
101 Great Posting Ideas That Will Make Your Blog Sizzle
Mind Mapping - Battling Bloggers' Block
Discover Hundreds of Post Ideas for Your Blog with Mind Mapping

photo by aloshbennett via Flickr

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