New Year, New Ideas: 4 Ways to Generate Blog Content

Before I get started with today's post, it is time for a short announcement - just imagine the trumpet fanfare. I'm making some changes to my blogging schedule, as part of the whole 'it's almost New Year I'd better be more organised' thing.

So I'll be posting on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, although, if we're honest, I'm rather unreliable. More details here.

Anyway, by the time you read this, it will be the New Year, and we all know what comes with it: the tantalising possibility of a fresh start. In my slightly-upside-down blogger's head, new things = new content, and that's what I'm going to be talking about today.

If you're anything like me, finding post ideas that stay within the genre of what you're trying to write is really, really hard work. You don't want to repeat yourself, you don't want to rip other people off, and you certainly don't want to churn out sub-par content just because you need to write something. I am endeavouring to help, but because I know what people write is completely dependant on them and their blogging niche, this isn't going to be a list of random ideas.* Instead, I'd like to give you some tips for creating your own.

*I need to use all the random ideas I come up with.
#1 - You can start with the title.
It's no secret that titles are one of the easiest ways to make your blog shine, but did you know that they're also an easy way to get yourself inspired? About half of my posts start life as a title, and my favourite tool to use is Portent's Content Idea Generator.

It's amazing, this. You just plug in a couple of generic keywords (I usually go for "books" or "reading") and it comes up with hilarious titles. You can use them straight off the bat, but often I'll see something and then my brain will come up with something similar but not the same. Have a look at this for an example:

I saw this and I thought: urrgh. Everyone loves the Simpsons, and writing this post would be a lot of fun, but I just knew that Homer would never write a guide to books. Lisa could though. Maybe even Maggie? (By the way, you can so steal that idea if you like. I stopped trying to write the post as soon as I realised my Simpsons knowledge is beyond basic.)

The point is, as well as giving you beautiful titles, this method isn't as prescriptive as it sounds, because you can go in a load of different directions. Also, if you've written a post and can't think of a title, the generator works really well too.

#2 - The time of year is a great place to begin.
There are many holidays in this world. Be it Christmas, Easter, St. Paddy's Day, or even New Year's, most people are already in the festive mood, and even the loosest association with the time of year will probably be well appreciated. I also find that I'm very well-inspired by something when the excitement is all around me (I'm writing this in the middle of a 24-hour New Year Party).

Wait, what? You need examples? Posts that help people organise their holidays are often popular (e.g. 10 Presents with Which to Present a Bookworm), and in my experience, it's best to try and think of some kooky way to relate the holiday to your subject. I highly doubt anyone's read a post comparing the Post-Christmas blues to a book hangover, for example.

#3 - Who says writers can't steal?
Artists can, so there's no reason you shouldn't either, as long as you know how to do it nicely. If you're inspired by an original post, you should always go through this mental checklist:

1) Is my idea different enough to be worth making? Or is it just a carbon copy of what the other blogger has written?
The answer to this question depends on the type of post. If it's opinion based, then your personal take on things should be enough to make it unique, but otherwise, just have a think. Make sure your readers will feel it's worth reading both. If you'd like an example of how different is different enough, here's one of my posts and the post series that inspired it.

2) What will make them more likely to say it's okay?
When I ask permission to write a post inspired by another blog, I say that I'll give credit and link to the original, as well as any other posts they want me to, and that I won't post until they give me the okay. This is good not only because people like to work with others who are polite, professional and make it easy for them (I usually include a link to my blog so they don't have to search my work out), but also because it starts a conversation. And starting conversations is always good in the blogging world.

(I've included a screenshot of myself asking permission not because you need to copy everything I do - although you should, obviously - but because it's the only example I know how to find.)

3) Should I share this on the original post?
The answer is usually yes.

Bloggers love to see what you've done with their ideas, and if their readers liked the first post, there's a chance they'll enjoy yours too and maybe become followers of your blog. If you've been asked not to for whatever reason, then obviously don't, but otherwise you can add a link right in the comments. I sometimes use CommentLuv if they've got it.

With all that said, there is one exception: tags. The book blogging community at least seem pretty happy for you to steal a tag without asking, because they're meant to be spread around. Also, please don't think everyone will want to hurt you if you are inspired by their posts - in fact, imitation is the highest form of flattery - I'm just saying a little tact goes a long way.

#4 - Keep an eye on your archives.
I'm serious here. If a post gets a lot of hits, or is your absolute favourite, then there might be scope to create a series on a similar theme, or make some variations to create something different but equally awesome. You don't even have to ask permission!

I have an idea for this, but I am going to actually use it, so do I dare reveal? 

I dare. If you remember "12 Authors and Bloggers to Follow on Twitter", then you might not be surprised by the Instagram version. 

Do you have any other techniques for capturing the all-important inspiration faries? And which of these do you think will be most useful?
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