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Come up with 10 Post Ideas [Day 11 – 31DBBB]

Posted By Darren Rowse 16th of April 2009 Featured Posts, Writing Content 0 Comments

This post is an excerpt from the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Workbook

Ever run out of things to write about on your blog?

If your answer is yes – you’re not alone.

One of the biggest challenges facing bloggers with blogs that have been around for longer than a few months is to come up with fresh content on a regular basis.

Today your task in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog challenge is to do an exercise that will identify a range of post ideas that you can use when stuck for an idea in future.

The key with this process is not to put yourself under pressure to come up with completely new and out of the blue ideas for every post you write. Instead – this process taps into what you’ve recently written on your blog and helps you to identify ways to extend those ideas.

The beauty of this is that you actually end up building a sense of momentum on your blog where your posts build upon and relate to what you’ve previously written rather than just writing a collection of posts that don’t really build in any one direction.

Here’s the mind mapping method that I’ve used (note: I’ve talked about this previously so it could be familiar to some).

1. The Set Up

Get a whiteboard, piece of paper, note book, tablet pc or something else to write on (there are also various mind mapping tools and software options out there – but I find a pen and paper can work just fine) and draw five circles across the middle of the page. In each circle write the titles of the last five posts on your blog (if you want to do this more comprehensively go back further and do it with more posts).

mind mapping-1

2. Extend Your Previous Posts

Now take each post in turn and spend a few minutes brainstorming on ways that the post could be ‘extended’. Most posts that you write will be able to be ‘extended’ in any number of ways including:

  • picking up a question or idea that a reader asked in the comments on that post
  • exploring the opposite point of view from the post
  • taking a ‘news’ post and writing an ‘opinion’ piece about it
  • taking a ‘theoretical’ type posts and writing something that helps people to ‘DO’ it
  • expanding upon ideas glossed over in passing in the previous post

The list could go on – really it is about finding ways to take ideas in a previous post and expanding upon and extended them.

For each idea draw a line out from the circle, draw a square (or use a different color) and write the idea inside of it.

The key at this point is to let yourself be as creative and outside the box as you want. Any idea is allowed at this point.

Let me take an older post of mine (why you should use AdSense on Your Blog) and show you how it might work:

mind mapping-2

At this point I’ve got 7 potential new posts to write that extend upon my original one – coming up with them took me 2-3 minutes – if I were doing this seriously I’d give it more time and come up with 20 or so posts.

These ideas are logical next steps for readers wanting to explore this topic – some of them based upon actual questions by readers. Do this with the other four posts you’ve written and you’ll have plenty of ideas for new posts to cover in the coming week or two.

3. Extend Further

You might want to stop this exercise at this point if you feel you’ve got enough topics to keep you going – however while you’re in a brainstorming frame of mind – why not take it a step further and think about how you might extend the topics you’ve come up with. The beauty of thinking forward even further is that you could quickly come up with a further 10 or so posts and be able to map out the next few weeks of blogging.

Lets do it now with the post above – just for fun (click to enlarge).

mind mapping-3

You can see that I found some posts easier to extend than others. This is OK as not every post is in need of a follow up one – while others will have multiple next steps (some will even have a longer series of posts that you could run).

You can take this exercise as far as you’d like into the future (you get the idea I’m sure so I won’t keep going).

From the example above you can see that I’ve come up with 15 ideas (not bad for 5 minutes of brainstorming) – some of them for multiple posts (series and ongoing weekly columns). Do it with more than one post and you will find that you’ll often come up with more posts than you can actually use on your blog.

The key when you do it is to let your creativity run wild (because it can take you in some wonderful directions) but then to be ruthless in culling ideas that don’t actually add anything to your blog. Remember – everything that you post on your blog either adds to or takes away from your blog’s perceived value – so not everything that you come up with should make it through to the front page of your blog.

Your Task Today

Your Task Today is to come up with a list of at least 10 future topics to write about. At this point your list should be not much more than the topic or title of your post. If you’re feeling inspired you might like to choose one of them to begin to shape into an actual post – but don’t feel you need to do that yet. Tomorrow we’re going to take the list of topics and help you to take them to the next step by creating an editorial calendar for your next week of blogging.

