I have a Google Sheets file filled with hundreds of blog post ideas because there are a lot of us. I literally just start typing up ideas some days and can’t seem to stop until I’ve exhausted myself. Few ideas actually make it to the public, and maybe it’s easier for me because blogging is a special interest or because there are multiple people in my head, but I figured I’d share the tricks we use so you can never run out of blog post ideas, too!
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Magazines provide a great source of blog inspiration because?? the headlines are there, you just have to hack them. Or you can keep up with the trends. Or be trendy. Or use them for layout/structure inspiration.
There are two main routes you can take with magazines:
- Sort of headline hacking
- Staying up to date with what’s hot
Headline hacking with magazines
The furthest from your topics/focus the magazine covers, the better because otherwise it’s teetering on the edge of copying and that’s not cool. When headline hacking with magazines, you’re essentially creating a fill-in-the-blank structure. The goal is to change the headline to work for a particular category. If you’re nicheless like me, choose one category to start with, then move on to the others.
The more unrelated-to-the-topic the magazine, the better—because it’s not something to copy, but something to use for a framework [for homework].
For example, I’ll start with food. From magazines, I may find the following:
- 10 things that should be on every girl’s beauty list (beauty)
…and change it into:
- 10 kitchen gadgets that should be in every broke girl’s kitchen (food, home, lifestyle)
Some other examples:
- “16 books that will make you a better entrepreneur for 2016” to
“18 resources that will make you a better cook for YYYY” (food)
- “5 ways to avoid creative burnout” to
“5 ways avoid allergen-friendly eating burnout” (food)
Of course, you can also occasionally take headlines and articles and, um, make them so much better:
- “Toys for kids with autism that they won’t want to put down” to
“Toys autistic kids won’t want to put down” (lifestyle, parenting)
Using magazines to stay updated
The content in magazines got there not because someone was feeling a little brave one day, but because it’s basically their job to know what’s up in their residing genre and stay on top of it.
If you choose this route, you’ll need a magazine close to the desired category. Thus, if you’re a mommy blogger who wishes to stay on top of what’s hot using magazines, you should subscribe to parenting magazines. I’m not a mommy blogger, but I found Family Fun useful in helping mom bloggers.
Even if you’re not one to follow trends, you can be one of the first peoples to talk about a trend, either in a comparison/contrast sort of way, or just a mention. I sometimes do this for comical effects, like if I find something a magazine keeps trying to push (e.g. chevrons) that has been so overdone in the world already. Seriously? Can’t we just let chevrons die out already?
Sharing opinions about magazine topics
My grandmother was subscribed to Forbes, though she always recycled them upon receiving, that I sometimes picked up to read because one of the headlines caught my eye. I’m not a fan of Forbes because their copy is too much jargon and their website is hell, but of the few stories I’ve read, I could have shared my opinion about something said in it by first summarizing, maybe even sharing as per Fair Use standards a portion of the story if I couldn’t find a link online, and then explaining why I felt a certain way.
If you subscribe for trends to a trashy magazine, and you hate how they cover women, you could write a post about why you loathe that, or just share your opinions on it how magazines talk about women differently from how they talk about men, if at all.
This falls in with reading magazines to keep up with trends, but it still works.
Other magazines have recipes, DIY projects, and tips, and posts surrounding those things could be how those recipes/DIY projects/tips/etc. went for you.
Taking magazine headlines & writing “blind posts”
This is a controversial method of blogging and writing blog posts, because you’re literally taking someone else’s headline and using it for yourself. On the other hand, ideally speaking, you would be attributing the original source of the headline.
Then you have swipe files that take headlines and create blanks, creating MadLibs-style inspiration that is all essentially the same thing as headline hacking. Some don’t even blank the nouns at all.
So at the end of the day, it boils down to what standards you maintain in your own blogging.
