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One of the most common obstacles to blogging is the feeling that you haven’t got anything to write about.

This prevents new bloggers from getting into the habit, and prevents more seasoned bloggers from keeping it going.

You want to write, but you need something to write about; what’s your subject going to be? 

This isn’t just a matter of creativity either. I’ve heard this problem from many people far more creative than I am, so there is definitely something else involved here that goes deeper than just idea generation. 

I’m writing this post because this has been a hurdle I’ve encountered time and time again, even when the solution is so very simple. So deceptively simple you wonder why you had the problem in the first place.

So I’m going to share my own tips and techniques I use to help prevent that well of ideas from running dry, and hopefully some of them will be enough to keep you blogging with the full enthusiasm you need to keep the habit going week after week. 

Find inspiration in your daily experiences

One of the sources of inspiration that many of us don’t make full use of is our daily experiences working in whatever industry we happen to work in. Most of us come up against unique challenges every week, many of which could easily translate into an interesting blog post or two

For example, I was recently putting together some examples of physical product landing pages for a client and found there to be a complete lack of resources on the web focused on physical products. The result?

I wrote a blog post for listing eight great physical product landing pages I had found after researching in excess of 200-300 different examples. If you’re interested, you can read that here

There will be many instances where you’re coming against something which you’re not highly familiar with that will fuel an excellent blog post.

Why? Because if it’s something that presented a challenge to you, it’s likely something that presents a challenge to others too. But it isn’t just challenges that are great inspiration - those things you do on a routine basis can also make for excellent reads. You’re likely using a method that you’ve refined over time, a method that other people would be super grateful to find out about too! 

generating an idea

Accept that not every idea is completely unique

How many times have you not run with an idea because you were worried hundreds of people got there before you? This is common, and if you let it, it will happen all of the time. Because barely anything is truly unique. But that doesn’t matter. What matters, is what you do with the idea.

You will often have your own unique spin on a story or idea, so that even though you are writing about a topic somebody has written about already, the result will be different because it is you that wrote it.

And as soon as you’ve gotten over worrying that your idea is the same as somebody elses, a whole wealth of new content ideas will open up to you, not least because you can transform other people’s content into something original. 

Find an article that you really enjoyed reading (more on that below), or one that other people have really enjoyed, and think about how you could re-purpose it into something new. Be careful here though - you’re not plagarising other people’s work by simply rewording it. 

Let me give you an example. 

On the editorial calendar we use at my agency, I keep a list of blog title ideas which I can pull from when I need to write something. I’ve had the headline “Where do you get your ideas from?” sitting there for a good few months.

I recently read a blog post here on Econsultancy by Matt Owen, called “How to keep making content...forever”, in which Matt talks about overcoming writer’s block. This inspired me a week later to return to that lonely headline and turn it into a blog post, putting my own spin on the subject.

Despite approaching the same subject as Matt, I think I’ve put enough of my own take on it to warrant publishing this post.

By using this very simple technique of re-imagining someone else’s content, you’ll find yourself with an almost endless gold mine of potential topics. Just please, make sure you don’t rip off over people’s work.  

When you're not writing, you should be reading

Writing in the digital age 

It is important for any writer to read, and the more time (outside of your writing time) you can devote to reading the better. Reading other people’s content is one of my chief sources of inspiration for writing new posts, and not just for the technique outlined above. By frequently reading what else is being published online, you:

  • Keep up with recent trends and events that are important in your industry.
  • Learn from the way other people write, and use their writing to influence your own.
  • Expand your knowledge and understanding, giving you more possible subjects to write about (and add more authority to what you write).
  • Discover gaps in areas where there should have been a blog post written, but hasn’t been (such as the landing page idea I brought up at the start).

This begs the question then, what should you be reading? First of all, as great as some of the content is being published online, don’t neglect the old fashioned way of reading: books. These may be printed or digital editions, but I’ve learned so much about honing the craft of digital marketing by reading books - as much as, if not more so than I have from reading content online.

While I can’t advise you on what you should be reading in your particular niche, I can suggest a few of my top digital marketing resources that I find especially good for coming up with ideas.

  • Twitter. One of the best. If you’re following people whose opinion you value, every day you’ll be receiving a torrent of blog shares, many of which will be excellent reads. 
  • Safari Books. Safari Books is a subscription service that gives you access to thousands of digital editions of books, with topics being mostly business, technology, software, and web. It’s well worth the cost of a full subscription and I urge you to sign up.
  • Inbound.org. This is a place where users can submit their favourite inbound marketing posts, where editorial control on what content gets most prominence is the responsibility of the users themselves. Thankfully, there are some quite big names in the world of SEO and digital using this service, and it’s helped me find content I would never have found otherwise.   