PS: Another Approach to this Exercise for New Blogs

I know that some bloggers doing the 31 Day challenge have very new blogs and perhaps don’t have too many posts in their archives to base mind mapping upon. If this is you – you can take the same principle but instead of making your five starting circles previous posts – make them ‘categories’ that your blog might cover.

For example if your blog is about personal finance you could make your starting circles sub topics of that overarching topic. They might be ‘budgeting’, ‘saving’, ‘investing’, ‘credit’ and ‘Career’. Once you’ve got your categories or sub topics – you can then pick up the exercise at step #2 with extending those sub topics into post ideas or topics within the sub topic.

Update: Share your ideas and see how others are doing over at the forum post for the 31DBBB Day 11 Daily Task!

Want More?

This task is a sample of one of the tasks in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Workbook – a downloadable resource designed to reinvigorate and revitalize blogs.

Join over 14,000 other bloggers and Get your Copy Today.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Hi- another idea for finding blog topics. I am on several discussion forums and find lots of good topics in the questions people are asking.

    I also include the latest post title in my signature line so I include an “ad” without including a blatant ad in my emails.
    Terry Albert
    [email protected]

    Visit my Web site: http://www.terryalbert.com
    Visit my blog: http://everything-pets.blogspot.com “Canine Lullabies”

    My blog for pet sitters: http://www.dearlabby.blogspot.com
    “What you can do TODAY to help your pet-sitting business grow”

  2. Another brilliant assignment Darren!
    Here’s the monster in the closet issue that I have… might resonate with some people here; ideas I have aplenty, perfectionism aplenty, mindmaps and 1/2 written unposteds aplenty, time excuses…. that aplenty!
    Yes, they call it oversubscribed and procras…. don’t say the word. ;-) I even have 10 days of unposted write ups on our challenge; go figure! The best part is that now that I have named it, I will vanquish it.
    Mega thanks Darren and Team 31Day Challenge!

  3. I’ve brainstormed post ideas ahead of time, but never like this. I’m very impressed with this post and brainstorming idea. I’ve lost some motivation to write some of the blog posts I had planned, and I really think this method could help me. Thanks!

  4. Another good one Darren!

    I just want to add that I discovered that by going through and linking to older posts, which you discussed on Day 8, I ended up with all sorts of ideas to blog about. I would find myself scouring the archives looking for stuff that I thought I had written about, only to find that I had yet to do so.

  5. Thanks Darren ..
    love the content and the fact that you think a pen and paper is fine.. although of course for the blog you had to transfer to software. Talked about this in a mastermind group call yesterday .. need to be able to think and type..

    How about a photograph or a video of you doing some of these things ??
    there is a wish to connect from our side, too..
    Noblesse oblige

  6. I just grabbed a sheet of paper from my printer and did it…hmmm…need to go get a white board – a BIG whiteboard!

    I can see how using this system can make your blog more coherent and logical. Each post stands on it’s own but ties into the others as well. And I really like the idea of building momentum!

    Great system, Darren, thanks!

  7. Great idea! I have never been lacking in ideas department, but will keep this in mind for when I do.

  8. I already keep a notebook to jot down post ideas. When I see something that sparks an idea I write it down. Sometimes it might even be a few lines of content or a question I want to ask my readers.

    But mindmapping might be a way for me to expand on a few of my most popular posts. On my concierge blog, I started a series called 5Things (based on the Write a List Post task). I could expand upon it in several different ways.

    On my Just Chick Flicks blog, one of my most popular posts was about the kind of movies like. I could mind map this topic in several different directions. Maybe examining different genres of “man movies”, do men cry at movies, etc

  9. There’s so much to talk about on the subject of dance education that I never seem to run out of topics. However, I’ve done some brainstorming on topics before (probably more like the category approach you mentioned). Oddly enough, I had not thought of looking back at previous posts and mapping from there. Duh! :) I’m actually thinking that this may help me limit my post sizes too (as I often write too much at a time, I think). Thanks for this useful tip! I’m off to map my mind!

