Yesterday I wrote a post on keeping the momentum going on your blog by building on previous posts.
Today I want to extend that post (you knew I would) with a practical exercise that any blogger with a blog can do. It’s something that can take as little as 10 minutes (or that you could do more comprehensively) and something that I do on those days when I’m struggling to come up with something to write about (we all have them).
It’s an exercise in mind mapping – here’s what you do:
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).
Now take each post in turn and spend a few minutes brainstorming on ways that the post could be extended. 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.
Remember last post where I suggested how you could extend a post in numerous ways including by answering a question that a reader asked about it in comments, taking an opposite view point, writing an opinion piece, doing a followup ‘how to’ etc.
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 a recent post of mine (why you should use AdSense on Your Blog) and show you how it might work:
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.
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).
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).
You can see that I’ve come up with 15 ideas above (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.
In one of your mindmapping examples, I saw that an idea you wrote was, “Case study on a blog’s first 3 months”. If you decide to go with this idea, I’m planning to have my brand new blog open & ready to go in January and would like to help you with this! (It will be on health & nutrition topics.)
By the way, I’ve been working on this new blog since October and your posts have been a huge help to me as I have NO previous experience in this area! Thanks!
I often think of an idea, write on it, and then am stumped on what else to write. This will help me strategize a better writing plan.
As a new blogger I am spending too much time (I think) coming up with ideas for posts. I have limited time and I want to do the best with what I’ve got. So, after your post I investigated mind mapping software and found Mind42, which is free and easy to use. I have started mapping out ideas from the few posts I have done already and I am coming up with lots of potential posts!
Thanks for the great ideas, keep up the good work!
Absolutely love this idea. Just had a go at it myself and thought of loads of ideas for the future.
Would never have thought about doing this myself – thanks!! :D
We had an inservice on mind mapping a few years ago where we used a program called Inspiration. It worked fairly well but was a little too clunky for my tastes. I downloaded FreeMind at the suggestion from above and it seems to be a much faster process which I think is important. Being able to add nodes very quickly is an important ability for a program to have for it to be useful.
Question for those of y’all who use software to do your mind mapping. Do you have one master file or do you have a separate file for each topic? It seems that keeping one file has the advantage of staying a little more organized but might get a little too large to stay efficient.
Thanks for this information, a few days ago i wrote a post on my blog related to keyword research – i briefly described the mind mapping technique but didnt give it nearly as much justice as it deserved. Cheers!
Very well written post, Darren. I truly appreciate the way you always manage to talk about such apparently simple but important issues and bring them to the forefront.
I’m sure from time to time, all of us have had similar thoughts and great ideas, but never pursued them to the extent of using them in a really constructive manner.
I’ve used FreeMind and MindMapper, though I never imagined I could use it to enhance my blogging experience.
Thanks again for sharing.
Thanks for the technique. Obviously it can be used outside of blogging but for now it can really help me map out quite a while into the future where I could possibly take the blog. I also appreciate your writing style.
That’s a great blogging and writing in general practice. I am putting it to work on my blog (or in my mind) immediately.
Thats a really good mind map. Blogging is not that easy as everyone would thought. Especially successful blogging.
Excellent post, way up there because it’s one of the few that add something new to human knowledge. Well done!
Nice, Darren. It’s a lot like we teach kids to do when they’re having trouble writing about a topic for a school assignment. Now to carry it over to “real life” and blogging.
Thanks Darren. I find myself saying, “okay what next?” a little too often. This will definitely help.
Hi – just found your site. It’s great for blogging newbies like me! I’d like to add a few tips about mind mapping that I’ve used for a long time and others may find useful:
1. Use a different colour for each subject heading and breakdowns – it makes each part of the map easier to read and follow through. I also use things like red exclamation marks for points I don’t want to forget or to act as warnings!
2. Add simple cartoons to illustrate your ideas – this increases the visuality of your mindmap e.g. if an idea means you need to phone someone to get more information, then draw a little telephone next to the entry on your mindmap
3. Don’t be afraid to use things like arrows to link ideas together from different parts of your mindmap
I went back 10 posts and now I have enough material to cover at least the next two weeks. Thanks for the tip Darren!