2. Join linkups.
Probz really cliche, but linkups can help force a bit of a posting habit. What’s more, they allow you to meet other bloggers and, usually, receive some extra comments from people visiting from the linkup(s).
Some linkups I’ve participated in in the past:
- A Day in the Life
- Book Blog Discussion Challenge
- My Favorite Things
- Timeless Thoughts
- Top Ten Tuesday
You can also start your own—just make sure you can keep up with it. Link Party Animal is a directory of linkup parties that makes finding relative ones easier, and parties listed may also allow you to “schedule” your posts, so your link is automatically added at the time of its publishing. The site is founded by a husband-wife duo, so they get blogging.
The key is to find linkups that provide prompts or themes each week/month, so your inspiration is more concentrated instead of forcing you to think of more general things to write about.
3. Start columns or post series.
Should you do certain linkups regularly, they’d technically be considered columns. However, you can create regular features that don’t include the extra work of a linkup and post to them as frequently as you’d like. Like linkups, columns can help you create a regular blogging habit, and/or give you more #bloginspo.
A simple way to brainstorm a new column is to first decide the topic/category on which you want the column to focus. Next, choose what it might entail (visiting places, photography, baking, etc.), and lastly, decide how frequently you’ll update it.
- Niche thoughts posted on a particular day of the week, e.g. bookish ones on Mondays
- Life updates posted weekly or monthly
- Popular generic ones you put your own spin on — What I Ate Wednesday, What Works Wednesday (except call it something else, ’cause that’s trademarked), Style Saturday
The only challenge, however, is keeping up with them, as the only real motivator is you (unless people look forward to certain series of yours, which is low-key rewarding).
I didn’t expect it before I started, but my book reviews brought in readers I soon built up relationships with, and some readers come solely for the bookish posts! When I realized this, I started posting them on Mondays—scheduling them, rather—because it allowed them to expect when I’d post what they wanted. My readers became great motivators in what first began as a personal preference—ah! Blogging is so beautiful.
(That said, I’m on a book reviewing hiatus.)
Limited columns is a blog-friendly take on limited media series you may find on Netflix or remember from Heroes Reborn.
Jane Out Loud is a limited series in which I share about my life in ways I never have before, focusing on my life with dissociative identity disorder, and coming to terms with my sexuality and who I am as an alter in a DID system.
A Day in the Life could be considered a limited column, because I didn’t continue it for several years. I had a stopping point, and it’s a good thing I did. ADITL had its thing, but it seems to be a thing of the past. It may crop up again somewhere, and I may do it on my own again (sans linkups), but it was a limited endeavor.
Limited series need not revolve around life-altering, earth-shattering events, but can be as simple as sharing how you spend one random day out of each month, for a year, chronicle a pregnancy, or you interviewing one person every week in the year.
4. Curated posts are like lists—and people love lists.
But don’t think of curated posts for content outside your blog. Everyone’s always quick to suggest a blogger create a curated post consisting of both their content and others’ content, but then the blogger has only one post. If you’re creating curated content because you need blog post ideas and can’t, for the life of you, figure out what to blog about, you need to stay on your blog.
In other words, you should never search for posts outside of your blog for this exercise, even if it’s for inspiration.
S’not like you need any outside help for this, anyway.
- Think of a title for curated piece (e.g. Snacks I’m totally digging right now)
- Decide on a number for how many posts you’ll include in curated piece (e.g. 10)
- Search own site for posts that fit into curated piece
- If you’ve guest-posted a piece that would do well in your curated piece, it’s fair game—include it.
- Count how many posts you have for the number defined in #2
- Brainstorm posts for remaining count to write and publish before the curated piece can be published
The problem with on-site curated posts for a lot of bloggers is not having “enough” content to be able to create any. If you forever create lists driving people off your blog, you’ll never meet amazing people, and they’ll likely never see your own content.