  10. We could be able to look back our older post and look for some ideas, as the time going and our mind would come out more opinions or points on certain post, so we could link back to older post and add in more points. You’ve a great system on looking for content Darren!
    It’s time for me to think for 10 ideas! :)


  11. This one post is worth the whole 31 day challenge to me.

  12. What a great idea! Already, I have more blog posts and after reading some of the comments here, I’m going to start using a mind mapping notebook.

  13. Thank you Darren. I find my creativity comes in waves. At the moment I am riding high with enough posts stacked up on my blog to last me through to the middle of May. Yipee!

    But I have terrible slumps where I never want to look at the keyboard again and I’m definitely going to try the mind mapping.

    I had heard of the tool but never understood it – until now! It’s great that you explained it in such simple terms and I can see it being very useful in the future.

    Look out – tomorrow I will wake up with not an ounce of inspiration; no doubt LOL!

  14. Excellent!!! I actually can’t wait to start “brainstorming” and “extending” new posts. Off I got for my 10 ideas!

  15. Michael Cunningham says: 04/17/2009 at 2:29 am

    Great idea. Just 10 for us when you came up with 31 to help us out. Thanks for doing this.

  16. Idea mapping is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. Guess it’s the right time to start. I suppose this is how “authority blogs” emerge.

  17. Thank you Darren once again for sharing this information. Lately, I have been experiencing a bit of writer’s block. I will definitely needed this exericise!

  18. This is a really good idea. However, I can’t quite figure out how to do it on my photography weblog. There are days when I ask myself, “what will I photograph today?” It depends on where I am, what I am doing, or what I happen to see that inspires me.

    I guess I could plan some things I would like to photograph. I think I will try that (sorry, I was thinking outloud)! I will work on that today.

    Anyone have any suggestions how I can apply this task to my kind of blog? I would appreciate it.

    Thanks again, Darren!


  19. I started keeping a list of possible blog topics before I even started my blog, and it’s a running list I constantly add to, or take topics off as I cover them.
    I’ve made a concerted effort to look at each destination I’ve covered to try to generate several story ideas from it. An afternoon trip to a local museum recently yielded two posts–one more general and upbeat http://www.midwestguest.com/2009/04/walk-through-detroit-history-at-citys-historical-museum.html , one focusing on the automobile-centric display and a little comment on the state of that industry in general http://www.midwestguest.com/2009/04/assembly-line-at-detroit-historical-museum.html (I’m in the Detroit area, after all).
    It’s been years since I’ve done the mind-mapping technique…I’m thinking since college days. Sounds like something to revisit to generating still more blog topics!
    Thanks for another great post, Darren.


  21. I can see the value in this one already. This is another example of a simple concept that has great potential. I have thought a few times of doing this, and to some extent I already have, but it wasn’t focused like this is. I will definitely put some effort into this one tonight.

  22. Hi Darren,

    For once I am ahead of the task. Unknowingly, while doing the last task I prepared an outline of posts I want to do in the next week.

    I use a software called FreeMind for mind mapping and must say its very useful.

    This is a very nice tip for those who suffer from the Blogger’s Block once in a while.

    Thanks for the tip.



    P.S.: We are celebrating Twitter week on http://www.threetipsaday.com next week, with loads to learn about Twitter in 18 posts in a week.

  23. i always doodled on paper bubbles or ideas but not in such a cohesive way. i’ve been sticking to my categories (like sidewalks, sweets, rambles…) and haven’t really sat down and built one post off of another.

    thanks, i can do todays homework at work!

  24. One method I have been using lately is to expand on list posts. For example, if I have a post of “7 Things You Can do to…” I would write seven posts, each going into more detail on one of the seven things in the list posts.

  25. What a great idea, and one I do, but with lists, so it will be nice to try something new. However, my blog is only 4 months old, so I imagine this will be something I’ll need in the future. Right now I have tons of ideas, so I like the thought of organizing them to expand on one another!

    Bridget, what if you came up with different aspects of photography to highlight? I have seen a site where people have to contribute something that shows lighting, or shadows, or lines, etc. on certain days. Or maybe different finishes you can explore?
    I don’t know much about photography, but that might spur some ideas for you.

