The advice that helped you get across the street as a kid can help you populate your blog. In my class today, we are talking about coming up with ideas for reader-friendly content, and for a lot of people, that is the hardest thing about writing.
I’ve written already about the types of content you produce, the things your audience needs to know and the things your audience wants to know and I’ll be talking today about using variations on a topic to come up with ideas.
Another technique you can try is bringing ideas across media. Here’s how it works:
Stop. Use your reading habit to find ideas in a lot of places. You know you can use an .rss reader to keep up with writing in your area of interest. But do more. What are popular podcasts in your area? Do your YouTube subscriptions bring in new ideas? Keep a list handy in the cloud so you can add to it when deliberately searching and on the go.
Look. Train yourself to attend to serendipity. You are surrounded by content pretty much all the time. Look intentionally at billboards, that TV channel that they plan in the grocery store, the back cover of the magazine that lady is reading on the bus. Snapping photos of things you want to remember and pinning them on a private Pinterest board is a good way to remember this kind of information.
Listen. There’s content that you are interested in, and there is content other people are interested in, too. People talk about media frequently, it is worth it to pay attention to the things they say, both for topics and smaller pieces of information that are interesting. For example, the Superbowl featured a bunch of new ads, like usual, and people have favorites. When they talk about the ones they like, ask questions – what did you like about it? Who was your favorite character? What surprised you? This can give you ideas for both topics and approaches in your own work.
My job as a college professor is a full-time, plus occupation. But I still write this blog and contribute to a public one. Why would I do that?
First, it is good practice for me as a writer. I do write for my work, but often it is either research papers or class assignments, both of which have a narrow and unusual audience. My journalism training means I can write for a given audience, but I know I do better when I regularly practice.
Second, it is good practice for me as a thought leader. As one of my favorite NY Times columnists noted, professors have some good, important thinking they do, and it’s important that they share.
Finally, it keeps me in touch with the industry. I do a lot of work in content strategy and marketing, and I need to practice what I preach.
Should you blog? I think so. Here’s a short presentation on reasons why.