This blog post is part of our March DEEP DIVE on Writing & Storytelling Sponsored by IDEAS Orlando, which is the first unit in our DEEP DIVE: Learn, Create, Win! Presented by Your Southern Ford Dealers. This is a free 6-month program focusing on content creation because 2018 is the Year of the Creator!
The Power of Writing
The written word is a powerful communication tool. Think about it: We can read the exact words composed by a person from thousands of years ago. We are instantly transported to hear their ideas as if they were alive and forming them! Writing is the only form of communication this lasting, and so what we write matters.
And while we may have some great ideas floating around in our heads, once we sit down to actually put them into words, we often find ourselves staring at a blank page, unable to act. So, how do we brainstorm our thoughts into actions? How do we avoid writer's block and be sure we've got a compelling story to write? We've got 50 ways to help you get started.
1. Keep a List
When a great topic or idea for a blog post pops into your head, write it down. Have a notepad on hand or even start a list in your Notes app on your phone. Lists are a great way to have a long list of viable topics to thrush out into full blog posts later.
2. Mind Map
A mind map is a simple visual organization tool where you start with a key word or idea and simply add ideas in a bubble around the key word. This visual organization allows you to organize clusters of ideas to support the original topic, which can ultimately help you organize the overall structure of the blog post. Below is an example of a mind map just getting started.
Cubing is a technique that is great for expository (nonfiction/essay) or persuasive writing. It consists of starting with a topic and then deciding 6 key things:
- Defining it - what is it?
- Comparing it - what is it like or unlike?
- Associating it - what does it make you think of?
- Analyzing it - what parts is it made of?
- Applying it - how can it be used?
- Arguing for and/or against it - how can you support or oppose it?
Once you have outlined these six factors, you then expand these into a full blog post.
Freewriting is similar to a stream of consciousness, where you let your thoughts "freeflow" onto the paper, without worrying about sentence structure, spelling, or any type of grammar. Your only goal is to get your thoughts down on paper. When you eliminate the worry about how you are writing it (meaning the structure), what you are writing can sometimes come more easily.
Writer Beware: You must always remember, freewriting is only a rough draft. Once you have the ideas down on paper, now you must go back and edit for correct sentence structure, paragraph formation, spelling, punctuation, etc.
Looking up information about a topic is not only a good way to overcome writer's block, but it can lead to a stronger blog post, packed with facts and different viewpoints. And, thanks to the power of the internet, finding a variety of research on just about any topic is as easy as a few keystrokes.
Writer Beware: You must take care to not subconsciously plagiarize somebody else's writing or thoughts after reading them. It is fine to use another's ideas as long as you give them credit!
6. Repurposing Content
This is one of our favorite techniques to overcome writer's block. Take something you have already written about and repurpose it as if it were new! If you wrote a long-form blog post about Thanksgiving crafts with your children, turn that into a short form listicle or a formal "how-to" article complete with more detailed instructions. If you have a great interview with an expert or celebrity, repurpose that into a memory post. Or you can even take an entirely different perspective and write about "things I learned" when interviewing so-and-so. Use your own content as inspiration!
7. Word a Day
Words are powerful and so use them as sources of writing. There are plenty of "Word of the Day" apps that will give you a new word on your phone each morning. See if any of them resonate with you and could be used as the springboard for a blog post.
One of our favorite sources for "Word of the Day" is from Merriam Webster, which also tweets words relevant to current events. It's great to kickstart your writer's brain cells.
8. Get Some Exercise
There's plenty of research on how exercise improves brain function, and writer's block is no different. Staring at a blank page may not be productive, so get out and take a brisk walk or go for a bike ride. Sometimes getting out of the office (so to speak) and letting your mind think about other things while blood is pumping through it, can be just what the writing doctor ordered!
9. Music Playlist
Music can set the mood, help clear distractions, and even the right music can help you concentrate better. Buzzfeed has a list of over 40 songs to write to but you might want to figure which type of music works best for your brain. (We happen to like anything by Enya.)
