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How to Beat Writer’s Block: Part 2 – How to Come Up With Fresh Ideas to Write About

Today’s episode is about how to beat writer’s block. It’s the second in a mini-series of podcasts that looks at how to prevent writer’s block holding you back from making your blog a success. Writer’s block is very common. I get asked about all the time and suffer it too! In today’s episode, I share tips about how you can come up with fresh ideas to write about and keep your blog exciting and useful for your readers. 

No Idea by Stanislav Novak on

In This Episode

You can listen to today’s episode above or in iTunes or Stitcher (where we’d also LOVE to get your reviews on those platforms if you have a moment). In today’s episode:

  • How to identify the ‘change’ you are trying to bring to readers
  • Why identifying problems you can solve for your readers will give you fresh blog ideas
  • 8 ways to identify problems you can write about to help your readers
  • 4 ways to make solving reader problems and getting fresh ideas easier in future

Further Reading and Resources for How to Beat Writer’s Block: Part 2 – How to Come Up With Fresh Ideas to Write About

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Hi, there. Welcome to episode 84 of the ProBlogger Podcast. My name’s Darren Rowse and today, we’re continuing our mini-series on tackling blogger’s block. 

In the last episode, episode 83, we talked about three different types of blogger’s block. Those were coming up with ideas for your blog post, writing the blog post themselves, then completing your blog post. Three areas where I know bloggers do get stuck. Today, I want to tackle coming up with ideas to write about for your blog. You can find today’s show notes with some further reading at

This whole series is really about getting unstuck, battling that blogger’s block that so many of us face. This particular area of coming up with ideas to write about is probably the most common area that I find bloggers are struggling with. After it happened about a year into your blog when you’ve been through many of those initial ideas that you had when you started out, you generally have a whole heap of ideas. Sometimes, too many ideas. Then, you run out.

You feel like sometimes, you’ve written everything there is to say, you’ve written everything that you know to talk about, and everyone else has already written everything and you come out against, “What could I write that’s fresh? What could I write that’s going to have any impact upon my readers? What could I write that’s going to stand out from everyone else?”

This is something that many of us struggle with. It’s actually one of the reasons a number of bloggers that I’ve come across over the last year or two have given up blogging. It’s actually like they have nothing left to say. I would really encourage you to push past this particular type of blogger’s block. All of us do have all kinds of things to say. There are always new ways of saying things that perhaps we’ve said before as well, and that’s a mind shift that you need to push through, is being able to write on topics you’ve already written before. There are always new and fresh ways to do that.

In this particular episode, I want to give you some practical tips on how to come up with ideas to write about. The first tip that I’ll give you is to go back and listen to episode 11 of the ProBlogger Podcast. This episode gives you a practical exercise that you can do. The whole idea of that episode is to identify the change that you are trying to bring to your readers, the big change that you are trying to bring.

Blogs that change the lives of their readers in some tangible way tend to be successful. If you are changing someone’s life, obviously, they’re going to want to come back and read your blog again. Identifying what that big change that you’re trying to bring is and mapping out the journey that you want to take your readers on is a powerful thing to do. I walked through how to do that in episode 11. I’ll link to that in today’s show notes but it’s at You can also search for it on iTunes.

Identifying the big change that you’re trying to bring and then break it down into the journey you want to take people on. That’s the first thing that I would encourage you to do. Go back and listen to that episode. Perhaps, at the end of this episode. There’s another way that you can tackle this idea of blogger’s block that I found really helpful to me. It’s just a different way of thinking about it. In some ways, it’s quite similar to identifying that change. 

The thing that I’ve realized over the years is that most of the blog posts that have been most successful for me have solved problems; solved problems in some way. This is really what I have built my blogs completely around. Every time I write a blog post, I’m trying to solve a problem. 

On my blogs, the problems are educational. I’m trying to teach people something to help them solve a problem. Problems that just need to be tackled in that way. Some people’s problem, they’re bored and they want to be entertained. Some blogs are all about entertaining people. Some people’s problem is they don’t know what the latest news is, so they need the latest news. There are blogs around that tackle that problem.

Don’t just think about problems in that you need to educate people. There is a whole heap of different problems that people have. Another type of problem that some people feel is that they’re alone. They don’t have a community. Some blogs solve that problem by helping people to realize that they’re not the only ones. That’s solving that problem or building a community for people. There’s a whole heap of different ways that blogs can solve problems. Really, by thinking about the problem that you’re trying to solve, sometimes that can help you to unlock ideas to write about.