On-site curated posts also help you build up your blog, because you’re forcing yourself to brainstorm ideas from a central theme and create the posts so you can publish what I call the “incentive piece” for writing all the posts for the curated piece: the actual curated piece. Of course, it’s mostly an incentive to me, because I like playing with my page views as much as Independence Day party-throwers love fireworks, and lists can be “viral-potential”.
Other pros extend to linking to the curated piece when you’d rather link to a specific post rather than a tag. For example, you could link to “10 posts to help alleviate blogger burnout” instead of a blogging tag or category, which would be more helpful to people than only one post. Linking to a specific post instead of a general collection of them reaches a specific pain point and helps avoid overwhelm, or “Where TF do I begin??!!” syndrome. Readers are wayyy more likely to interact with your content if you link them to specific posts rather than tag/category archives.
Adding others’ links
Once you have all the posts needed for your list, however, you might consider adding others’ links—this way, you’re not only sticking to yourself all the time. It’s not a requirement, it just might help you a little more in the long run.
If you’re into optimizing your site for search engines, it helps to have 2-3 related outbound links in a blog post.
If you might want to collaborate with other bloggers in the future, linking to others helps you seem more approachable.
If you let the blogger know you’ve linked to them in your blog post, they might share it and/or add it to a public “press” or “features” list.
Adding others’ links also has a way of being slightly more helpful, because #sorrynotsorry but I’ve a hard time believing the “only resource for ____” claim is anything but an exaggeration (unless, of course, it truly is, in which case it’s gotta be outlined in testimonial for me to take it seriously).
Instead of asking others to link back to you/give a shout-out/etc., simplicity is key. Not every blogger—and especially not old school bloggers—are into that whole scheme.
Edit to your voice/personality/aura:
I linked to your post about ____ (link to post) in my post, “title of post (linked)”.
The link is at (plain URL)
I’d be grateful if you tweeted it: [link to tweet]
No reply necessary,
Make it easy for them to tweet it by linking them directly to a Tweet New Post link. You can generate them with Tweet intent forms.
“No reply necessary” implies the mutual understanding of how precious time is.
If you receive any kind of rejection, don’t take it too personally. Avoid badmouthing them because 1) it says a lot about you, 2) looks tacky, 3) increases notoriety, and/or 4) makes other bloggers want to steer clear of you.
5. Look for potential posts as you type out your blog posts.
I started writing this June 2016. 🤭 I knew I wasn’t going to publish it until I’d changed everything to Janepedia, but whilst writing it, I realized many blog posts I could write and publish, or that I was keen to publish in the future (although most of them didn’t happen, and that’s fine).
If you’re actively open to potential link anchor text and/or phrases, you’ll have a better idea of how far you can take one post. Back when I frequently blogged about my PTSD, I kept running into instances wherein I wished I had a post about x so y could make more sense, so I’d write the post about y and include the links accordingly—then write the post about x. The former (x) would obviously be published first, and then the original (y) post idea sometime later.
I call these “linking posts” or “linked posts”, because the posts essentially become a chain reaction in their own way—and chain reactions fascinate me. (An individual post linked with another in such a chain would be a “linked post”).
6. Simplify things./Go back to the basics.
I’m not recommending you water something down and become Simple McSimpleton—unless it’s your style, of course.
Instead, go back to the basics and work your way up. Exhaust your topic every which way.
If the now-defunct Crunchy Family had posts on how to be “crunchy”, it would be best to start with the basics: don’t tell a crunchy newbie to eat her placenta — apparently, this is a thing — when you consider such to be “hardcore crunchy”.
When I simplify something, I begin to see questions the thing may spark, then make a list of those things so I can have answers ready.
Rotation diets, for example, are commonly known among the dieting community as a way to lose weight, but in the allergic-to-nearly-everything community, they’re more for maintaining a diverse, nutritional diet. Sometimes, I’m better off eating an allergen (provided it’s not higher than a 2 on a 1-4 scale) than chancing some vitamin or supplement, which may contain nuts or shellfish or something, especially when it’s better to go straight to the source for nutrients than to rely on pills to swallow.
