Everyone has their methods for coming up with blogging ideas — or in screwing up their blog strategy.
Some prefer a strict enforcement of an editorial calendar, while some prefer to simply wing it. There’s a good case to be made on either side, but for me, what works best is a little of both: dance like nobody’s watching and keep a running list of creative ideas.
That’s all fine and well, but the key is getting those ideas and the secret to that is to expose yourself to ideas: reading, or better yet, listening.
A Shift in Information Consumption
There was a time when I devoured books…the printed kind. While I still keep many of them as references, my reading habits have largely shifted online. Books are hard for me to get through these days, but I’ve discovered a little secret: audio books and podcasts.
Podcasts, of course, are mostly free, while audio books tend to be a little more expensive. In addition, audio books take longer to be published, but they allow me to get something back that cannot be purchase: time.
Time that is otherwise wasted while driving. Time that is well spent, while working out. It took some acclimation to find the motivation for working out in news podcasts, but then the Wall Street Journal This Morning, and Marketplace, both mix in some music. Further I rationalize it by saying I’m building both my mind and body at the same time.
Listening and Mental Blogging
And it gives me context, keeps me current, and breeds ideas, like this post on market research and falling in love with an idea. While there is little of value in the day to day news, the aggregate of news, is incredibly valuable.
Though I have no research to justify the claim, I’m convinced this habit has altered my mind a bit: I can’t take notes while driving or working out, so I think I’ve gotten better at remembering concepts. While listening, I’m taking mind notes and mentally blogging.
Think about that for a second. There was a time when the written form was reserved only for the elite. Books were a rare treasure. Few could read. News was passed literally by word-of-mouth. Heritage and history were passed by campfire stories. Rhyming and poems weren’t merely an art, or composed for rhythm’s sake…it was a way to remember.
Not Just Marketing or PR
Sure, I’ve got my fair share of business, marketing and PR books, but I try to branch out and be balanced. The WSJ and Marketplace podcast combo keeps me centered, politically: I lean right in the morning and left in the evening, come blog writing time, I’m fiscally conservative and socially liberal.
However beyond business subjects, I delve into history, religion and culture. Certainly these are usually far more interesting to listen to, but it’s also an effort to continuously expose myself to ideas I might not ordinarily cross — or even ideas in which I generally disagree. To paraphrase Aristotle, it’s a sign of an intellectual, one who can entertain an idea without necessarily accepting it.
Hat Trick for Blogging Ideas
- Talk to yourself. Anyone that’s had a good conversation with themselves knows that this keeps confusion at bay. I keep an email which currently has 26 blogging ideas listed. Every time I get a new idea or write a new post, I update the list by emailing myself and deleting the old one. Often I’ll include links to whatever source spawned the idea. If it’s a podcast I listened to, I’ll search for the site later, and include a link in that email.
- From napkins to voice memos. Whenever I get an idea, I write it down on a PostIt note, a napkin or whatever. If I don’t, like a dream, I might lose it when I wake up. If I’m on the go, I’ll simply send myself a note from my iPhone and tuck it in a folder called “blog ideas.” Taking a “voice memo” while driving is a good way to jog a memory later.
- The one time it’s okay to hoard information. There’s all sorts of tools for this purpose. I prefer the old fashioned Delicious and I’m disciplined about bookmarking posts I’ve read and carefully categorize them with tags. Market research and surveys that pique my interest get saved often this way, and though I may not come back to them for several weeks, it’s a great way to find what I’m looking for when it comes time to write.
The key for me, is being disciplined about making notations. Since I’m in the habit, it’s second nature and seems less of a nuisance. More importantly, when it’s 11:00 p.m. at night and I’m searching for ideas, a quick review of those notes brings back my mental blog, and this is the result.
This blog post idea has been on my list for a while, but a note from Jay Baer today promoting his new book YOUtility, was the trigger for writing the post. I’ve heard a lot about Jay’s new book on audio, for example the Facebook Goes Home edition of Adam Helweh’s co-hosted podcast The SoLoMo Show, which is the newest addition to my podcast line up.
What methods do you use for generating blog ideas?
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