When Inspiration Fails

Iain Bartholomew

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.


How embarrassing.


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.

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