However, rotation diets for allergies are complex and not everyone understands them, so a post about them would need to include answers to potential questions—which is why I have yet to post about mine.
(Because if you’re allergic to something, WHY eat it? Non-allergic people don’t understand how there is an allergy scale.)
There is also a matter of different alters having different allergies, which I’ve discovered in the last 1-2 years. It’s a total mindfuck that I don’t even know where to begin about.
7. Ask and answer questions about your readers
Sometimes the best post we could write is staring us straight in the face. But…we can’t see it, because we’re blinded by our proximity. Even when I step away from my blog, I don’t always come back ready to write something—more often than not, it’s the opposite.
The solution? Prioritizing. I ask myself questions about my readers, then I answer them.
Why ask these questions?
- If you have an about page, you acknowledge readers exist.
- If you allow comments, you are expecting them to an extent.
- If you want more traffic to your blog, for any reason, a part of you does want those people to stay.
You don’t need an about page for yourself. If you don’t want these things, all you have is an online diary. You can shout into the void, but what would be the point in tracking anything? My point is that, at the end of the day, “bloggers” are such because 1) of the voice and 2) we want it. Regardless of how much we want it, we want it.
I don’t imagine someone who couldn’t care less about their readers would have made it this far into this post.
What do my readers need help with?
Whatever you skill set, there’s gotta be something you can help your readers with.
Or you can start with your story. Maybe you’ve got a diagnosis that is highly stigmatized, that not many people understand because mainstream media popularizes the perpetuation of stereotypes.
Marie Kondo used her story to create a tidying up business.
What would I need help with? What would I want to read/see?
I like to think we attract readers who are more like us than we realize. I still blog about what I want and when, but when I’m at a total loss for something to write (postpiration #overload), I try to think of what I would need help with. It sorta falls into the whole be-the-person-I-needed-yesterday thing.
What the Darling system wants to see and read is how to create your own career as a multiplicity in a singlet society.
What is happening right now?
Dude, have you seen the news lately?
And did you know there are tons of observances you’ve probably never heard of happening almost everyday?
And hey—seasonal content is so in each respective season. Thanks to differing weather in each hemisphere, you technically get two chances per season.
I’m not saying you’ve gotta bring icky political issues onto your #apolitical blog, Olivia Pope, but it’s possible to acknowledge current events/wacky holidays/various seasons/etc. without getting political. Of course, if you’re all passive like, “I’m not one to get political here, but a decision was made in the White House today that has had me down lately, and I’m not gonna say whether I agree or disagree with it because I don’t want to start any drama, but…” then OF COURSE you’ve double-crossed yourself and broke that apolitical line—I’d be surprised if you could even see it.
But seriously: Check out the random-ass holidays and get super creative! Maybe it’s cow-shaped cookies for National Cow Day. (I intended to do the former, but misplaced my cow-shaped ice cream sandwich cookie cutter in 2016 and only recently found it).
Posts I can name off the top of my head that were directly inspired by current events:
7. Contribute to a post topic over a long period of time.
This mayn’t be ideal, but…I do it because I have DID.
I start new posts in Google Docs and contribute to them over long periods of time. I’ve slowly contributed to this post since 2015. Naturally, time-sensitive information is written in these posts, but editing it isn’t too much of a hassle.
I call this “holding posts” and them “held posts”. Held posts are convenient, because I keep notes about specific topics/ideas the more I discover about them. In the instance of this post, each time I discovered a working method, I added to the file. In SEO, long posts are favored more (if they hold valuable information). Verbosity is a personal turnoff for me, so I try to avoid it. When I go to Pinterest for blog inspiration tips, I roll my eyes at the verbose, #basic lists and wonder why I even bother. Where’s the beef?? Even if I eat mor chikin, the problem is in the lack of meat in the bun.
