How Do Your Come Up, Store and Organize Ideas for Blog Posts?
This post is part of the weekly Q&A section. Just use the contact form if you want to submit a question.
Joel Drapper asks:
I would like to know how you come up with ideas for posts, and also how you store, and organize those ideas.
Most of the times ideas will come to me naturally. Sometimes I am surfing the web, other times I am taking a shower, and the idea will just pop in my head.
There are times when I not particularly inspired, though, and on those occasions I need to use some exercises to get the creative juices flowing. Here are the exercises that I use:
1. Looking on other niches. Sometimes I will browse around websites that cover completely different niches, and I will take a look at the content that they are publishing and evaluate whether or not I could translate those ideas or concepts to my own niche.
2. Reading print stuff. The print industry is much older than the web, and those guys have a lot of experience. You just need to buy a newspaper or a magazine on a topic related to your niche and I am sure you will get plenty of ideas for new posts.
3. Doing something else. Sometimes it is useless to keep trying harder. Maybe you are stressed with the work, maybe you are tired. On those occasions, doing something completely different can help. If you work in your home, for example, you could go out for a bicycle ride or jogging with a friend.
4. Using paper to brainstorm. Jotting ideas down on a piece of paper is a very efficient way to organize your thoughts. It becomes easier, after all, to interlink things and to see what ramifications they could have.
That is pretty much it.
The second part is about storing the ideas, which is just as important. In fact, one common mistake that people do is to not store their ideas somewhere, relying solely on their memories. Then when they realize the idea is gone for good.
My process for storing ideas is the following: when they hit me I write them down as soon as possible. If I am outside of my office, I use any piece of paper that I can put my hands on. If I am inside my office, I will write it down on the notebook that is always on my desk or on the whiteboard. Then at the end of the day I will add that idea to my WordPress dashboard as a draft. Usually I just include the title and some central topics that I think could be covered on the future post.
As of today I have 30 or so drafts stored. Whenever I don’t have something to post on a given day I will just go through those drafts, pick one, and write it.
What about you guys? What exercises do you use to come up with ideas, and how do you store and organize them?
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41 Responses to “How Do Your Come Up, Store and Organize Ideas for Blog Posts?”
I find that ideas come from just working and reading other blogs, or oddly, often it’ll come to me whilst I’m going to sleep – so I keep a notepad by my bed.
I have far more ideas than I will ever be able to write down so coming up with new posts is never an issue. Keeping my research and ideas organized can be a challenge though so a keyword searchable app is essential.
I keep track of ideas, notes, and links in Tomboy Notes to make them easy to retrieve. I highly recommend it as the fastest method of all those I have used. Some day I might learn mindmapping but for now Tomboy Notes will do.
I usually try and sit down a coupl of times a week and brainstorm ideas for my blog.
Observing what is going on around you is about the best way I have found to come up with ideas.
Indsutry related Magazines, and newspapers can be great sources of ideas.
I use Evernote to keep track of my post ideas.
Brian D. Hawkins
Good topic Daniel, I find that StumbleUpon and Digg give me ideas. Google blog search is another one. It’s just important to use them to ‘generate’ ideas and not copy them.
A lot of times I’ll turn one of my own comments into a blog post. When they are going way too long and I feel it’s good stuff I just post it on my blog and link to the original post that got it started. Commenting on other blogs is a great way to get those creative juices going.
@susan is right. Evernote keeps every idea that pops into my head when I’m at the keyboard. It is also the repository of webclips of things that I need to remember or that I might need later.
The analog version is a reporter’s spiral notebook that will fit into a hip pocket, jacket pocket, or even tucked into the waistband of my sweats. I’ve got the fancy Moleskines and Levenger leather bound journals, but I keep coming back to the $10/dz reporters books. Maybe it’s just my journalism background, but they just make sense. (It doesn’t take up much space on the nightstand, either.)
Mark (Isle of Wight, UK)
As a novice in the world of blogging, I don’t have anything to offer you on this, but I do want to thank you for the great idea about having lots of Drafts in the Dashboard with as bullet point articles ready for creation.
I quite often just use a notepad, back of envelope, word document to make lists, notes etc but never organise them after that. The only time I use Drafts is when I have to leave the computer before I’ve finished writing a piece.
I also access my sites from various computers so having the drafts in place will be efficient for me aswell. Blindingly obvious technique now I’ve been told it, but something I had certainly not considered doing in such a purposeful way. Fantastic 🙂
For me a bit funny, my ideas to post on my blog usually come up whlie i’m taking bath. After that I write a note to do listing which topic should be posted….
Thanks for an interesting question!
I always have my Samsung Blackjack by my side. What I am currently doing is to record a voice note.
In the past, i used to have a small pocket notebook where i was writing all the ideas that were flowing through the day.
By the way, storing the pre-posts as drafts is something unusual and very, very useful. Thanks for the tip.
I don’t search for ideas for writing posts. I write once in 5-6 days and believe me, the ideas come to me. I would have been thinking of doing something totally different till the day of writing the post but on the day of writing the post, a totally different idea comes to me and seems compelling enough to do a post on it after some research!!
I don’t purposely brainstorm- but when an idea comes, I get it down asap. If I have the computer handy I start a draft (using Blogger). Either way, ideas come when they do- and in spates- so it is important to just get them down, whether it is a topic idea, a phrase, or a link I want to use.
Claus D Jensen
Thank you for a great post..
I try to, once a week, sit down with a pen and a piece of paper, “brainstorming” with myself.. Sometimes in the beginning my brain is quiet “silent”, but almost everytime, at one point, the ideas start to pop up. Lots of ideas.. As if one idea for a post bring another idea, that brings another idea…etc….
