When I meet fans of the Paligap blog in the street, on the train
or perhaps on a weekend city break to one of Europe's historically
fascinating locations, the one thing they all want to know is "how
do you keep coming up with awesome ideas for blogs?". Now, being
the modest type I will generally defer to "current events", "my
incredible colleagues" or "recent episodes of Curious George", but
the truth is simple - to write great content you need to tap into
the deepest, darkest recesses of the human mind and release the
genius you find there.
Of course there will be rare occasions when you return to that
well and find it has run dry. Do not worry. This is not terminal -
the brilliant ideas will return in due course, so do not panic.
Oh, your deadline is today? Well, that's a different matter. A
very different matter. In that case you need help. Fortunately
you've come to the right place.
I appreciate the problem, really I do. You wrote one great blog,
then another and before you knew it
people expected something. In truth
you'd have been better off starting slowly, writing some banal
content about the importance of using Google+; how to be great at
guest posting just by being a great guy; or perhaps something about
how very white hat you are. That would have lowered expectations
nicely. Then you could have churned out some mind numbing details
about Google+ Local incorporating Google Places and how This Is A
Big Deal and moved on to the next thing on your list.
But you didn't think of that. You thought you were smarter than
everyone else. You thought you could produce epic blog after epic
blog, rise to fame in a blaze of glory and become revered by the
industry's biggest names. And now you've run out of ideas.
There really are only a few ways to address this type of
problem. One is to plan ahead, build up a bank of content and then
drip feed the community one awesome drop after another until they
are suckling at the teat of your magnificence. Another is to be an
evil creative genius, pulling one glorious idea after another from
the darkest crevices of your mind, distilling them like the finest
whisky and exhibiting the public face of your, let's face it, mild
insanity to much whooping and hollering.
Another option is to throw quality to the winds and serve up
something both disappointing and frustrating in equal measures. If
you're lucky you might have the talent to turn a blog about nothing
into something a little bit special, but that is a rare gift.
Now I've used up half the time you had to write this thing
before your deadline comes crashing down like pigeon droppings on
the shoulders of your best Friday shirt I should probably move
things along a little. There is one vital element to blogging and
creating content generally that will serve you well in all time to
come: know what you are good at. Work out where you are adding
value and use that as the foundation. This self-awareness will be
of significant assistance bringing topics into focus.
If your skill is making sense of complex data, do it. If your
skill is creating a compelling narrative, do it. If your skill is
prognostication, do it. If your skill is making complex subjects
accessible, do it.
No matter what you do, provided you are enhancing the
information you present, there are people looking for precisely
that take. For every three blogs on Google+ that are entirely banal
there is one that sheds genuine light on a development or feature.
For every three blogs about being a white hat SEO there is one that
offers a little extra perspective. For every three blogs about
outing linkbuilders who buy links there is one that is genuinely
engaging and enlightening. The important factor is to be the one,
not one of the three.
It's not always going to flow from the tips of your fingers like
blood from that gaping wound you opened by banging your head off
the desk in frustration, but if everyone could do it then everyone
would. Tap in to your own dark genius, go back to the well, but
remember who you are and what you have to offer in order that
others are spared the torture of mediocre content. Failing that,
I'd suggest keeping an eye on current events, speaking to your
colleagues and borrowing their ideas or, as a last resort, checking
out recent episodes of Curious George. Works for me.