Depending on what you blog about, holding posts may not be the best course of action for you. They take a lot of time to write and effort to deliver. I had to discipline myself into a routine that allowed me to hold posts. It’s super tempting to type-and-release posts then and there! Impatience haunts me sometimes, but then I wait a little while and have something more to add to the held posts—and then I remember why I started. I don’t want to dish out cheap posts. I want to be #ActuallyHelpful when people come onto my blog because my title drew them in. I don’t want to overload them in the very things I cannot stand myself.
So I don’t.
If you want to write longer posts, but have a hard time, holding posts makes this process easier. I most like how I can work on a post section by section over a period of time.
8. Hit up the help sections.
Think hashtags and communities. Places like Quora (hate it), hashtags on Twitter, and niche Facebook groups are good for this.
Occasionally, someone asks a really good question that can be answered via a blog post.
However, a lot of the time, people don’t know how to ask questions, so they’re vague. “I need blog help” doesn’t get us very far. “I need help identifying my green succulent with leaves” gets us close, but not close enough; pictures make a world of a difference.
What I do is look for patterns. I make notes here and there, then group similar topics together and try to find a way I can solve the problems in one post that covers a lot of things instead of one at a time. This is similar to my held posts method, but not quite—held posts are written over time, while the notes for these outsourced problems posts are more like outlines.
9. Talk to people.
I don’t care how you do it, although I often find plenty of topics to add to my arsenal when partaking in in-person verbal communication. The ableism runs high there, and I always think of at least one thing that’d make for a good post. I don’t rant as much anymore, and this is definitely not what I’m recommending.
What I mean by “talk to people” is to talk to them. What’s their story? How does talking to them make you feel? Do they make you want to change something about yourself, but in the best way?
I have a second cousin twice-removed, or something like that, named Kathy. She’s part of a teaching group of sorts that works with students. They travel all around the world. She’s been to Antarctica and seen things not available to the public to see because of this organization she’s a part of. Sometimes I go to the monthly luncheon with her, which is essentially a meeting of all the non-profit organizations in the Plano/Richardson/Garland area. She holds little prejudice, from what I’ve gathered, and motivates me to work to be less fearless so I could perhaps have some adventures of my own. She travels so much! She speaks other languages. She’s unapologetically herself. I could write a post about her, but I’m not even sure where I’d start or how I’d go about that! I wouldn’t call her a role model/idol/etc. (I don’t have those), but rather someone who has made, and continues to make, a positive impact on my life.
When you talk to people, listen to their stories, find out where they come from, and all that jazz—a seed takes root. If you let it grow, who knows what it’ll grow into?
I never once considered making my recipes more accessible to people in other countries by offering alternative ingredients, recipes and/or measurements until a friend of mine from Europe explained with me the difficulty in making a recipe I’d posted. “Italian dressing” is basically ranch dressing in her country. Later, I learned there are so many free-from recipes out there—I was just deterred by the whole weighted measurements being used instead of volume.
While this one is not directly blog post inspiration, it’s something that could contribute well to a post later on. I’ve seen so many posts start with some variation of “I was talking to so-and-so and…”
Don’t knock it ’til you try it.
I hope this helps! My own inspiration comes from everything—from all over—but when I outsource it, this is what happens. I use my life experiences and surroundings to figure out what to write most of the time. My passion navigates me.
In blogging, it’s important to practice self-care — to step out of yourself, even. We escape into books, movies, television, manga, comics, games, music — anything we need to so we can escape our mind for a bit. These days, we spend so much time consuming content and forget the importance of revitalization. If the blogger is burnt out, the blog will soon suffer. It’s okay to take breaks. It’s okay to not be “on” all the time. It’s okay to take time to chillax with a cozy blanket, your cat and Netflix—or a book, or a comic, or a game, or music and a nap.
When we don’t take care of ourselves, the things revolving around us will suffer in return.
And when that doesn’t work, there is always my blog prompt generator to assist you. ;D
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