I love this quote from Joseph Sugarman. He writes, “Each problem has hidden in it an opportunity so powerful that it literally dwarfs the problem. The greatest success stories were created by people who recognized the problem and turned it into an opportunity.” Every problem that people have, there’s actually an opportunity there, particularly for us as bloggers who can solve those problems and build businesses around that. It’s not rocket science, really, but every time I sit down to write a blog post, I generally am thinking about a problem that I’m trying to solve for my readers. Then, I’ll write a blog post that solves that problem. It’s not rocket science, but it’s a very powerful thing to do. 

In my experience, when you solve someone’s problem, you’re going to create an impression upon them. Then, you have every chance of them thinking about you again the next time that they have a problem and come back to you. If you solve enough problems of people over time, they’ll keep coming back again and again, and they’ll recommend that other people come to you as well when they have problems. What’s the big problem that you’re trying to solve?

This is similar in some ways to that big change that you’re trying to bring. It might be a different way to think about it. What’s the big problem that you were trying to solve with your blog? Most blogs have a big problem that they’re trying to solve but in most cases, that can be broken down into smaller problems.

On my blog, ProBlogger, the big problem is most of the bloggers who come to ProBlogger the first time are just starting out with their blog. They’re trying to build a profitable blog but they don’t know where to start. They’re feeling overwhelmed by all the things they need to do. The big problem is building a profitable blog. Within that, there are many medium-sized problems. These are the categories in my blog—finding readers, monetizing, designing a blog, writing great blog content. Within each of those categories, there are other smaller problems.

Generally, when someone’s facing a big problem, they don’t actually face a big problem. They’re facing a whole series of small problems. On ProBlogger, in the category of writing the content, there’s a whole heap of small problems that people face. Not knowing how to write the title of a blog post or coming up with ideas to write about. This is a problem that many bloggers have. I’m tackling that now in this podcast and have done so in blog posts in the past. 

What are the problems that your readers face? I’m going to give you eight practical ways of identifying problems to write about. I’m going to whip through these very quickly but you might want to pause this podcast and actually do the exercise of coming up with problems that these questions and exercises help you to come up with.

The first one is to solve your own problems. A really great question that I quite often ask myself- is, what problem did I have last year that I don’t have anymore? And how did I solve that? What problem did you have when you started out in the area that you are writing about today? When you first started out, when you were a newbie, or a year ago, when it was two months ago. Or what problems do you have right now that you are struggling to overcome?

You can actually write about those problems as well. You may not have the solution yet but by sharing your story of what you’re trying, that can be a very powerful blog post as well. In many ways, that’s what I built ProBlogger about. I shared the problems that I just solved and I shared the problems that I was having with blogging. By doing so, I told my story. Storytelling is really important as well. So, number one, solve your own problems.

Tip number two is to make a note in any question you’re ever asked that relates to your topic. Over time, you’ll begin to see that you are asked the same types of questions over and over again. These frequently asked questions are very powerful. If people are asking you these questions in blog comments, via email, or in conversations, you can bet that other people have those same questions. So, take note of the frequently asked questions, but also, the less frequently asked questions as well. You need to take note of any question you were ever asked. 

Number three, look for questions in search referrals to your blog. Hopefully, you’ve got Google Analytics or some other analytics program installed on your blog. That will give you some indication of some of the things people are searching for when they arrive on your blog. Google doesn’t reveal all of the search terms anymore. They used to reveal all of them and it was a goldmine. They still do reveal some of those search terms that people use to arrive on your blog. That’s really used for information.

The fourth tip is related to this. It’s still around search. What people are searching for when they’re on your blog? Again, in Google Analytics, you can actually find what people are searching for when they’re on your blog. Most blogs have a search bar where people can type in a word that they may be searching for or a phrase. If you look in your Google Analytics, you can find that information by the pages that they end up on when they do those searches. This is a little bit complicated to explain in a podcast. I’m going to give you a further reading in today’s show notes which will help you to work out what people are searching for when they’re on your blog. 

What you are looking for are landing pages in Google Analytics with /?s if you’re using a WordPress blog. That will reveal to you the pages that people are landing on when they’re doing a search on your blog and that’s a gold mine. Again, I’ll give you a post. It’s quite a long post but in the middle of it, there’s a section on how to identify those searches.

