This post on Creative Blogging was written by Mark Seall from Talk Climate Change.
Creative lapses are one of the biggest blog killers out there. Every blogger spends time staring at a blank screen searching for inspiration at some point, and few niches provide a steady stream of juicy news on which a blogger can instantly provide outpourings of captivating opinion.
Over time I’ve managed to develop a routine and a set of habits which seem to reliably spark my limited creative abilities and help me avoid those desperate moments of inspirational emptiness as I imagine my page hits plummeting as my blog dries up.
My suggestions for creative blogging bliss, in no particular order are:
1. Move around – try to continually blog in different places as changes in environmental stimuli will stop your brain from going into autopilot and keep it fresh and receptive to new ideas. I tend to continually rotate from the kitchen to my home office to my sofa to the local coffee shop as I read news, write blog posts, or jot down notes. In my case reading other blogs in the kitchen seems to give a 50% better ideas hit rate.
2. Make a mess – Fleming wouldn’t have discovered the bacteria that created penicillin had his laboratory been spotlessly clean. Likewise, a messy work environment creates more chance for coincidence, and more coincidences mean more opportunities to discover the odd thoughts which eventually mature into great posts.
3. Integrate blogging with the rest of your life – Get into the habit of randomly thinking about your blog when performing completely unrelated tasks. Your brain will make different associative connections which often spawn new ideas. Whilst emptying the dishwasher last week my mind flicked from climate change to domestic relationships to marriage and along the way it brought up some interesting connections which inspired a surprisingly good post on climate change and marriage.
4. Talk about your blog – It’s surprising the number of random thoughts you can come up with during conversation. Talking uses different parts of your brain and stimulates the creative pathways in different ways. At the same time your ideas will develop as the bounce around the conversation. I frequently discuss topics on my blog with friends and colleagues and often find myself pausing to write down ideas which emerge as the subject for future blog posts.
5. Take a complete break – You can’t force creativity. Avoid thinking about your blog for at least 30 minutes to allow your blog brain to reboot. This will usually clear out any mental blocks that develop and allow you to think about that great blog post with renewed clarity.
6. Stop writing and start reading – It’s been said time and time again, but spending time outside of your blog is essential to keep your content lively and relevant. But mostly it also helps you to capture the seeds of opinion which float around the internet forming or reinforcing the basis for your own specific take on a given issue. I find that the quality of my posts is roughly equal to the square of the time that I spend reading. My recent post on climate change extremism was developed as I collected fragments of observations whilst surfing the net which came together as I related them during a lunch time chat.
These pointers may not work for everyone, but the basic principle holds true – give your brain some freedom and exercise and it’s more likely to reward you with brilliant new thoughts. There is no complete recipe for creativity, but actively managing your blogging habits and environment can give you the very best chance of developing great ideas and great content.
Note from Darren: for more thinking on creativity and how to be more creative as a blogger check out some of these previous posts on the topic:
Great tips Mark. I especially liked #3-Integrate blogging with the rest of your life. I find that this helps you to make connections between blogging and other things.
Stop writing and start reading. That is key advice, you can’t join a conversation without listening to the other person.
Simply having off line conversations is something I find most helpful, having a one on one human connection far outweighs sifting through RSS feeds and trying to grasp the overall opinion of several people. When your talking to friends and family, you instantly know what is relevant and exciting. The only downside is that they will tell you what is dumb and boring.
Great Post Mark! One I’ll come back to for advice and inspiration.
Excellent post. I totally agree with you on the reading bit especially. What inspiration would be better than reading before you write an entry? It doesn’t even have to relate to your blog’s niche, to be honest. The author’s tone/voice should be enough to inspire you and give you a new perspective.
Really nice tips. I liked the 3rd one too!
Blogging are already integrate with my life :)
What helps for me is a tumblelog with nothing of the structure and polish of my main blog, but merely links, text, quotes, pictures, and videos that I happen to dig and then post about on the fly. This “lifestreaming” process helps me to make associations which I can then put to work in the more organized environment of my main blog.
I’ve told people around me, “Say something random”. That’s why I posted about chicken pot pie… It works, kinda.
I find the more I move around, the better off I am. As I type this I’m sitting on the couch, watching 60 minutes surfing other blogs. One of the best ways that I find new ideas is reading some of my favorite blogs (on subjects that are greatly different then mine) and watching how those blogs tie together content and ideas.
3 & 4 are great tips that I agree with. If find most of my inspiration with things that aren’t related to my niche. Talking to other people is also a big source of inspiration.
I don’t agree with number 6 though, sometime it discourages bloggers and takes up too much time.
Those are definitely some great tips
Great tips, reading I really need to do a lot.
I like @Chris’s suggestion, very cool idea. Being able to capture snippets for future posts is very helpful for me. I use Backpack to store links, notes, lists of ideas, etc., and a hipster PDA to capture ideas when I’m driving or in the office.
I like #4 a lot, I will give it a try!
Great tips, I’ve reaaaaally gotta start working on #’s 5 and 6, lately all I can think about is MY blog. Bad idea, I need to focus on other things too. Like you said, help spawn other ideas.
Great tips! I left my office with the laptop and sat at the local coffee shop that offers free internet and it made world of difference in how productive I was with the things I needed to get done that morning.
This is also something that we are trying to help people with at our blog. We offer a “Take a thought…leave a thought” section were people can just take an idea and use it to write on. It is a simple thing but it can help people come up with ideas to write on.
