This morning I found myself staring at a blank screen.
I needed to write a blog post but couldn’t think of any ideas to write about.
After about 30 minutes of reading to stimulate my brain, I started wondering: why is it easy to come up with blog topic ideas sometimes, while other times a good idea can’t be found to save your life?
I started thinking about the most successful things I’ve written over the past few years. I realized the most popular and engaging things I’ve written were also some of the easiest topics to come up with.
In many cases I didn’t even sit down to think about the topics that have inspired my best work. They just came out of nowhere.
Those ideas always seem to come from some magic fountain of inspiration that comes and goes. The elusive “muse” perhaps.
And on the other hand, I don’t recall producing any really great content that started out as a struggle to identify a topic.
If you’ve noticed something similar about your own writing, I’d love to hear your theories about why this is in the comments below.
Here’s my theory.
When you don’t know what to write about, it’s a huge red flag.
When you don’t know what to write about, it’s a sign that you’re disconnected from your audience.
Your focus isn’t on the people who really matter. If it was, finding a topic wouldn’t be an issue. When you’re well connected to your audience and their needs and interests, topic ideas abound.
As I thought about my own work, I realized that the best or most important posts and projects I’ve produced over the past few years usually started as one of the following:
- By paying attention to what people are saying on social networks and in forums (Write Epic Shit— spurred by someone writing me on Twitter)
- A conversation with a particular reader (18 Months, 2 Blogs, Six Figures— I decided to write this after talking with a reader about why a straightforward guide like this didn’t exist)
- A discussion with another blogger or entrepreneur (Why Every “Twitter Tips” Article You’ve Ever Read is Essentially Worthless (or Worse) — this started as a conversation with Ev Bogue)
- Via feedback or a question I received over email or in a survey (Need Some Motivation Right Now? Read This IMMEDIATELY— in response to many emails I receive from people who are having trouble finding motivation)
- Through working one-on-one with a client (The Ultimate Business Plan Workbook for Bloggers— I originally created this for a client)
- By reading blog comments, either on my site or other sites (Million Dollar Blog Project — this idea came from a reader’s comment about wanting a group blogging project)
The best ideas come from writing to solve a problem or inspire a particular reader or group of readers.
When you struggle to find ideas to write about, you’re not looking in the right place. Your focus isn’t on the right things.
Take Action: Find Your Next Great Idea
I’d love you to do two things today.
First, think about some of your best content. Where did the ideas for that come from? Leave a comment below and let me know what you notice about your own work.
Second, I’d love you to write your next blog post by looking to your existing or potential readers for topic ideas.
Look in blog comments (on your own or other sites), forums, email from readers and on Twitter or Facebook for problems, needs and desires that your readers or perspective readers are talking about.
Or, try talking with other bloggers/entrepreneurs, taking a survey, working with a client or having a conversation with a reader.
Write your next blog post or record your next video or podcast with the intention of solving a problem for a someone or a group of people. Choose something that you read or heard about directly using one of the methods above.
Give this a shot and come back and let me know if you make a breakthrough.
I think you will.
The Top 10 Mistakes in Online Business
Every week we talk with entrepreneurs. We talk about what’s working and what isn’t. We talk about successes and failures. We spend time with complete newbies, seasoned veterans, and everything in between.
One topic that comes up over and over again with both groups is mistakes made in starting businesses. Newbies love to learn about mistakes so they can avoid them. Veterans love to talk about what they wish they had known when starting out.
These conversations have been fascinating, so we compiled a list of the 10 mistakes we hear most often into a nifty lil' guide. Get the 10 Most Common Mistakes in Starting an Online Business here »