  26. One more thing, Darren. I just started homeschooling my kids this year and I had read about mind mapping for note-taking. I wanted to teach it to my 7th grader, but never followed through because I didn’t really get it. I love your examples, now I have a visual to work with. Thanks!!

  27. I write about consumer issues so I always have many topics to write about. My problem is how to focus on consumer issues to draw readers in my niche.

    My blog The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide at http://boomersurvive-thriveguide.typepad.com is on baby boomer consumer issues.

    I wrote a column for people 50-plus for The Tacoma News Tribune for 18 years.


  28. I have some good plans for this Day 11 exercise of the 31DBBB challenge. Since I recently wrote about film festivals, maybe I can do a list of festivals by state or film festival resources that readers can find useful. I also have another series on my blog that could possibly be expanded before the end of this month.

    I like Cathy Stucker’s previous comment about expanding on list post ideas. I may try that one and create a general list post template such as “10 Items you Must Have to….” etc. to expand on but I’ll have to figure out a way to make it relevant to the topics featured on my blog.

    Your Day 11 exercise of the 31DBBB challenge to Come up with 10 Post Ideas may finally be a great way for me to expand upon the series posts that I have on my blog. Right now, I have two Series, which is a film festival series and an actor series so this is a great opportunity to make come up with ideas for those and keep them flowing on a steady schedule.

  29. A great Idea. But the trick now is to put it into practice.
    I have known about this technique, but could not find the time to do it. I was always thinking, if I have time, write, write, write.

    But when you actually see in in practice, you can visualise the benefits.

    I think the idea is not to extend one post and write about that particular one all in one go. We need to do this with a few popular posts.

    Then you insert those new ideas into you blog, when you have writers block or something. With a link to the originating post, you know, 3 months ago I wrote about ….

  30. Great ideas…will try.

  31. Very Inspiring post. I never thought of it. This is not only going to help with Blogging but It can be applied in many other situations too.

  32. Hi Drren,

    When does writing about a list of things get too boring?

    I just found a list of 43 government blogs at http://www.usa.gov/Topics/Reference_Shelf/News/blog.shtml.

    Would writing about 10 of them in separate posts be too many? Five? Not all of them are of interest to consumers.

    I wrote a 12-part series on consumer groups lobbying before the Washington State Legislature with links to their legislative agendas and ways to take action. The purpose was to give consumers a way to be involved more easily in consumer legislation. It was for my blog the Boomer Consumer on the Seattle-Post Intelligencer’s Web site. The series wasn’t a “hit” generator.

    Rita at The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide at http://boomersurvive-thriveguide.typepad.com

  33. This is a great tip! I typically storyboard my series posts in my Moleskine notebook and use FreeMind to mindmap the others. However, there really is something about pencil and paper. It’s a coffee-deadline-coffee day, so I got out my sketch pad while waiting for some documents to print and came up with 22 new ideas in about five minutes. From here, I’ll add these to an actual mind map that I can refer back to and extend further.

    Excellent tip! Just need to set aside time to flesh all of these out into actual posts.

  34. Great thoughts here – one thing I always try to do is write ‘evergreen’ posts that I can have stored for posting later on, that way if I have writers block or am just lacking innovation, I can throw one of these up and keep things fresh on the blog. I recommends everyone doing this.


  35. I print out blank calendars from Outlook, and then try to plug things into the boxes.

    I also have a few different notebooks laying around the house (nice ones with sewn pages, not spiral bound) that I can easily grab when new ideas pop into my head.

    Since my blog doesn’t have its own niches, I have created a main topic for each day of the week:

    Monday: News (world & US)

    Tuesday: Sports

    Wednesday: Miscellaneous

    Thursday: People, places, events – this includes a “day in the life” series with guest writers

    Friday: an original short story

    Weekend: misc

    The schedule makes it easier to generate the topics.


  36. Darren,

    Another home run! I am so enjoying learning from you. I just did this at the beginning of the 31 Day challenge because I wanted to have enough ideas “in the pot” to write about. Thank goodness I have not yet had to use all of them.

    My topic is Tips to Get your blog found, read and followed and so far I have written 9 tips (3 a day) since you started the challenge. I am writing them in between my normal Today is ideas for marketing your business on my blog http://www.Redheadmarketingblog.com. Have had some great inspirations from others and even found a few new plugins to use. Whoohoo!