Write frequently, and write even when you don’t want to

This one is so important if you want to improve every aspect of your blog writing technique, not just idea generation. Seems so simple and obvious doesn’t it? To get better at blogging, you need to practice it. And if you’re really serious about blogging, you need to practice even when you don’t feel like it. Because by writing in non-ideal conditions, you learn how to better push through difficulties you’re having, and become a better writer for it. 

But let’s bring this back to our initial problem: writer’s block.

You might think that writing frequently depletes your bank of ideas over time and you’re going to find yourself more likely to be in the position where you can’t think of anything to write about. And there is certainly some truth in this. But what you gain from writing frequently vastly outweighs the usage of ideas you keep stored away. 

You learn how to create an idea from nothing. You learn how to make a blog post work, even after you’ve written a paragraph and feel like it’s going nowhere (when otherwise you’d give given up, resigning it to that ever-growing graveyard of discarded drafts).

And the more you write, and the more you get published in front of large audiences, the larger your confidence will be. It’s this confidence that keeps you going and prevents you from doubting yourself (too much).

Also, if you do doubt yourself, don’t let that prevent you from publishing content. If every writer didn’t publish work they worried would be crap, we’d have significantly less writing in the world. And some of your writing won't be your finest work - and that's fine too.

By making writing a habit, it’ll become second nature to you. And the ideas will come.     

How have you overcome writer's block in the past?

Let us know in the comments your own tips for overcoming writer's block, or your favourite sources of inspiration.

Peter Meinertzhagen

Published 2 August, 2013 by Peter Meinertzhagen

Peter Meinertzhagen is Digital Marketing Manager at Nominet and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow Peter on Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn

8 more posts from this author

Comments (18)

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FitBits Tess

A great post, thanks for the tips. I've recently started a fitness blog (not relevant to marketing or digital I know, but I didn't want to write about what I work in), and have already come up against bloggers block a couple of times.

I take a lot of inspiration from other bloggers, news, articles and as you say, write from my own experiences (which tends to be a bit self involved as I write about fitness!).

I think a lot of it is about staying interested in your blog subject - and thinking about it from your reader's point of view. What would you want to read in a marketing/food/fitness/technology/whatever blog?

about 3 years ago

Peter Meinertzhagen

Peter Meinertzhagen, Digital Marketing Manager at Zest Digital

@FitBits Thanks very much. Like you say, interest and passion for your subject is so important... however! As many writers will tell you, you need to learn to write about subjects you're not interested in as many have to do that day in day out.

Writing from your own experiences is what gives personality to a post, and what makes it read as a story. Provided your not all "me, me, me", this is a sure fire way to writing something interesting.

about 3 years ago

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Clare Moorhouse

Thanks for the post Peter, I find the hardest aspect of blog writing is coming up with the idea itself - and the title.
I often check out popular blog sites such as Econsultancy, Inc.com, Entrepreneur and look at the daily blog posts there. They may not necessarily relate to the industry you are writing about, but it can spark an idea and give you the inspiration you need to find a new angle for your industry.

about 3 years ago

Peter Meinertzhagen

Peter Meinertzhagen, Digital Marketing Manager at Zest Digital

@Clare Thanks Clare. Yes, a good title is another aspect of blogging that is so important, as so many people will never read your post unless the title grabs them. And thanks for your own tip - that is something I don't do enough of actually, reading publications which aren't necessarily centered on your industry, and looking to them for inspiration. I'm sure there are many unique angles for content using this method that you'd not normally come up with otherwise.

about 3 years ago

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Alex Quail

Great post as always Peter.

@Clare, if you're struggling for inspiration, perhaps check out Quora or Flipboard if you haven't already.

Also following your industry/niche's specific subreddit on reddit (if there is one) is a great way to see what's being talked about!

about 3 years ago

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FitBits Tess

@Peter - Oh yes, of course you need to learn to write about subjects that don't interest you, I've done this for many clients before, but I love writing so it's not a chore for me. I guess I'm coming at this from a slightly different angle as I chose to write a blog about my interest/passion rather than my profession/industry.

about 3 years ago

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Russ

Very interesting Peter.
Some good points to take into account.
But also letting the mind wander can help generate ideas when you least expect them.

A change of environment. A walk in the park, taking a shower or working on something less taxing can help bring ideas to the fore.

Nice work.

about 3 years ago

Peter Meinertzhagen

Peter Meinertzhagen, Digital Marketing Manager at Zest Digital

@Alex Cheers Alex. I love looking at Quora too - if people are asking about it, more will want to read about it. In fact, someone had asked the question "what are some examples of physical product landing pages?", which I turned into a post earlier this week.