Thank you for this brilliant post. Now I know what I will write next week :)
Excellent method for generating dozens of post ideas within few minutes if we ever get stuck. I think I will try this as soon as possible for my blog.
Thank you for introducing this to me. I often have a hard time coming up with new ideas, and didn’t realize how much easier it is to revisit old ideas. Going through my older posts on all of my blogs has led to a bunch of new ideas.
Rather than use a piece of paper, I just opened a Word file and listed my most recent, and my most popular posts. Then under each title, I listed my new ideas. The beauty of doing it on the computer, is I can keep these files on my desktop, and add to them with each new post, keeping a solid supply of ideas right in front of me.
Great post, great method.
Delicious post! I’ll have to look into creating a mindmap and writing a post on mind mapping. Great way to work out the brain the come up with new ideas for blog posts.
This concept is great. It’s very simple way to generate idea, but if you a just starting fresh without any posts to begin with, then you don’t really have a starting point. Any other ideas for someone without a starting point .. . Maybe I just gave you a great idea for your next post.
The circles with last to 5th last post are as simple and insightful as the Seinfeld calender. Love it.
This is a great idea, I did it for both my blogs, and came up with a bunch of topics. I am so glad to have read this post!! Thank you for the great and helpful infomation!
Perhaps this question was asked and/or answered in one of the above 47 responses – if so, I’m sorry for being repetitive. I was wondering how one should space the follow up posts? I notice that this post follows immediately on the heels of yesterday’s post. How long can you keep that going for?
If I come up with 20 ideas then I could theoretically have the next 20 days of posts covered, but I would then alienate that segment of my readership who is not into that topic. In short – do you have any suggestions (or a method) for determining how to space out these ideas.
By the way – semi related to my previous comment – I think the idea of using this method to come up with weekly columns is great. That way you are set for a while with a relevant and useful topic.
Along the same lines, it may be helpful to note which posts get the most comments and to apply this method to those posts first. Those posts most likely struck a chord with your readers and there is no reason you shouldn’t try to strike that chord again.
This is very useful to me and I thank you for posting this one. I’ve been having problems writing but I believe this will help a lot. Next I’d like to read something more on the topic of giving my articles “a title that stands out”. Have any idea on that?
Thanks, we are starting a blog on our site & your tips will be very useful….
Thought I would add details of my Mind Map website – http://www.mindmaps.moonfruit.com It could help spark ideas for you and there are also some templates you can use on the site to get started with Mind Maps – everything is FREE to download including example Mind Maps.
Good tips, I use Text2MindMap for doing this online
thanks been looking for some new ideas or at least ways to improve on my already masterful blogging skills :)
I like this mind mapping idea. I usually use a notebook to write ideas anyway. This really opens up the possibilities. I just tried this and I can up with 20 post’s that I would never of come up with.
Mind mapping sounds great, I’ve just written a post on resolutions and clients and could be mapped out and talked about further with your technique.
The Floating Frog
That was a well written description of “brain storming” process! I use a pretty similar method when writing to my blog & website ideas site.
Maybe you could write more about blog ideas soon?
great tips, occasionally this happens, however a short session of deep thought and i think of something. maybe i should try this method as well.
I have been for quite some time keeping a sort of idea journal where i record ideas in. However i had never thought of taking it to this point, and adding to a single idea like this. It is a bit of a change to move out side the norm and expand your ideas much more.
This information is great. In fact, my wife is using mindmapping in here creative writing classes for primary school children. It helps these kids to structure their thoughts, map out the story structure etc. This mindmapping speed up their thinking process and improve on their writing skill as well.
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Excellant, working idea. Gave lots of thoughts to go ahead with practicing this. I have made a “Honor” option in my blog. through this, I am honoring the reader and his website/blog once if I found a hint to start a new post from his/her comment.
I think, this is helping me a lot. I am still confused the part of case study or how I will get an interview with some successful personal. If you write an article on that, will be grate for new bloggers like us.
Much thanks for such nice tip, most of the time people try to keep with them by not sharing with anybody.
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Very useful. Is this the same way, one can make the outline of a post?
Great article Darren! It is a great quide to mapping out
a niche market of article writing. Thanks a lot!