1. Make it Your LivelihoodOkay, this is the nuclear option. You probably shouldn’t start here. But, I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about just how fast your brain can work when you don’t have a choice. When your rent is on the line, you’ve got a special kind of motivation to pump out ideas. You start to consider ideas you might have passed up as “too weird”, or “too boring” before. Then you find a way to make those articles work. And you find new ways to come up with ideas. You find yourself doing some of your best—and sometimes worst—work in the middle of the night, because that’s when things finally clicked.
2. Dedicate Some Time to Idea GenerationLooking for new ideas is a mindset, not just something you do. Some people are in this state of mind at all times, every day. For those of us who aren’t Elon Musk, it takes a bit more scheduling. Set aside some time to look for new ideas: Search the Internet; see what other people have been writing about; stop and ask yourself questions like, “What most interests me about my chosen theme, these days?”. Put yourself in an inquisitive, creative mindset. Now, you may or may not come up with all of the ideas you need in one sitting. However, dedicating some time to getting your brain in gear can help you come up with new ideas throughout the next day or so. Then you just come back and write them down as soon as you can. Having a note taking app on your phone can help with this.
3. Write From the HeartAs a writer, as a reader, and occasionally as an editor, I prefer articles with passion in them. It’s far more entertaining to read articles by people who clearly feel strongly about their chosen topic. Sure, those strong feelings can lead to biased opinions, but I like it better when they actually have opinions. Writing, or vlogging, meme-ing, or whatever, about topics that get your brain moving at full speed is a good way to make great content. That’s not to say that you can’t write about things that are less interesting to you, or that you don’t have a lot of experience with. If it’s your job, you might have to. This is where thorough research will save your rear end. But ideally, write what you know and love.
4. Follow the Trends From a DistanceOkay, trends can always give you something to write about. However, don’t just repeat what other people have said. Try to add something new to the conversation. Reference what others have to say on the subject, and add your own insights. Or come at the subject from a completely different angle. Wait for other people to have the knee-jerk reactions, and write the hot takes. It’s probable that other people will always do this faster than you, so be patient. Take advantage of others’ immediate reactions and the extra time to build a more nuanced perspective on any given issue. Of course, the Internet is a big place, and chances are good that you’ll end up saying something rather similar to what everyone else says. That’s kind of inevitable. But it’s worth trying to say something new.
5. Get Off the Internet Once in a WhileSome of you best ideas hit you in the shower because that’s what happens when you give your brain a break. Your subconscious mind needs time to make connections, and it often works best when you’re doing other things that don’t require as much concentration. This is why career writers spend half their work day (and maybe longer, if they write fiction) pacing, staring out windows, and making coffee. Also, talk to people. I know I’ve mentioned this before in other recent articles of mine, but... just talk to them. Whether you’re getting ideas from your conversation with them, or using them as a sounding board, never underestimate the value of a good conversation partner.
6. Never Stop LearningThe more you know, the more you’ll have to say. Learning new things, whether in your industry and chosen writing theme or not, will give you more to talk about. It will broaden your perspective by introducing you to new ways of thinking. As in, learning new things literally changes the way your brain works a little bit, which can lead to new ideas. Plus, if you can draw parallels between what you’ve learned and the topic you write about, there’s an article idea right there. I mean, I managed to compare cat behavior to principles of UX design not so long ago. There are good ideas out there. Just go looking. Featured image via Unsplash.
Ezequiel Bruni is a web/UX designer, blogger, and aspiring photographer living in Mexico. When he’s not up to his finely-chiselled ears in wire-frames and front-end code, or ranting about the same, he indulges in beer, pizza, fantasy novels, and stand-up comedy.