There’s nothing worse than staring at a blank computer screen willing the creative fairy to pay you a visit. Worse still, you don’t have a boss anymore breathing down your neck for ‘motivation’ so you procrastinate on Facebook and tell yourself you’re waiting for the ‘perfect idea’.
I write a 1000 word article every week for my own blog and guest post regularly so I’m often asked “How do you come up with ideas?”
There’s no huge secret, because I procrastinate just as much as the next entrepreneur but I rely on these handy strategies:
1. Make the commitment no matter what
My number one secret? I’ve made a commitment to send out a newsletter every single week, so I have to come up with an article. Remember that old adage “Necessity is the Mother of invention?” I’m never going to send out a blank newsletter so I just make it happen, no matter what.
If you want an additional layer of public accountability, write on your website – ‘My
newsletter comes out every Wednesday’ and set up a reminder in your calendar.
Make the promise, even if your readership is small.
The weekly discipline becomes a routine and you have to deal with the fact that not every blog post is going to be a 1000 word masterpiece. When that deadline hits, write about the first idea that pops into your brain and don’t overthink it. It’s just one blog of many and there’s no need to get attached. You can always fix it later.
It always surprises me that a post I thought was totally crappy because I forced it out was the one that people liked the best. Commitment and persistence is always rewarded somehow!
2. Keep track of all your ideas, no matter how random
Every time I come up with an idea, I’ll start a draft blog post. Sometimes it’s just a cool headline – another time I paste in a few ideas or a photo. But I keep everything, even the really bad ideas. When an idea strikes, write any old crap just to get yourself writing. Once you churn through that initial hard slog you’ll find that it shapes up quite nicely.
When I’m stuck for my weekly article, I’ll open up my drafts folder and see if there’s anything interesting I can finish. You can also use your diary or the iPhone app Evernote to record your ideas. When you look through later for motivation, some will be soooo bad but it’s motivating not to have to start from scratch.
Your blog posts don’t always have to be long articles. Write a few words about an awesome photo, scan in a page of your diary or experiment with a podcast instead. Random is good and it keeps it fresh and interesting, not just for you but for your readers.
3. Use your best stories
Take off the pressure of being a ‘Proper Writer’ and instead focus on becoming a story-teller – that way you will never run out of ideas. I give you full permission to mine every dinner party story and embarrassing mistake as long as it’s:
b) Has a message and serves a purpose to your reader.
It was mortifying but I loved writing about embarrassing myself in front of a billionaire entrepreneur. The article talks about the importance of having an awesome elevator speech prepared but also recognising you might be in the wrong business altogether.
- Your worst business mistake and how much money you lost
- Stupid things you did in your job before you decided to be an entrepreneur
- Sales calls that went horrifically bad
- Funny anecdotes about your rags to riches story
Be juicy and honest – people LOVE hearing about other’s mistakes and if you end with practical advice it will serve a purpose too because they will be inspired that they can do it too.
Don’t ‘save’ up ideas for a better time and trust that you’ll always be able to come up with more. Besides using your very best stuff is what will bring you even more readers and loyal followers so play full out.
4. Let your ideas percolate
Sitting on your computer twenty hours a day is not the best environment for creativity. In fact, it leads to brain overload and the fear that everyone is doing things MUCH better than you are.
Clear out the cobwebs with a walk out in nature, getting dressed properly, leaving
your office for lunch or taking a few minutes for meditation. When you break your
routine, you’ll get refreshed and it’s like a reboot for your brain. You won’t miss out
on anything – in fact it’s the best way to come up with brand new ideas.
I love taking a long hot shower when I’m feeling stuck. The water momentarily
distracts your conscious mind and allows your natural creativity room to play (you’ll
get the same effect in a steam room or funnily enough, sitting on the toilet!).
5. Speak your truth
Bland and agreeable is boring and you’ll soon get sick of writing the same safe crap as everyone else. There’s no point being controversial for the sake of it – but equally why not say what you really think?
What really annoys you about your industry? What could you rant about all day long? What are you super passionate about?
When I wrote Waiting for a Million Dollar Lottery Win is Just a Lazy Excuse Not to Live an Awesome Life NOW, I had some backlash but I was sick of attracting people who wanted a magic wand. It got people talking.
Pushing people’s buttons is a great thing because you can start to refine what your ideal readership really wants. Those who are really offended probably won’t ever buy from you anyway and you’ll always be terrified they’ll eventually discover the ‘real you’.
It’s easier for them to unsubscribe than for you to pull yourself in every direction trying to please them. It takes much less energy to be yourself and it’s way more fun!
Yes, speaking your truth means that some people won’t like you but I guarantee after an initial fear you’ll actually be reinvigorated with your writing and your ideas will be even better!
Go for it!