Some of the best writing advice I’ve ever had is to write about what interests you most. This is something I’ve been doing on Medium for the past year. Following this advice usually makes it fairly easy to come up with new writing ideas.
But not ALL the time.
Sometimes, thinking of a topic to write about can be downright difficult. Even when you’re writing about things of interest, the well can run dry. Maybe you feel like you’ve shared all you know. Or you don’t know enough about a subject to write a blog about it.
Maybe you’ve covered a subject from multiple angles and writing about it again feels so…boring.
Whatever the reason you’re lost for words, there are a few ways to deal with it.
Below are the fail-safe tactics I fall back on when inspiration takes a holiday.
Read Something Different
My favourite reading genres are sci-fi, fantasy, psychology and self-help. I love to immerse myself in a different world and forget the one I’m in. Or learn about how our minds work and strategies for improving ourselves and our lives.
Reading regularly is good for your brain and it usually keeps ideas flowing. But, when ideas are running thin, I switch it up. I’ll read outside my favoured genres.
I might pick up some chick lit, a criminal mystery, or learn about leadership tactics in Fortune 500 companies. The change of direction and new mind food causes new connections to be made. It allows your brain to approach a favoured subject from a new direction.
When reading in a new territory, something happens to your perspective. A little like traveling to a different culture, you make the familiar unfamiliar or the unfamiliar, familiar.
When we do this, we start to associate objects and ideas with each other in new ways. Inspiration is sparked. It’s a little like an artist who turns their portrait upside down to gain a new perspective on the painting.
Jot down the different associations that come to you. Keeping a list of them means you’ll have a well of inspiration ready next time the one inside runs low.
I tend to only record a few words — maybe something like ‘idea generation tactics’ and then a couple of bullet points to help remind me of where I was coming from.
Make sure you note enough to make sense to future you.
The internet is full of resources. So much so that it can be overwhelming knowing where to start.
I have a few go to’s for quickly inviting my muse back.
Answer the Public is a great topic research tool because it is so simple to use.
Type in the keyword for your area of interest and hit ‘search’.
All the most pressing questions being asked of Google about that thing will appear in a handy list for you to browse.
It’s pretty too — queries are displayed in a kind of mandala arrangement, the darker the green, the higher the search numbers.
Simply research the answers to one or more of the most interesting questions and you’re on your way.
You’ll be creating an article about something that people want to know about.
So, it’s a double win!
Google auto-suggest helpfully completes your query when you begin writing something. It’s not just randomly picking words out of thin air. It’s suggesting some of the top searches based on what others are asking.
This is a great way to find out what people are thinking and asking about brands, hot topics, places — anything.
Keep in mind that the top suggestions in purple are things you’ve asked before. Google will also be serving you suggestions based on your location.
If you’re writing for a different market to where you’re writing from, consider using a VPN to change your location. Typical keyword search tools like Ubersuggest, Moz, and SEMrush often throw common queries into the results. Words associated with the topic you are interested in writing about can also spark new ideas.
If you’re stuck for something to write about, try running a few keyword searches and playing some word associations with it.
See which direction your mind goes when unfamiliar or less used words related to your core topic come up. Follow the thread and you’ll be luring your muse back to play.
A non-digital option is to pull out your thesaurus and see where less familiar words take you.
Learn Something New
Sometimes, I write about things that I can’t easily find an answer for. Some of my better-performing articles for Medium have been generated this way. Building an email list without a website was one.
If you’re wondering about something, or want to know more than you can easily find, other people probably are too. If a cohesive answer or instructions can’t be found on the net, you’ve hit gold. Inside every challenge and frustration lies an opportunity.
So dig deep.
Research the steps you need to complete your mission and create an article about it.
Ask as many questions as you need to figure that thing out — and answer every single one of them. If you have too much for one article — great! — break it into two or even three.
Creating high-value content helps build your audience.
Staying curious generates ideas.
Expanding your area of curiosity will bring original and compelling ideas from the novel connections your mind makes.
Word associations can raise questions and cause you to look at an old and familiar subject from a new angle.
When inspiration takes a hike, don’t sit around waiting for it to return. Create the right conditions to bring it racing back and get you happily tapping your keyboard again.