Recently, I sat down at my computer to write some blog posts for the week. I found myself in that dangerous cycle of staring at the blank page, getting frustrated, walking away, coming back to the computer when I felt “refreshed”…and starting the cycle all over by staring at the blank page again. I’ve written hundreds of posts here on the NMX blog and thousands of posts across several blogs over the span of my career.
I had nothing left to say.
I felt like punching the computer. I felt like crying. Could this be the end? Was it time for Allison the blogger to retire once and for all?
Of course, if you’ve been blogging for any length of time, you know that these feelings wax and wane. All bloggers inevitably face the terror of the blank screen from time to time. It’s one thing if you truly do not enjoy blogging in your niche anymore. Then, maybe it’s time to move on to another project. But if you’re simply feeling uninspired, don’t worry; it will pass.
It will pass…but you can’t just sit around and wait for that to happen. If you do, you can easily fall into complacency, ignoring your blog for months. Sometimes, you have to go out and find inspiration, tear it from the world, and stick it on your blog. If you don’t have a muse, look for one rather than just waiting for one to magically find you.
I already posted this short list of the places I find inspiration most often – from current events, stories/parables, and kids/pets. But some days, those techniques just don’t work. So let’s dig even deeper and find more places to help get inspired to write. Here are the places I look for inspiration when I don’t know what to write about (and if you need even more ideas, check out this list of Brilliant Bloggers talking about finding post ideas):
1. Other Bloggers
When is the last time you took a day to catch up on your reading? When’s the last time you actively searched for new blogs to read instead of relying on your old favorites? What’s the last time you wrote a reactionary piece to something someone else wrote?
2. Google Analytics
What search terms are people using to get to your site? Are you actually answering their questions or addressing their needs with the posts they find?
3. Your Readers
Don’t be afraid to post a poll asking your readers what kind of topics they want to see you covering on your blog. You can also ask them for specific questions they have so you can address their problems.
4. Your Past Posts
Rarely is a post truly evergreen. Could you write an update to a previous post? Could you cover a topic in more detail? Think about how you can use one of your favorite past posts as a starting point for one or more new posts.
What in your niche can be compared? Think about two products or two services or two schools of thought you can compare and contrast and write about it.
6. Books and Print Media
Just like we don’t take enough time to read other blogs, we often don’t take enough time to read books in our niche. Books (and other forms of print media) can lead not only to reviews, but also to content ideas. Pull a quote from an author and write an entire blog post around that.
What are people in your niche creating video content about? Check out YouTube and see what videos are most popular about specific topics. Even if you don’t do videos yourself, you can turn those ideas into blog posts.
If you don’t have a huge following quite yet, polling your readers can be difficult. So instead, head to a forum related to your niche and see what people are asking. Answer their questions with a blog post.
9. Wordtracker’s Keyword Questions
This is a trick I learned from Rich Brooks during his BlogWorld New York 2012 session. Wordtracker has a great tool called Keyword Questions. You enter a broad term (like “cooking” if you are a food blogger) and you can see what people are really asking about this topic. Each question can be answered in a blog post.
10. Twitter Hashtags
On Twitter, people often use hashtags to talk about specific topics. Search these hashtags (or just do a general Twitter search) to find out what they’re talking about. This can inspire you to write your own posts about the topic.
I absolutely love Pinterest! (If you aren’t using it yet, here’s a five-part Pinterest 101 series to help you get started.) This site is a great source of inspiration, since you can search for boards about a specific topic and see what people have pinned to those boards. You can also type in pinterest.com/source/yoururl.com (replaced with your url of course) to find out what people are pinning from your site so you can replicate that success by expanding more on a popular topic.
12. Your Own List of Ideas
Lastly, you can get inspiration from your own list of ideas. What does that mean? It means that right now, start a list of ideas that you can pull up whenever you are stuck. When you’re feeling super creative, it’s easy to come up with topics for posts, so when you’re in the blank screen cycle and contemplating giving up, you can simply open this document and pick an idea from the list. Add to this list of ideas regularly so you also have fresh content ideas for your blog.