A few nights ago, I sat down with the intention to write a blog post. I had been mulling a specific idea over for several days. I thought it was a slam dunk. I should be done in 30 minutes, I thought, 45 minutes—max.
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Not so much.
Reality check: My blog readership has plateaued. The number of my monthly visitors has been relatively flat for the past few months. For someone whose primary strength is “achiever,” this is a bitter pill to swallow. I immediately think, What am I doing wrong?
The dreaded “writer’s block” afflicts us all from time to time. I struggle with it almost weekly. Occasionally, I have an easy run of several days, when the ideas seem to flow effortlessly. But that is rare. Most weeks, I get stuck at least once or twice.
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So what do I do? What can you do? Here are thirteen idea-starters. I offer these up as possibilities for lighting a fire when your brain is damp:
- Tell a personal story. This almost always works, because you harness the power of your own personal narrative. It is particularly good if it is dramatic, and you feel the freedom to be transparent. It is helpful if you can conclude with a lesson or two that you have learned. Example: “What Does This Make Possible?”
- Describe a historical event. This is very similar to using a personal story. History is full of great stories. It’s one of the reasons why I am almost always reading a history book of some kind or a biography. Again, you can tell the story and distill the lessons. Example: “Two Things Great Leaders Must Do in Turbulent Times.”
- Review a book, movie, or software program. This is a great way to share some of the resources you have found and why you liked them. It can also help your readers avoid products or experiences that were not so helpful. What are some of your favorite resources? Example: “Book Review: Same Kind of Different As Me.”
- Comment on a powerful quote. I can’t read a book without underlining the passages that impress me. Occasionally, I go back and post the quotes that stand alone. Also, from time to time, I post the quote and that comment on why a particular quote was meaningful. Example: “Don’t Wake Up Dead.”
- Let a great photograph inspire you. Behind every great photo is a story. You may know the story or you may not. Regardless, you can find one in the photo. Some of the best ones are posted on Flickr.com. You can use these in accordance with a Creative Commons License. Example: “Learning to Recognize Wow.”
- Comment on something in the news. This can be something global or something that is specific to your industry. If you are a thought-leader—or trying to establish yourself as a thought-leader—this is a great way to do that. Example: “Why the Authors Guild Is Off Base About the Kindle 2.”
- Report on an interesting conversation. I meets lots of interesting people. Some of them I meet at work; some of them I meet in my social life. Regardless, rarely a week goes by that I am not deeply stimulated by a conversation I have had. Why not blog on that? Example: “Twitter as a Leadership Tool.”
- Provide a step-by-step explanation for how to do something. When you provide five steps to this, or four strategies for that, people gobble it up. I think all of us have a need for down-to-earth, practical help with the items that interest us. Example: “How to Update Your Facebook Status With Twitter.”
- Provide a list of resources. This is a huge way to give back to your industry or community. It is easy to take for granted what you know. You are probably sitting on priceless information that others would die to have access to. Resource lists are a great way to build traffic. Example: “Literary Agents Who Represent Christian Authors.”
- Answer your readers’ questions. My readers ask some of the best questions. Sometimes they email them. Sometimes they put them in the comments of an older posts. Often they just Twitter them to me. I assume that if one person has the question, so do others. By answering these you demonstrate that you are listening. Example: “How Much Times Does Twittering Really Take?”
- Make a seemingly overwhelming task simple. There is a huge audience for anyone who can make complex things simple. Provide a conceptual model, an outline, or an introduction to something you take for granted. Example: “Advice to First-Time Authors” and especially “Writing a Winning Book Proposal.”
- Explain the rationale behind a decision. Intelligent people want to know why you do what you do. That is what makes everyone so interesting. You can explain the rational behind almost any decision you have made, and it will be instructive for others. Example: “Why Every Author Needs a Powerful Online Presence.”
- Write a guide to something popular. This is especially good for technology topics—anything where people feel overwhelmed. I have written introductions to social networking, how to stay on top of email, and how to create a life plan. They key is not to assume the reader knows anything about the topic. Example: “The Beginner’s Guide to Twitter.”
Next time you get stuck, you might want to pull this list out and review it. Sometimes, all it takes is a spark to re-ignite the fire.
Question: what other idea-starters do you use as a blogger or a writer?