And did you know there's a Writer's Playlist on Spotify featuring songs like "Tonight I Feel Like Kafka" and "Oxford Comma"?
10. Seasonal Calendar
Each and every month can give you great writing ideas: festive holidays, milestone birthdays, sporting events, back to school... the list is endless and cyclical, which plays into repurposing that content!
Writing topics based on March seasonal events: Spring planting, art festivals, spring break travel, NCAA March Madness, Saint Patrick's Day, Daylight Savings, and even more here.
11. Editorial Calendar
Similar to a seasonal calendar, an editorial calendar can be tailored to your blogging niche. For example, we've created a content calendar for this month's unit on Writing & Storytelling. We knew the overall topic, and so we took time to brainstorm and plan out what types of blog posts we'd feature and in what order they'd occur. Editorial calendars can be done based on a unit of time (monthly, quarterly) or even by topic (marathon running, summer camps).
12. Daily Journal
A short recording of the day's events in conjunction with your feelings and reflections is not only a great practice, but it also can serve as writing material. Many people use the daily journal as a type of "me time" that can provide some excellent material to turn into blog posts. Plus there are some real health benefits to keeping a daily journal.
13. Start with the Takeaway
This technique can work well if you know the takeaway you want your read to gain from your post. Write that take-away down at the top of your brainstorming, and then underneath list all the supporting details that will help your reader come to that specific conclusion. Then spend time organizing the supporting details into a sensible order to write in a long form blog post.
14. Start with the Middle
This is different from starting with the takeaway. Sometimes you know what you want to write, you just don't know how to get started! Well, fortunately, you don't have to know this to get writing. Create the bulk of the blog post first, and then go back and write the opener.
15. Famous Quote
Quotes are a great way to get you started writing. Take just about any topic and google famous quotes about it. Using the words of somebody famous (giving credit, of course!) also shows that you are writing about an important topic. Plus you can create some great infographics for use across your social media.
See what we did there? We used a famous quote to add legitimacy to you reading for inspiration. And here's another: “Somehow the reading gear in your head turns the writing gear.” -Steven Wright. Read more about why Steven Wright said that here.
17. Current Events
While today's news headlines can often be shocking, sensationalized, and quite frankly depressing, they can be an excellent source to get your neurons firing on what to write about. There's no greater way to feel empowered than by writing a passionate post about something that affects the world!
Practice makes permanent and helps you improve, so consider setting up a daily practice of writing. So what does "practice" mean in regards to writing? It means setting a goal of a minimum amount of words to write each and every day consistently, whether you feel like it or not. Stephen King writes 2,000 words a day and has been noted saying,“Only under dire circumstances do I allow myself to shut down before I get my 2,000 words.”
So what do you write about? Maybe go back to that list of topics you've been compiling. (See #1 above)
19. Create a routine
Similar to practicing writing, many people also benefit by setting up a regular routine to get themselves "in the right mindset" for writing. By setting aside the same time each day, finding a comfortable "nook" to set up shop, or even playing a certain song and getting that hot cup of coffee ready, you are training your mind to get itself ready to write. Here's the writing routine of 20 famous writers to give you some ideas.
20. Accountability Partner
An accountability partner is somebody who will hold you accountable for specific tasks. You can meet with them (in person or virtually) on a regular basis, set writing goals, and review what you have accomplished.
21. Writing Partner
A writing partner differs from an accountability partner in that your writing partner takes a much more active role in your writing. This is someone to bounce ideas off, get early feedback on certain passages, and even collaborate on writing blog posts. Think of your accountability partner as your boss, while your writing partner is your team member.
Many published writers will take on writing partners to collaborate and co-author projects. It not only offers writers a new challenge, but it also keeps projects fresh.
