It’s 3:00 on a Monday afternoon, and I haven’t even started my weekly blog. I don’t have a topic idea – my brain is empty and all I can think about is the frozen pizza I will eat when I get home.
“Don’t worry about it,” my brain says, “just work on something else until an idea hits you, then you’re all set.”
But 4:30 rolls around and I still have no ideas. I was running short on options – either an idea needed to hit me or a truck did.
Anybody on Earth who has ever written has encountered this, whether they call it writer’s block, lack of inspiration or my term for it: pizzabrain. It’s that phenomenon that occurs when your creative mind which used to so readily supply you with fresh, tasty ideas sputters to a halt and you’re staring at your notepad or computer screen slack-jawed with eyes glazed over.
When you’re stuck for a content idea, what do you do? You can’t always count on inspiration to smack you upside the head (I learned that the hard way), so it’s up to you to go looking for it at some point. Here are a few content topic generation helpers that I’ve encountered that I’ve found useful in curing my pizzabrain.
Sometimes the best ideas for content are the ones you didn’t know you already have. Lying in the recesses of your mind like a scared and frightened animal, you’ll need to gently coax those ideas out with treats and then hold them close. Here’s how I get them to come to me:
- I think about what 3 questions I have answered in the last month, whether for a client, for a coworker or for myself. Were those questions that visitors to my site will also have? If so, I can usually walk my readers through how I arrived at my answers in a blog post.
- I think about where a pain point is in my own processes, and how I can better fix them. In case you couldn’t tell, that’s how I decided upon this blog topic – I needed to reestablish how I generated ideas for content, and that led into advice I could give to others who create their own content.
- I look at older (6 months+) content I’ve written, and think about if there’s any way I can follow up on it. Has anything surrounding those topics changed? Are there any advancements? Do I understand the topics any differently than I did at the time of writing, and if so – why?
Online Resources for Content Generation
The following are a few of the more interesting online tools I’ve found for coming up with ideas for writing, both in my own personal writing and professionally. Be warned, some of them are more useful than others.
Answer the Public is a unique content writer’s tool. Part topic generator, part keyword planner, complete with a weird Hipster Santa mascot:
Here’s how it works – by simply entering your specific area of interest, Answer the Public will scrounge up a collection of behaviorally-generated search phrases involving that subject. Sounds simple enough, yeah? What’s great about this tool isn’t just its generation of those phrases, but how it presents them in a way that’s conducive to creating content. There are two main ways you’ll likely want to view the results from the tool, as questions or with prepositions. As questions, the tool will divide keyphrases by accompanying question words, such as “why,” “where” or “how.” It generates the kind of questions about the subject that real human beings have or will have searched. Not only is this useful for SEO in that you may be able to better understand how people will search for content on that subject matter, but it’s also useful in understanding what specific areas people have questions about that you may not have already addressed in your web or blog content.
When viewing the preposition option, you’ll be able to see slightly more specific inquiries, simply because that’s the language people use when asking more specific questions. For example, I used the term “air conditioning” as my target, and generated this:
You can see how each question is fairly specific in its target. “Air conditioning with radiant floor heating” or “air conditioning smells like vinegar” are very specific in the information they want. Answer the Public is a fantastic tool for researching content topic ideas, from big and generic to focused and succinct – especially if you’re a fan of people who kind of look like Patrick Stewart if he had a big white beard.
Ah hell yeah, now we’re getting to the good stuff! You want some awesome, boisterous, clickbaiting subjects to write about? You’ve got it! Just put your topic area into the bar and the Linkbait Generator will spit out 20 or so attention-grabbing headlines that are sure to drive visitor traffic.
Well, I guess at the very least it could help you think about your topic in a way you never have before. And isn’t that really what you’re trying to do, get a new perspective on your subject area to inform your audience in a unique and interesting way?
Finding your content
I hope this was an informative look at solving a problem that faces every writer. Everyone’s creative process is different, so perhaps these methods will mean absolutely nothing to you, and that’s ok. Knowing that you’re out of ideas is the first step in finding great new ones, and having the ability to recognize a lack of ideas can help prevent your own creative stagnation. If you’re still stuck, it might help to think in more simple terms, like a lone headline.
Check out Read This Now!, a guide to creating effective headlines and see if that primes your creative motor at all. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some pizza to attend to.
Roundpeg is an Indianapolis content marketing firm.