@Fitbits Yeah, it's different when writing about something that is a hobby. I have a few websites about subjects unrelated to what I do, and I love writing on them when I get the chance, but unfortunately they're a little neglected! Really ought to get on that...

@Russ Thanks Russ. Definitely agree with the change of environment; when you strain too hard to come up with something it's hard, but letting it bubble up when your mind is more relaxed and open can be enough to get the inspiration you need.

about 3 years ago

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Carlos

Great article,

This phrase is key
"Write frequently, and write even when you don’t want to"

Creating a routine and keep posting, readers will know they can come back and visit as often as they circled.

Is difficult to find quality inspiration without falling into the copy, i think it is an art.

Thank a lot.

about 3 years ago

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John Smith

Thanks Peter, for such an inspiring post, some time i feel the same problem, you have explained, but never find a solution to it. your post has given me and to those who are facing the same problem related to the writing the blog and finding the idea for writing. I completely agree with your idea of reading while not writing, before writing a writer should read some good stuff related to the topic he/she want to write and perform some research on that topic. Reading is also a good habit as it keeps us busy in some creative work and gives us new idea existing around us.

about 3 years ago

Peter Meinertzhagen

Peter Meinertzhagen, Digital Marketing Manager at Zest Digital

@Carlos Thank you Carlos. Writing frequently is very important if you have any hopes of blogging more than just a few one-offs. Not only do you get the practice and experience, people come to expect you coming out with regular content, and follow you for that reason.

@John Glad you enjoyed it John. Yes, reading is essential to find out what's going on, find inspiration, and improve your skills by learning from others.

about 3 years ago

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Richard Hamer

As an ex-journalist I'm never stuck for ideas, just how I should tackle the subject. I've no end of material; there's inspiration everywhere; and it's often of case of finding the time.

1. Keep taking notes when an idea pops up, I stick them in my phone or on a Word doc on my laptop

2. If you don't know how/where to start just get it all down on paper then rearrange from there (an old journo trick)

3. Don't think each blog post has to be, say, 400 words; it's difference though in a newsroom where you often have to fill a specific space. Twitter gives you 140 characters, so use that as base, even a couple of sentences will often do; and you can always go back to a blog post at a later date and rewrite and re-post.

about 3 years ago

Peter Meinertzhagen

Peter Meinertzhagen, Digital Marketing Manager at Zest Digital

@Richard Hi Richard, thanks for your tips. I agree with the note taking - I always jot ideas down on my phone so that I don't forget them. As always, if you try and remember them for a later time, you will forget.

I would usually recommend that you always start by setting your posts structure with headings/sub-headings so you know where it will go, but this isn't always as easy. As you say, just getting it all down on paper can help steer some direction when you're unsure where to go with an idea.

With the last point, are you suggesting that a blog post can be as short as 140 characters? Unless you're running a Tumblr style blog, I would recommend a minimum more like 140 words. There is room for short and long posts, depending on what the subject is, but unless I'm reporting on something that's happened, I go towards the longer end of the spectrum. Of course it is highly dependent on your subject and audience. With Econsultancy for example I write much longer posts than I would with my agency.

about 3 years ago

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Ajay Prasad

Thanks for the tips Peter. Passion for the subject is so important. Content will never fail you then. I agree with what you say about the title. A catchy title is the first thing that grabs attention before one even starts reading. I feel the beginning is the hardest part. Once you've written the first blog, it definitely encourages you to write more.

about 3 years ago

Peter Meinertzhagen

Peter Meinertzhagen, Digital Marketing Manager at Zest Digital

@Ajay You're welcome Ajay. Yeah, once you've written a few posts, blogging becomes something of an addiction :)

about 3 years ago

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Ian

Some really great points there. I follow the notion that if you can't think of something to write, write about that. Write of your frustration and creative block. I find it helps clear the old thought pipes out..

about 3 years ago

Peter Meinertzhagen

Peter Meinertzhagen, Digital Marketing Manager at Zest Digital

@Maria thanks!

@Ian Actually, and you may have already seen this, but that's pretty much what Matt did in this post http://econsultancy.com/uk/blog/63131-how-to-keep-making-content-forever. W

about 3 years ago

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Mandy Cobb, Personal

Great article and tips!

I write an advertising and marketing blog, which I didn't want to be filled with the same old information, so I started thinking about personal experiences and decided discussing the values of work experience would be a great place to start.

From there this idea grew to asking advertising and marketing professionals how they made it in the industry and what their company looks for from future talent, offering some great advice and insight that otherwise isn't readily available.
http://amandacobb.co.uk

I would say going from personal experiences is definitely one of the strongest options available. It's amazing how quickly 1 idea can grow into something else.

about 3 years ago

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