This is a guest post by Elizabeth Joss.
There is nothing worse than producing a blog post that is lacklustre and without passion or zest. My own fear (that I know is equally shared with fellow bloggers from around the world) is that I will create posts that are just like everyone elseâ€™s â€“ boring and painfully ordinary.
So to give myself and others a little creative inspiration Iâ€™ve put together these useful and practical steps to help you achieve a greater sense of creativity, whether you are blogging for business or in a personal capacity. These tips are pretty straightforward but they nonetheless require perseverance and positivity.
Letâ€™s take a journey and unlock our creative blogging selves!
#1 Keep an Ideas Book
Whether this is a physical notebook that you carry with you at all times or an electronic one, what is important is that you are jotting down those ideas that come to you at the strangest of times! I use Evernote to store all my blog ideas as well as a whole lot of other interesting stuff related to blogging and writing. My mentor, Jim, sends me useful articles throughout the day and I usually save them on Evernote to read on the weekends and evenings. Whatâ€™s fantastic about Evernote is that you can group your ideas according to topics and if you are looking for something specific then you can easily search your entire notebook to find it.
I also copy and paste really useful information and extracts from blog posts that I love into my notebook so if Iâ€™m ever short of ideas then I know exactly where to go for inspiration.
#2 Use a Topic Generation Tool
A huge problem we bloggers often face is that there is just so much information on the net and we donâ€™t know where to look for ideas. The fact that there is so little new territory for bloggers is daunting but at the same time challenging.
If you are short of a topic, why not use a blog post generation tool like the one created by Daniel Butler of SEOgadget? With this tool you can easily spot what is popular in the online world and see what keywords are trending. This tool draws news from Google news, Bing, Reddit and Digg so you know that what you are seeing is completely up-to-date and relevant â€“ ideal for a blog post that has the potential to go viral. Another tool you can use is Tospy, which shows you which tweets are currently the most popular and you could generate a blog post around some of those popular tweets or topics.
Once youâ€™ve found a topic to write about you can put your tentative headline into Soolve and youâ€™ll be able to see whether this headline is indeed a popular search or not. You can then tweak your headline so that it aligns itself with other popular searches. In that way, youâ€™ll know that your article stands a chance in a Google search on that particular topic. Soolve is thus a great tool for narrowing and refining your ideas just by using your headline!
#3 Limit Information Intake
I made a pact with myself that I would not Google any similar topics when I set out to write this post. Why? Because often when we look at othersâ€™ work, we get so put off and think we could never write like that person. The trick is not to Google your topic initially, unless your topic requires research or you are summarising the outcomes of the latest Penguin update. Draw on what you know first and foremost and write from this knowledge. And then if you have to Google, do it but do it for guidance and for fact finding only.
Limiting information intake initially is an important tactic because it lets you get more in touch with your own ideas, knowledge, thoughts and feelings regarding a topic. Once youâ€™ve put down your opinions and feelings towards a topic, youâ€™ll be in a better position to write. And ultimately, writing that goes down well is heartfelt and moving because the writer him/herself feels the topic deeply and the reader can evidently see that.
#4 Use Google Images for Inspiration
Once youâ€™ve created your topic and have come up with a headline, use Google images or Pinterest to further inspire you to write. Sometimes looking at interesting images pertaining to your particular subject helps arouse feelings inside you and can drive you to write. Choose a few images that grab you and keep them open while you write your blog post.
If you havenâ€™t yet decided on a topic and wish to write freely just to keep the creative juices flowing, then using photo prompts is a great idea. 365 Pictures and FWAPhoto are useful sources of images for writers who want a prompt.
#5 Explore Creative Techniques
Creative tools can help you obtain a little more direction with regard to your idea. They can help you extend what you know already and help you discover further interconnected topics.