Tip number was to solve your own problems. Tip number two was to make note of any question you’ve ever asked, frequently asked questions, particularly. Number three was to look for questions in search referral. Number four was analyzing internal searches. And number five was to ask your readers for their questions. You can actually ask your readers, “What questions do you have? What problems do you have?” We do this in a number of ways in my blog.

We have a survey that we do on ProBlogger once a year. We actually ask our readers to complete the survey. We asked them on Twitter, Facebook, also in the blog, and through our newsletter. We try and survey a breadth of our readership, our podcast listeners, everyone. But in Digital Photography School, we do it slightly differently. We have a survey that comes up in the autoresponder that we run. After you’ve subscribed for a while, 20 years later, you’ll get invited to do a survey.

A survey is great for this type of thing. We find a whole heap of information about our readers through that survey. We always have a question that is really an open-ended question where we ask our readers to tell us what their problems are. It’s amazing how many people will. It’s anonymous so they feel okay to tell you what their problems are. They’ll tell you all kinds of things which are really useful and can turn into blog posts. 

You can also tap into the questions in other ways. You might do a poll. You might try and get some of your readers together to do a little focus group. I talked to a blogger recently who has a Facebook group that they set up once a year just for a small group of their readers. I actually approached some of their most prolific commenters in their blog and said, “Would you join this little focus group? This little Facebook group? I want to ask you some questions as a group.” The group is a whole heap of fun and makes that group of readers feel really special as well. There’s a whole heap of different ways that you can ask your readers to tell you their problems. 

Even just simply emailing some of your readers or phoning them up. I talked to Pat Flynn recently in an interview. He said that in the early days, he used to ring his readers. He’d say, “Hi, this is Pat. I want to talk to you about how you’re using my site and some of the problems you have.” It’s a really powerful thing both in terms of making an impression upon those readers but also learning about them.

Tip number six is to look at other sites in your niche. The questions that people are asking in forums, on other Facebook groups, on other blogs and comments, these can be particularly good for giving you ideas of what to write about. You can also look at other blogs in your niche, what they’re writing about, and build upon those posts. If someone else has written seven tips for something, write building upon that. Link to it and say, “This is a great post I read. Here’s three more tips that I’d give.” You can find all kinds of inspiration by looking at what other people are writing about. 

This is something that used to happen in the blogosphere all the time. Bloggers used to look at other blogs and they would build upon the posts that other people have written about. It doesn’t seem to happen so much anymore. It kind of saddens me in some ways. I would love to see more people building upon content that other people are writing about. It doesn’t matter if you link to another blog. They know they’re competitive. They might become a collaborator. Link out to what other people are writing about. Build upon their ideas. In this way, everyone becomes smarter. That was tip number six.

Number seven is to use social media to gather questions or problems. I think this is a real goldmine. It’s just so simple to get onto Twitter, to put in a keyword of your particular niche, and to see what people are asking. People go to Twitter all the time to get advice. They’re asking questions all the time. If you can tap into some of those questions, it might give you ideas for blog posts.

Tip number eight is to use other social tools like Periscope or BLaB or even webinars to have conversations with your readers and to gather questions with them. I’ve recently done a number of Periscopes where I’ve just said, “I’m a full-time blogger. Ask me anything.” That was the title of my Periscope. I see now that the bloggers do this as well. It is a goldmine for getting ideas for blog posts. 

You may not have a whole heap of people come and ask questions, but those types of Periscope do tend to work quite well. I’ve seen them become quite popular. They’re a great way of building your brand, your profile, by putting yourself out there and showcasing what you know. You should be recording all of those questions that you get as well. I found Periscope and webinars particularly every time I have an opportunity to do a Q&A at a conference or just at a little meetup, those types of questions that you get there are really powerful as well. They can identify the problems that people have.

They’re eight quick tips for identifying problems amongst your readers or your potential readers. Just a few more last tips on this whole area of coming in with ideas. Firstly, put aside blocks of time and ahead of time. I find, personally, that when I’m coming up with problems and trying to brainstorm ideas to write about, I’m much better to do that by putting aside half an hour or an hour to come up with as many ideas as I can, rather than to do this exercise every time I need to write a blog post. I much prefer to spend half an hour and come up with 10 great ideas that I can use over the next few weeks rather than have to do this whole exercise every time I want to write a blog post. 