I also like your no 3 on the list.. Going for a walk in the forest or at the sea is mostly good for creating ideas for blog posts and other things in general!
Claus D Jensen,
Indeed most of the ideas get lost because people do not take the effort of storing the. Initially I too was one of this kind but later I started storing ideas.
I keep a small notepad with me always. In addition to that I carry a PDA. I either jot down the ideas in points in the notepad or, record it in the voice recorder of my PDA. In addition to recording a title I also record a few points on the subject. This way I can keep noting down the ideas that come to my mind and I never miss out on any.
I really like the idea of storing ideas/drafts in wordpress. I have a notepad file with ideas for future posts, but I think setting them as drafts is a much better idea. I usually just write down the topic/idea, but if I could add some other thoughts, it could be the start of a post just waiting for me when I need some inspiration.
Joel, thanks for mentioning doris! I’m always looking for useful new tools like this and I’d never heard of it.
Thanks for your response. I think the main thing that was holding me back from posting is fear. I was always afraid that what I write wasn’t going to be good enough, or worst of all wrong.
I’ve now got together some plans on relaunching, have over 100 post ideas, and am organizing a contest too.
I like to keep my ideas in doris now. It’s a free online list app. Whenever I get an idea, I add it to my list, then add more details by clicking on “More”.
I highly recommend you check it out.
Thanks again for the answer!
I use Google Notebooks to jot down ideas for future postings and such. It makes it much easier to just write down ideas and the status of reaching out to industry contacts.
I think it depends on what the niche of the blog is. In my case, I oftentimes get ideas from the experiences I get with what I do online. When I surf the web and find something interesting, silly or just plain helpful, I try to write it as possible. Mood also plays a factor.
Btw, I think you misspelled the title, should’ve use you, not your.
Great post Daniel. I like the idea of looking around other niches to see what is working well. I often do that on StumbleUpon as well, I’ll see what kind of content is getting rated highly in other niches and see if I can apply that idea to my own.
What I do is keep a little note book with me, and when I think of and idea, I write it down. Then when I get home, I make a title, open a word file with the title at the top and three or four thoughts, one liners about that topic. Then close the file. I might have 100 or so word files in a folder at any one time, with just titles and a couple of lines of text. This way I do not run out of ideas. It works for me, and I use this for blogging or to write online articles. Its amazing how efficient it is.
The only item that is always next to me is my cell phone. I use to in to add notes and then transfer them as draft post to wordpress.
I do the title thing, too. Specifically, when I have a good idea but no time to write it at that moment (or if I’m writing something else), I’ll open a Word document and save a file with just the title, formatted and ready for me to go. I keep several of these files going at once, and can go back to them at any time, notably on rainy days.
I find most of my ideas tend to materialise when writing articles. I’m prone to going off on tangents and tend to take the wider departures and make them into stand-alone pieces. 🙂
It does amaze me though how there’s always 1-2 days per week when I have absolutely no clue what to write about and then suddenly, boom, I’ll get a great idea out of nowhere and have the article written and submitted within an hour or two.
Daniel, your method sounds very like mine. The danger of ‘any piece of paper that I can put my hands on’, though, is keeping track of those bits of paper (whether they are torn envelopes, the back of junk mail, whatever)! Being usually without pockets (or keyboard), i have trouble with this.
I have been known to lose details of that idea i know i had yesterday… BUT the positive side is happening upon a great idea that i’d forgotten all about, when least expecting it. Good ol’ serendipity.
It’s so true that ideas generate ideas. Once you start, the biggest problem is sometimes sticking to the one you’re writing without being distracted by the others that spring up out of the writing process. And what a good problem to have. 80)
I have a huge list of topics that I’ve accumulated over the years, and I store them in a single text file. I find it easier to keep track of them that way than to keep them as drafts in WordPress.
After I write about a topic on my list, I usually come up with one or more topics not already on it. I write about them before going back to the list. That is the nature of my blog — technical topics spur questions for further research.
Tom – StandOutBlogger.com
I usually get my ideas just in everyday life when I step away from my blog and take some time off. Whether it be going for a walk or whatever.
i use 2-3 subjects/day from trends (eng, hindi, japan) … and random ideas …
I tend to get my ideas from a mix of real life experiences, books/magazines, websites, conversations and so on.. most come organically but a decent number come from deliberate thought.. ie. I’ll troll through the archives of a site looking at what questions they asked and what responsive question I might ask to expand on the topic.
I also find if i dedicate my self to one topic within my niche for a couple of days, by the second or third day, the ideas start to FLOOD (ie. i did a guest post on a blog about branding and for the first two days I couldn’t think of anything, then on the third I thought of about 10 articles)
I store all of them in a notebook that I always have with me when I’m at work or at home.. last night i jotted down number 376. It sounds like a lot, but they all vary in voice/opinion/style. ie. some will be short little bursts of ideas (few hundred words), while others might be a series or feature articles (1500-2000+)
I have a recurring task in Outlook for each of my blogs. When I have an idea, I’ll type it into the notes section, or copy and paste a link to something that caught my eye. When I need an idea, that’s the first place I look.
Just downloaded Evernote and am going to try that for storing and organizing.
Being alive is more than enough. I just observe the world around me and make sure I always have my notebook.
I’ve started creating drafts in WordPress of topic ideas so that when I sit down I’m not trying to start from nothing.
It is amazing how much easier it is to start writing when a title (even just a temporary one) and a couple sentences and/or links are sitting in the editor.
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