Hello and happy Wednesday!
It feels very strange to be writing this post.
When I first starting blogging, I was mostly lost as to what content to create. My own inspiration gave me a few ideas, but writing on a whim wasn’t giving me as many ideas for posts as I wanted to publish. Especially just starting off and wanting to build an audience.
My blogging wasn’t consistent and growth was slow for the first few months. Then I started to make an intentional effort to see what other successful author/bloggers were writing about. Not to copy them obviously, but at least to see what sorts of topics worked for them. I started paying closer attention to what kinds of writing questions people asked, or what the readers of those blogs commented that they wanted to see more of.
I investigated the calendar and made a list of all the small, special days that interested me, such as ‘Tell a Fairytale Day’, ‘Library Lovers’ Day’, ‘World Poetry Day’, and even ‘Pencil Day’, as well as some others that weren’t reading or writing related, but inspired purely fun posts. Looking through them gave me more ideas.
When events – like NaNoWriMo – or holidays – such as Christmas, Veterans Day, or Thanksgiving – came up, they also brought ideas and topics to write about. Special milestones in my personal writing journey – like publishing or having blogged for one year – meant even more special ideas.
But mostly it was the ‘regular’ days that kept stumping me, especially as I ran out of the ideas I’d come up with before starting my blog. Thankfully, as I researched what other people did, and what methods worked best for coming up with post ideas that were in demand, but not overdone or contrary to my beliefs/brand, I figured out what works for me.
Now I’m glad to say that my biggest problem with posting now is simply finding the time to write the posts! But I have plenty of ideas, and have learned what’s most helpful to me in coming up with those ideas.
Lately, I’ve gotten quite a few questions about my brainstorming process for this blog. And again, it feels very strange to write this post – the type of post that I was looking up and reading on other people’s blogs just a couple of years ago, but I’m also happy to hopefully help someone else the way those other blogs helped me!
This is just my personal way of doing it. It works for me, but everyone has different methods and styles. My goal is just to share what I’m doing, and if it also works for you, or you just need to give it a few tweaks, then that’s great! Or if your ideal process is completely different, I’d love to hear about it, so please stick around to the comments!
(This video by Bethany Atazadeh was a huge source of inspiration for me, and jumpstarted my own process. As a result, mine is very similar to hers. I highly recommend her videos!)
Something the above video taught me was to start my idea brainstorming by doing an overview of my goals as an author/blogger. What did I want to be known for? What was I already known for? What was I trying to do by posting? What’s the purpose, who were my readers, and what would benefit them while I still remained true to who I was?
Personally, I mainly use this process when it comes to my website and blog posts, and that’s how I’m going to address it for this post. But this also can absolutely work for any of your social media platforms that you need to brainstorm content ideas for. So whether you’re needing ideas for your Facebook, Instagram, Youtube channel, blog, or anything else…just have that platform in mind.
Then I decide how often I’d like to post – ideally. Plans can change and that number can be adjusted if needed, but it helps me to have a rough estimate to aim for, so I can stay as consistent as possible. For me, that’s 1-3 times weekly, or anywhere between four and twelve posts a month. I try to tailor my posting schedule for the month around other life obligations coming up. Some months are lighter, some are heavier, and both are okay!
And here’s where it starts to require more thought…What are your categories? What sorts of topics do you either already cover or want to start covering? What kinds of posts would be helpful to your readers and enjoyable to you at the same time?
I typically only post content on Sundays, Wednesdays, and/or Fridays. My aim is to always post Wednesdays, and then usually either Sunday or Friday, as well. So for me, the category step is two-fold. First, I have a general category for each posting day. For example:
~ Sundays are my reflection days. This is where I talk about life, what I’m learning, what I’m thankful for, thoughts on Christianity…basically, it’s where I let myself ramble more than usual, and get poetic and thoughtful about the events going on around me. I try to keep Sunday posts deeper, more personal, and faith-centered.
~ Wednesdays are my writing-related days. Here’s where I cover anything having to do with writing. Advice, my journey, my process (notice this is posted on a Wednesday!), my experiences with writing, editing, publishing, cover design, etc…whatever I think others might be interested in – either about my own writing, or tips to help them with theirs.
~ Fridays are my ‘fun’ days. Of course, I enjoy writing posts any day of the week, but Fridays are for being random. These are where I hop in on blog tags, do book reviews, interview authors, guest posts, share some of my favorite non-writing related things, and basically just let myself be a bit more scattered with the type of content than I am on other days.
Then, with the general categories figured out, I dove deeper and came up with some more specific categories of posts for these days. Topics I liked, had legitimate advice or experience with, and also could see coming in handy or being enjoyable for other people.
The goal was 8-12, and I ended up finding twelve total. You’ll notice in the picture below that the number of categories within each day aren’t even and that’s okay! (I have twice as many categories for Wednesday, but I also post far more often that day so it balances out.)