So, put aside time. Perhaps, every Monday morning or every Friday afternoon, to come up with ideas for your next week or do it once a month with another blogger. I do find doing it with other people can be really stimulating (sometimes) to come up with a month’s worth of content. I actually talked to one blogger recently who comes with a whole year’s worth of ideas. She writes two posts a week. She has to come up with 104 ideas. She does it in January every year. It comes out with 104 ideas so that she’s got her ideas mapped out. She all put dates on them even and deadlines on each of them. That’s how she does it. She puts aside that time batch processes, this whole process of coming up with ideas.

A couple of tools that I use, I generally do this process either in Evernote or using mind mapping tools. In mind mapping, you can do it on a whiteboard or a piece of paper. There are also tools on your computer. There’s this little tool called MindNode. It’s a Mac tool but there are other tools for PCs as well. 

Tip number one, put aside a block of time ahead of time. Tip number two, set up some sort of a system for recording those ideas. I really would encourage you to capture the ideas that you get and have some sort of a system for capturing those ideas that you have with you all the time. 

In the old days, for me, it used to be a notebook that I would carry around with me. Then, I started to have text files on my computer. I have a little folder on my laptop, desktop. I just put text files in it with ideas as I got them. Then, I started to use Dropbox so I can sync my ideas between different devices. Today, I used Evernote. I have a notebook for ideas and I just set-up notes for each of the ideas that I get. It doesn’t really matter what the system is as long as you’ve got a system and as long as you’ve got something that you can capture those ideas because those ideas can be fleeting.

Tip number three is as you’re writing posts, be able to look out for ideas during that process. I quite often find as I’m writing a post that little questions or tangents come in that I want to take. Or I start to imagine my readers asking questions to me as I’m writing. I don’t know if that’s weird to be hearing my readers’ voices as I’m writing content. That’s often the time I’m getting other ideas. I’m taking note of those little tangents that I’m tempted to take but don’t take, all the questions that I can imagine my readers are asking. I’ll take note of those things.

As I’m finishing a blog post, one of the little things that I do is always say, “What questions do I predict that I’m going to get as a result of this blog post?” Sometimes, I weave the answers to those questions into the blog post. Sometimes those questions stimulate the next blog post that I’m going to write. It might be a helpful thing to do as you’re writing your content as well.

The last tip I’ll give you on coming up with ideas to write about is that it is more than okay to come back to an idea that you’ve already written about and to do a fresh post on that or to update it in some way. I think this is actually something that a lot of bloggers just need to get over, this idea of coming back to something you’ve already written about. You don’t have to come up with a completely new idea every time you write a piece of content. 

If you’ve been writing for a year, two years, three years on your blog, actually build into your routine that you go back to some of those old posts. Ask yourselves the question, should I write another post on this topic? Or should I update that post and republish it in some way?

In today’s show notes, I’ve actually got a post with a little exercise that I encourage you to build into your rhythm, which really does go back to some of that old content that you’ve got, that can bring some new life to it. I would encourage you to do that on a regular basis to actually update your archives and republish some of your content in a fresh and more useful up-to-date way. That’s actually solving problems for your readers. It’s not actually a cop-out to go back and use old posts again. It’s actually serving your readers. Not all of your new readers have seen that old content. You can actually do something really powerful with that old content that solves problems for your readers.

I hope that somewhere in this particular podcast has been some ideas that have stimulated ideas for your blog. I’d encourage you to put aside some time right now at the end of this podcast to do some brainstorming, to actually do some planning about the type of content that you want to produce on your blog for the rest of the year. Do some work on this particular thing right now while you’re freshly thinking about it. Hopefully, you’ll come up with some really great content ideas for your blog for the coming months.

You can find today’s show notes at I would love to hear what you do in terms of coming up with ideas for content on your blog. How do you identify those problems that your readers have? How do you actually go about that? What tools do you use? What questions do you ask yourself that have unlocked ideas to write about on your blog? I’d love to hear it from you.

I’m going to give you some more tips on battling blogger’s block on episode 85 in a couple of days time. We’re going to talk about writing content for your blog. Stay tuned for that episode. Also, subscribe to the ProBlogger PLUS podcast in today’s show notes as well where we do update you with any new podcast that I produce as well as new blog posts on the ProBlogger blog and other developments around ProBlogger. Thanks for listening today. I’ll chat with you on episode 85.

How did you go with today’s episode?

Have you suffered from a bout of bloggers block? Have you got a different technique that works for you to come up with great new ideas? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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