Mind Tools is a website I love to look at when Iâ€™m in need of brainstorming for blog ideas. I usually choose one of the Creativity Tools and work through that in order to generate some really interesting ideas that werenâ€™t necessarily at the forefront of my mind. There are loads of useful skills on this site that go beyond creativity, so whenever you are in need of a recap of skills, check out this site.
Choose a tool that you really love using and then stick to it. Use it on a weekly or daily basis or whenever you are short of blogging ideas.
#6 Bookmark Creative Tools
Here are some really useful online tools for brainstorming ideas:
- Bubbl.us â€“ Free, easy-to-use brainstorming software that loads automatically in your browser. Bubbl.us is great for getting all your ideas down first thing in the morning. (Shown in above image.)
- Mind42 â€“ If you are working with another writer and want to collaborate and share your ideas, then mind42 is the perfect software for you. You can easily create mind maps; attach notes as well as images and links. This really helps your mind map become more visual.
Take note that tools are meant to help us gain clarity in our blogging. They are not meant to keep us away from our writing and we shouldnâ€™t spend too much time using these tools otherwise they are just a distraction from what we are meant to be doing.
#7 Keep Active
Working both your body as well as your mind is the best way to keep ideas flowing and strengthen the creative muscles. We all know what wonders a short walk on the beach can do for us!
Personally, I find that doing yoga on a regular basis helps me obtain more focus in my life and helps improve my creativity. Why? Because I am more in touch with my body and also with my creative needs, my goals and what I desire to achieve in life. Yoga also gives me the discipline I need to structure and order my world.
Doing something different for a change can also stimulate creative ideas. Try out something that has the potential to become a new hobby. If you feel the need to be more creative then you should be doing something more creative! Listen carefully to your inner creative needs.
#8 Blog to a Routine
Editorial calendars are a great way of getting all your ideas in one useful place and ensuring you have content for each and every day you plan to blog. John Doherty talks about the use of an editorial calendar for bloggers and publishers. He provides us with some really useful tips about how to set up a calendar of your own according to your blogging needs. You may not necessarily stick to this each and every day, but this can be a really great tool to get all your ideas in one place and obtain a sense of structure.
#9 Be an Excellent Rewriter
No one gets it right first time. It is more important to be an excellent rewriter than a good writer. It is also important to get someone to proofread your blog posts before they go live. We often donâ€™t see our own mistakes and need someone to give our posts a final go-through.
#10 Read Inspirational Books on Creativity
There have been thousands of books published about finding ones creativity. These two books below are my guideposts when Iâ€™m in the dark and when the blog post just wonâ€™t appear. I promise you wonâ€™t be disappointed if you read these.
- The Artistâ€™s Way (Julia Cameron) – this is my all-time favourite book for helping unlock your inner artist. Although published in 1992 the techniques and passages of inspiration remain relevant for bloggers, writers and artists today.
- On Writing (Steven King) â€“ As a blogger you may not exactly be Steven King (but who knows, you could be a Steven King in the making!). This book is a memoir of the craft of writing. King pours his heart and soul into the book and tells the reader about his life and how he came to be so successful. A must-read for those passionate about the written word.
Sometimes it is also useful to read your favourite books or even just your favourite parts of those books. Reading writing that touches you deeply and that you connect with can really help you find your own words for the topic you are writing about. This is because youâ€™ll take a more heartfelt and personal approach to what you write after youâ€™ve indulged your senses in carefully constructed prose. After all, the best way to improve your writing is to become a better reader!
Final Tip: Be Yourself
Learn how to be you in world filled with so many blog posts that reiterate things over and over. Find ways to maintain your writing voice without becoming just another blog writer. This of course takes time and effort and the more you read other blogs and the more you write, youâ€™ll be further on track to obtaining your own unique style.
Write without reserve. Write from a place of feeling, of emotion and of passion. And more importantly, if you canâ€™t come up with a great idea, write, brainstorm, indulge the senses and it will come to you. Good luck in your creative blogging endeavours.
â€œYou write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others whatâ€™s burning inside you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smokeâ€ â€“ Arthur Polotnik