22. Interview People
Interviewing people --industry experts, celebrities, grandparents, or your neighbor-- can provide instant writing material. Not only can you do a Q&A format blog post, but you can also use the topics discussed in the interview as a source of content. What stories did your interviewee tell? How did they make you feel? What lessons could you glean from their experience?
23. Read Other Blogs in Your Niche
One of the best sources of inspiration can come from your biggest competition. By being an avid reader of blogs within your niche, you not only see what ideas are relevant right now, but you can also discover topics you hadn't currently thought writing about before.
And we're big fans of giving shout-outs in your writing to other bloggers within your niche. Flattery is a great way to gain new fans!
Writer Beware: Just like doing research, you must take care to not subconsciously plagiarize somebody else's writing or thoughts after reading them.
24. Watch Ted Talks
Ted Talks are short presentations "designed to stir your curiosity." Search them on YouTube and you can find a talk on just about any topic you can think of, and several that you can't! The idea that trees really can talk, going deep sea diving in a wheelchair, and how to make stress your friend are just a few of the fascinating talks you can watch to gain ideas for your own writing.
25. Listen to Podcasts
Similar to watching Ted Talk videos, podcasts are an endless source of writing ideas. Just search iTunes google "best podcasts" and you can surely find something that interests you or aligns with your blogging niche.
One of our absolute favorite podcasts is RadioLab, which does in-depth looks at a variety of topics. Here's one of their episodes entitled "Words":
26. Play Devil's Advocate
State your opinion about a certain topic, and then play "devil's advocate" against yourself, listing all the reasons why your position is incorrect. Basically, you are going to argue with yourself and try to see the other person's point of view. This strategy can be especially useful when writing about a controversial topic or current event.
With the power of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms, it's easier than ever to crowdsource ideas from your friends.
28. Record Your Voice
For some people writing comes naturally, while for others talking is better. So, if you fall into the latter group, try recording your thoughts into a Voice Memo app on your phone. Then you can go back and transcribe what you said into a the beginnings of a blog post.
29. The 5 W's
When everything else fails, go with the basic facts that all journalists make sure to cover:
30. The Throwback
Just like the #TBT hashtag, take a walk down memory lane to find some inspiration. You can provide the research yourself (old photo albums, yearbooks, etc.) or you can even google "what happened in 1982" or something similar. We can think of a ton of things to write about this throw-back photo taken by Professor Josh at our very first #FLBlogCon - held in an elementary school gym in 2011! (And how many of you were there?)
31. Use a Writing Prompt
Writing prompts are sure-fire ways to get your writing going. In fact, here are 365 writing prompts - enough for each day of the year!
32. Change Your Environment
Do you have a home office or work in a designated space? Sometimes you can get in a rut and change of atmosphere can help. There are lots of local coffee shops, beautiful parks, and even co-working spaces that offer you lots of choices on where to write.
33. Try Pen and Paper
There is a difference between writing on your laptop and using a pen and paper. The latter is much more kinesthetic, which many types of creatives thrive utilizing. The physical pen strokes on the paper allow you to make a tactile connection with your words and slows down the processing of the words giving you more time to compose your thoughts.
For those writers who need visual stimulation, try sketching the topic of your blog post first. It can be just a rough outline or a detailed work of art, whichever gets your juices flowing.
One of our favorite artists is Thomas Thorspecken of Analog Artist Digital World. He does a sketch a day of things happening around Central Florida as the inspiration for his accompanying blog post. Here's one he did about #FLBlogCon in 2013 (click the image below to read).
35. Reread your Favorite Blog Post
Ideally, you have written some blog posts you really love, so go back and reread them. What was it you like about the post? How did it make you feel? What words or phrases really hit home? Use these as ammunition to get you started on your next favorite blog post.
We hope these 35 ideas can help you get started writing. Next, we'll be talking about ways to organize your writing once you have decided what to write. Plus we'll review the difference between expository, persuasive, and narrative writing.