    Thanks for great info and making it easy to understand,

    Heidi Richards Mooney

  37. I’ve tried to bank post ideas and drafts but for some reason, I had never thought of brainstorming so systematically.

    This will come in handy.

  38. Thanks for this simple approach Darren. I have a file folder with a list of ideas that I want to blog about. I have never thought of thinking up future posts along the lines you mentioned. Doing so gave me 14 potential new posts I’m fairly motivated to pursue, and it took me less than 10 minutes to come up with them.

  39. This is a wonderfull post! it will be really usefull for those moment when I ran out of ideas :S …

  40. Great idea (as usual) Darren. I took it a bit further by selecting two current posts and three posts from the last few months to extend. All the past posts had comments so I’m hoping the new extenders will as well.

    Question now is: how to weave them in? I don’t necessarily want a consecutive series, rather an ‘ongoing conversation’.And, this list doesn’t really lend itself to an editorial calendar, does it?

    Here are my upcoming posts:

    Women Bloggers Who Make me Think
    Women Bloggers who are Revolutionaries
    WomenWho are Mompreneurs
    Old People Still Like Sex. Really
    Must Reads for Re-igniting That Spark
    Saving Your Marriage: a Home Study Course
    Is Romance Even Necessary?
    Why Can’t Men Buy Gifts More Like Women?
    What Now?- Making Final Arrangements
    Marianne Williamson Talks About our Second Puberty

    Love this course! It’s a thousand times more useful and inspiring than courses I’ve paid thousands for. Thanks again Darren.

    Oh, has anyone started a ‘Lessons Learned’ discussion on the forum yet? That would be so great.

  41. Great exercise Darren. Well-timed for me too– I normally schedule posts out for 3-4 days on http://blog.deneki.com , but today I had to pull a future post in due to my bloggers’ block. I’ve now got another 20 ideas to work on.

    The benefits of 31DBBB keep pouring in.


  42. My blog is about women’s accomplishments since getting divorced. So the key for me is to have interviews in the pipeline. I record my interviews so after each one, I do transcribe it and then look to see how many posts the interview would break into – sometimes it’s just one, other times it’s three. Then I look for resources the person used and see if there’s an opportunity for me to review a book. I might also be able to link to a post on a website. Sometimes, I’ve asked my interviewee to write a guest post.

    The mind-mapping technique will work great for this.

  43. I never have a problem running out of ideas, but I can see how it would help me come up with some really good critiques and in-depth articles.

  44. These are awesome tips about expanding on previous posts. Be sure to tie into the previous posts in your new ones and interlink your posts where possible. Another great post in the series.

  45. I use Google Alerts to help me stay on top of subjects that may spawn or spin off on an idea for a blog topic.

  46. This is what I was waiting for! What I needed. Brilliant! I have tons of ideas to write about, but mindmapping it like this will give me the structure I need and I can add the time planning for series I’m writing. I made some pages where I cover the subjects I’m going to write about and link the posts that are written, but this one is just what I needed for old posts!

  47. I’ve thought about doing this many times, but you really break it down in a nice, succinct way to get me motivated to start. Thanks!

  48. This was an issue when i first started writing my blog. Now the stories just keep coming out faster and faster.

  49. Wow, what a wealth of ideas just in the comments! I love the idea from Susan to use Google Alerts to help spark topic ideas.

    I have been carrying around a little notebook with me since a friend of mine inspired me doing the same thing. It has helped tremendously when I feel lost for an idea, I have quite a few already. However, the focus of this excersize intrigues me in a serious way, and I will be waiting until I’m not at work to do this assignment, in order to give it my full attention.

    I have two series posts, one is the first half of a DIY tutorial (http://mymeanbean.com/Blog/?p=2247), and one is on tips for using Twitter (http://mymeanbean.com/Blog/?p=1877). Expanding these ideas is very exciting and inspiring!

  50. Thanks for all these great ideas. I’ve been reading along every day, and while I haven’t yet begun the process, I’ve been thinking about a lot of new ideas from your posts. I plan to try and sit down with this exercise tomorrow!

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