Blogging Advice: Brainstorming and Idea Management

Welcome back to my series on blogging advice. There were a few reader questions in the first instalment, How to Begin Blogging, about the actual process of creating a blog, so I thought I’d take a moment to briefly address that. I’ll share a link to that post at the end of this one for anyone who would like to read or reread it.

I was originally planning to write a full post about the process of creating a new blog, but the official instructions for setting up new WordPress sites were so clear and easy to follow that I decided to link to them instead. There’s no use in reinventing the wheel when it already exists!

If you’re interested in setting up a tumblr account, check out this tutorial.

If you’re interested in setting up a medium account, go read this post.

Now to move on to what I think is one of the most exciting portions of blogging: brainstorming ideas and creating new posts.

Brainstorming

Today I’m going to assume that you’ve chosen a few topics for your blog. It’s perfectly acceptable if you’re still not entirely sure what all of them will be as long as you’ve made up your mind about at least one of the things you’re planning to write about. Other ideas might come to you as you explore the topic(s) that first came to mind.

Before you write a single word, do as much brainstorming and research as possible. Approach your topic from every single angle you can possibly imagine regardless of how likely it is that you might actually blog about them.

For example, if I were going to start a new site about rabbits, my favourite animal, my list would include lots of typical posts about what to feed them, how to teach them tricks, or when to call a veterinarian if they became ill. Mixed in with those ideas would also be potentially quirkier ideas on this topic like:

  • Famous Stories, Myths, and Folklore About Rabbits
  • Should You Date Someone Your Rabbit Hates?
  • How Rabbit Care Has Evolved Over the Last X Years
  • Human Foods Rabbits Should (or Should Never) Eat
  • Is It Dangerous for Rabbits to Chew on Christmas Trees?
  • What Rabbits Think of Fireworks
  • How to Respond to People Who Joke About Eating Your Pet Rabbit
  • Should You Take Your Rabbit on Vacation?
  • Keeping Rabbits Safe at the Beach/Mountains/etc.
  • Types of Music Rabbits Do (or Don’t) Like
  • Halloween Costumes for Rabbits
  • How to Befriend a Shy Rabbit
  • What Will Rabbits Look Like After Another Million Years of Evolution?
  • What Do Rabbits Really Think of Humans?
  • Where to Find Your Rabbit When He’s Hiding Somewhere in the House and Won’t Come Out
  • Help! My Rabbit Just Ate a Chicken Nugget!*

Yes, some of these titles might sound a little like clickbait, and I certainly wouldn’t use everything that popped into my mind as I was writing. The point of brainstorming is to come up with as many possibilities as you can without worrying about whether any or all of them are actually useful at this point. Instead, follow every single rabbit trail – pun intended – as far as it will go and see what you come up with.

*This was a real conversation I read on Reddit a while ago. The bunny in question suffered no ill-effects from his snack, although no one could figure out why a fluffy little herbivore would want to eat a chicken nugget in the first place. Maybe he or she saw a commercial for their favourite fast food restaurant or something? Ha!

Managing Ideas

Keep Track of Everything

Once you’ve come up with a preliminary list of ideas for your site, it’s time to figure out what to do with them until you decide whether or when to use them.

I highly recommend holding onto every idea that has the slightest chance of being used. There’s a file on my computer filled with potential ideas that I’ve been referencing, taking inspiration from, and adding new possibilities to for years now. It’s an invaluable source of information for me on those days when I have a blogging deadline looming and no clue what to write for that post.

Some of the bloggers I’ve met prefer to write their ideas down in a notebook instead. However you decide to do it, make sure your list is somewhere safe and accessible.

The Sorting and Grouping Process

Once you’ve made your list and checked it twice, start sorting your ideas out into various groups. For example, I’d pick out all of the holiday-themed prompts in my hypothetical brainstorming list above and start tentatively assigning them publication dates on or near those actual events.

  • Should You Date Someone Your Rabbit Hates? (February 14)
  • Can You Take Your Rabbit on Vacation? (June 10)
  • What Rabbits Think of Fireworks (July 2)
  • Keeping Rabbits Safe at the Beach/Mountains/etc. (August 1)
  • Halloween Costumes for Rabbits (October 20)
  • Is It Dangerous for Rabbits to Chew on Christmas Trees? (December 8)

If you only want to publish one new post a week, you’ve just knocked out six of the fifty-two posts you’ll need for the entire year. That’s more than 10% of your goal! In addition, someone who knew rabbits well well could easily come up with another half-dozen topics that are tailored to specific times of the year if they put their minds to it.

It might also be interesting to pick a broad theme like food and spend a few consecutive posts talking about what rabbits should eat daily, occasionally, or never. I might then round off that series with a short and funny anecdote about a rabbit who couldn’t resist the lure of a chicken nugget before talking about the warning signs that your pet bunny has eaten something dangerous and when he or she might need to be medically treated for it.

There’s something fascinating about seeing how many different ideas one brainstorming session can create.

Mixing It Up

With that being said, I’d also recommend mixing up your posting schedule in general. If your last few posts were about heavy topics, it might be time for something lighthearted. Something that clocked in at several thousand words might be best followed by a shorter post if your subject matter allowed for it.

Work Ahead When Possible

The beautiful thing about planning at least some of your posts out in advance like this is that it allows you to work ahead. If you know you’ll be on vacation or recovering from an elective medical procedure at a specific time and already have an inkling of what you might want to say then, why not get those posts written well ahead of time?

When possible, I also like to have a few posts sitting in my queue that could be published at any time of the year. This comes in handy for everything from power outages to illnesses that can make it hard to write new content on a deadline occasionally.

Series, Responses, and Other Renewable Writing Resources

This is where series, response posts, and other renewable writing resources come in quite handy.

To continue with today’s theme, if you’ve already written one post about games to play with domesticated rabbits, you might be able to come up with several more suggestions on keeping rabbits entertained, fit, and mentally stimulated that would work beautifully as a follow-up to the original.

Response posts are another favourite of mine. Occasionally, one of the bloggers I follow writes something that I have the uncontrollable urge to respond to with a post of my own. Not only is this a great way to generate new ideas, linking to the original will give that blogger some new traffic and may encourage them to alert their readers about your post, too.

The possibilities here are nearly endless. They can also include contests, year-end reviews of your most popular posts, blog hops, contests, interviews with people in your field, and so much more. I encourage you to try many different types of posts as you feel out what your audience is interested in and, of course, what it is you actually want to write about.

How do you all come up with fresh content for your sites?

The next instalment in this series will be discussing how to find and photos and other visual aides in your posts, so stay tuned!

Additional reading:

Blogging Advice: How to Begin Blogging

15 Things I’ve Learned From 15 Years of Blogging

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