So my categories ended up like this:
- Sunday Reflections
~ What I’m Learning…
~ Life/Christian Reflections
- Writing Wednesdays
~ My books (published & WIPs)
~ Writing tips
~ My writing journey/process
~ Blogging tips
- Fun Fridays
~ Blog tags
~ Author Interviews/Guest posts
~ My Favorites
When coming up with your own ‘categories’, don’t worry about being too exact. As you can see, some of mine overlap strangely, some are very specific, some are more broad…it’s all just so you can see what types of topics you’re going to aim to post about. So organize and word things however is most helpful to you.
And now is when I move into each specific category and spend some time thinking through post ideas for each. This is the time for rampant imagination and letting myself jot down any and every idea I can think of. (Note that I took the images below partway through my brainstorming session…an author can’t reveal all her secrets, haha!)
Will I use all of those ideas? Most likely not. Oftentimes, I’ll write down ideas that may sound good at the time, but later on, I realize that I’m not qualified for them, or just don’t see any point to them any more. But even those ideas could spark others that I will use, so I still consider them important.
And sometimes, as I keep coming back to my lists of ideas, I’ll come across one that wasn’t right at the time – months ago – but is perfect now. We can never know just how or when our ideas will come in handy, but it sure is nice when they do!
I’ll admit, some categories are harder for me to brainstorm for than others. For example, my Sunday posts. Because the majority of them are centered around events and lessons I’m learning in my personal life, it’s difficult to think of them ahead of time. Most my Sunday posts end up being written in the midst of some lesson, encouraging event, or trial.
So if you have categories that are much harder for you to brainstorm for, that’s okay. It happens. Maybe it’s because they’re more ‘on a whim’ types of posts anyway. Or maybe that’s a sign that it’s not truly enjoyable or interesting for you, or that you need to do more research into that topic. In general, reading others’ posts in similar categories, and intentionally learning about those topics really helps jumpstart creativity.
My Friday categories can also be harder to brainstorm for ahead of time – not because I don’t have ideas, but because they’re usually blog tags or other similar posts that I can’t exactly plan for, as I don’t know they’re coming. As you can see below, the ‘My Favorites’ category is the main one that I can actually plan for, so it has more ideas. I do have a few ideas for the ‘Author Interviews’ and ‘Guest posts’ categories, but I’m hiding those…
The Wednesday categories are where my brainstorming really needs to kick in. I post the most in these categories, so I need plenty of ideas. Thankfully, I can plan these as far in advance as I want, and as I love writing, I don’t mind searching for ideas at all. I’ve noticed that once I start coming up with ideas, it becomes easier and easier to find more.
When it comes to these categories, I like to think through a few questions:
~ What am I working on right now? Am I editing? Writing? Character developing? Even if I’m not posting about my specific project, just being in the midst of the topic can help keep me interested and also help me to provide fresh tips and experiences.
~ What has helped me most in the past? On the flip side, time can also bring clarity, and looking back at past projects or experiences can be a valuable tool for finding material to post about. What advice has helped me get here? What have I learned? What would I change if I could go back?
~ What do I enjoy? This may seem unnecessary, but I truly think that writers should enjoy what they’re writing about (at least if it’s on our own blogs). It doesn’t have to be our favorite topic, but we should at least be interested in it. Others can tell when we’re writing about something we don’t have our heart in, and we will struggle to write it anyway.
~ What would be helpful? Blogs are meant to be read, after all. So what types of questions might your readers want answered? What might they find interesting to learn about? Are there events going on that you could provide helpful tips about (ex. NaNoWriMo), or fascinating holidays you could talk about? Helping can simply mean being an escape or source of entertainment, too. Don’t feel pressured to provide tips and how-to’s all the time.
~ What type of content has worked well before? Every so often, I like to look back at my past posts, and see what types of content have gone over well, and which haven’t so much. This is tricky though, because if you truly feel passionate about a certain topic but your previous posts about it haven’t gotten much engagement, I don’t think you should give it up. But it’s still helpful to keep in mind and consider what’s worked best for you before.
When in doubt, I just highly recommend sitting down and trying to make a list. Whether you get as in depth as my process above, or whether you just try to brainstorm a simple list of ideas, I’ve found that getting started is the hardest part. Once you manage to come up with a few, more will usually follow, getting easier and easier.
Obviously the ideas for your specific blog posts are going to vary greatly depending on your blog, your platform, your experiences, your goals, and the topics/categories you pick. I hope this glimpse into my brainstorming process has at least been helpful in some small way. My biggest piece of advice would be to set aside some time for mass brainstorming, rather than debating over each post one at a time. That step alone has saved me so much time!
I’m very thankful to have an easier time brainstorming ideas these days, and glad that I had help figuring out my ideal process. I feel like this post probably wasn’t as helpful as I mean for it to be, but hopefully I’m wrong! It can be difficult to come up with good ideas, but in general, I’ve found that just keeping our eyes open for those ideas makes a huge difference.
What does YOUR brainstorming process look like? Are there any ways that it’s similar to mine? How is it different? I’d love to hear what works best for you, so let me know in the comments below!