Thank you so much for these tips! I’m in a “dry spell sorta rut” right now.
I find that, if you’re blogging in a certain niche, communicating with other people in that niche helps – not about blogging, but about the subject of your blog. Whether I’m asking another needleworker a question, or whether someone asks me a question, the responses generated help juice up the brain. I especially ask questions of people who are “higher up” on the talent scale and who are considered “the pros” in the field.
I added a clearly marked “contact” section to my website, and I’ve gotten a lot of interaction from my readers that way. While I’d rather they leave a comment, I get heaps of good questions that I don’t get through comments – and that gives me stuff to write about.
I also like your advice on thinking like a blogger! That has helped me greatly!
I hate dry spells. But sometimes I can’t avoid them. When I’m under pressure to write, it’s even worse! So I have to “throw it off” and make it “not matter,” otherwise I get panicky and nothing comes!
I swear to gosh, some of this stuff came straight out of my last blog entry.
They really are great tips. I could have used them the other day, in fact, when my idea for a blog post went Poof! I rallied, mind you, and came up with a post about inspiration (and the lack thereof), but still. It would ahve been nice to have rediscovered that original idea (grin).
Change of venue is one of my favorite cures for blogger’s block. I don’t know if it is the smell of the coffee, picking up on other’s conversations, or just being out and about that inspires ideas for articles.
Number 3 provides a constant opportunity. I’m becoming one of those bloggers who sees any catastrophe as a potential blog post.
I like and apply Point 6 (Stop writing and start reading) a lot.
Sometimes I read something; news, books etc.. and an opinion forms. There you have it! That’s a great topic to blog about.
I know some people worry about running out of ideas to blog about. Just go read something. An idea will definitely pop right in :)
I like the messy environment…
Again, great tips. I’ll give some of them a go.
I don’t know about making a mess. A cluttered desk can clutter thoughts for me. Otherwise, excellent tips.
Ah, blogger’s block. Close cousin to writer’s block. I am familiar with it. I used to just try to sit through it, waiting for the words to appear out of nowhere. I’ve found the only way to move beyond it is exactly what you’ve outlined here: step away and do something else. It can be anything, but if I really want to dislodge a fantastic idea from my head, I take a shower.
Look around and write about it.I always looking into myself and write about experience,story and humor.My friend also give me inspiration about ideas.
hye.i`m still newbie here.can you all teach me how to create blog.and what type software are better for newbie and it cost to buy?
Hi Mark – I love these tips. Not least because they allow me to justify my messy work environment!
Nice tips. But should I make a mess for my sweet desk? Just wonder anyone would agree with this one. Creative? Yes. Messy? Nope. Sorry, Mark. :)
I identify most with tip #3. It’s helped me most to stop thinking of blogging as a totally seperate activity from the rest of my life — especially because my blog topics (although not personal in nature) are inspired by my daily experiences. I find it’s best to never shut off the part of my brain that thinks about blogging — and I keep a list of upcoming topics to possibly pursue later.
On a related note — during those times when ideas are coming like crazy, I think it helps to really run with it! I have a bunch of saved draft posts, ready to take the spotlight when an inevitable creative dry spell comes along!
Thanks for all the positive feedback! Although I guess the mess thing is very much up to personal preference.
Generally I find that being a creative blogger is the easy part. Making any money out of it is the hard bit…
Mark!!! nice tips make me to think!!!
Here’s another tip: Set some google alerts for topics of interest. I run a dog art blog so I have google alerts for dog art, dog photography, dog books. Sometimes I’ll add alerts for artists I like, for example dog Picasso. That way the story ideas come to me in my email every day.
I actually know Mark’s blog, and he practices what he preaches. It is worth a read. It makes you think about climate change just like his tips. Nice work, Mark.
Now I know what to do when I am having a writer’s block…
I have to agree with his every day analogy. Everything I do in my personal life, I think about it for a post. My blog is a about my own green experiences as it relates to everyday. I walk around with my camera in tow since a picture is worth a thousand words! Darren, wouldn’t you agree?
Moira-you are the second person today who suggested this about google alerts. I guess someone is hitting me over the head with this idea!
I like all the tips but the messy environment… I’m a procrastinator by nature – if I see a messy desk or room I have to tidy it before I start the task at hand!
I also try to make sure I switch off for a while each day, it’s easier said than done though!
Love the tips, and I’m really good at the making a mess part. Having two young kids really helps, of course, and they’re plenty creative.
Great post. I find myself doing # 4 a lot. The more serious I got about my comedy and the blog, I realized that at least 60% of my conversations end up referring to it as some point or another.
Great tips. Although, I already use all 6. ;)
I think it is vital to be very knowledgable about the subject you are writing about. If you are not you will very soon get caught out.
Moving around is probably the most effective thing that I have done to be more creative on my blog, I’ve found that if I blog in different places in my house or blog at someone elses house even I end up coming up with more interesting ideas.
Changing your environment can help get new ideas flowing, I have even gone out to my car with my laptop and blogged from their (it seems strange but I’ve come up with some great posts doing that).
Came across your whilst searching for stuff on positive attitude and am addicted to all that you write. Although I ‘think’ about so much on similar lines, have always found it difficult when I sit down to blog. Your tips on creative are simply Great and I wish it inspires me to achieve at least 10% of what you have achieved. You’re too good.
Found this by Googling ‘Creative Blogging’. Some great advice there. I love the comment about integrating blogging with your life. Hopefully that will make my content more honest and interesting!