I was aghast. Why are you blogging if you’re not an ideas person?
I have enough ideas to post every day, some several times. The trouble is finding the time to fit it in between writing activities that put food on the table.
I’m not faulting the people who pay for ideas. I may be full of ideas, but I often lack the discpline to fully implement them. Fortunately, the world is made up of different kinds of people who often work together, and pay each other, to get things done.
Ideas often strike when I’m not looking–when I’m reading a blog, talking to a friend, watching the sun set or relaxing. Serendipity.
So, in the spirit of kumbaya, let me give anyone who drops by six tips for coming up with ideas. No charge. To show you how this idea machine works, let me add examples based on my day.
1. Write about special occasions or seasonal events.
Way back when I did media relations for the provincial government, we used to send out pretty much the same news release every spring about propane barbecue safety. Every media outlet that had audience members with propane barbecues would run it.
For the past few years, my posts about holidays greetings at Christmas have been among my most popular. Today, for a special occasion hook, I could have written about Ground Hog Day. But this cultural myth inspired no original ideas. Neither did the big snow storm.
Remember that if you’re pitching something to an editor, on or offline, to think way far in advance. Just like the stores are now hauling in leprachauns and bunnies, you should be thinking about propane barbecue safety, preparing your garden for planting or any other spring-related content now.
2. Reflect on your professional life.
I’m often stimulated by what I’m working on for clients. I rarely identify them, so I am free to state my opinion rather than cheer lead. Today I’ve been writing an article about structural changes to sharpen a client’s customer focus. I could write a post about how to put your customers first. Or, inspired by a presentation I’m creating for an upcoming speaking gig, I could advise on how to tell your story through other people’s photos.
3. React to your personal life.
My teens would die of embarrassment if I was too specific about them in my posts. But they provoke strong thoughts and feelings that can lead to sizzling ideas. I’ also apply insights from my aging parents. Today I could have combined my Dad with events in Egypt, which brings us to my next point.
4. Respond to what’s going on in the world.
I could write about how persuading Hosni Mubarak to leave Egypt is like getting my father to move out of the family home. This would lead back to how people need to remain open to change, so you don’t fear assasination, snow shoveling or blocked ideas.
On the other hand, I could stick with Egypt and talk about how seeing camels among the protesters reminds me about how you shouldn’t ride a big ugly word into a crowded post.
If you don’t follow politics, look for ideas in sports, movies, books or anything else beyond your immediate sphere.
5. Pretend you’re your favorite customer and answer your questions.
6. Empty your brain.
Make space for new ideas through yoga, meditation, retreats, vacations, reading, watching Oprah or just plain chilling.
Let the cream rise to the top
I know people who keep a note pad beside the bed in case they dream of or wake up with an idea. Others record their ideas throughout the day. But I find that I never have trouble remembering the best ones.
For me, the biggest challenge is to filter out the mundane. I talk about fresh ideas, maybe throw them out on Facebook or Twitter to see if I get a response. I play with them, write drafts, draw mind maps, break them into puzzle pieces and conduct other stress tests.
I have no problem with letting go of some, though sometimes ideas I thought I had discarded will swing back with a brighter flame.
The biggest problem with becoming an idea machine is turning off your brain. Often mymind will not slow down or turn off so I can sleep, zone out or pay attention to something or somebody else.
Never fear. If you’re the kind of person who needs help coming up with ideas, there’s little chance you’ll go to extremes.
Leave that to the idea machines.