How To Generate Ideas When You’re Struggling To Write

How to generate ideas when you're struggling to write

[Look within and around you]

I would hazard a guess that, most times, your problems here have less to do with what topic you’re going to write about and more to do with making it compelling. That said, many struggle with generating ideas about what to write on.

Write about what you know

One of the questions most frequently asked of me when I am interviewing someone for the purposes of getting an article done is this : “What should I talk about?”

What they mean to say, as I often find out, is that they need guidance on who the target readership is and what topics would interest these readers.

It is far more useful for someone to write about what they know about, what they have experienced and what they can shed deeper insight on than it is for them to provide generalised information about topics they lack interest and knowledge in.

Assuming some basic parameters such as, for example, having a HR leader address a primarily HR readership, I always reply along the lines of  :-

“What have you spent the better part of your career focusing on?”
“What moves and excites you?”
“What do you have an interest in?”

It is far more useful for someone to write about what they know about, what they have experienced and what they can shed deeper insight on than it is for them to provide generalised information about topics they lack interest and knowledge in. In the latter category, they fail to make a viable first impression, they add a lot of fluff to much debated issues without substantially weighing in on what matters.

It’s right in front of you

You do not have to look far and wide to generate ideas about what to write about.

Yet what a wonderful opportunity it is for us if we seek to become creators of information based on what we know and perceive.

Look just in front of your nose. Look within. We may be curators of information bubbling up around us. Yet what a wonderful opportunity it is for us if we seek to become creators of information based on what we know and perceive. It is original and done well, worthy of consideration.

In today’s world, where we are exposed to bite-size nuggets of information, where thought is recycled and spat out as brand new across different platforms, where attention spans have shrunk and we move to what is easiest and closest, it is understandable to question the beauty, purpose and value of good long-form content.

Yet, there is a market for it out there. There are those who are appreciative of such discourse and who make decisions based on what they see in your writing.

So, how would you generate ideas?

  1. Look within to your daily experience at the workplace and at home.
  2. Cross reference the different hats you wear – business leader/strategist/technical expert; parent; community stronghold; part-time volunteer; mentor. All these different roles bring fresh perspective, adding deeper dimension to your contribution and body of work.
  3. Be ready to capture ideas when they strike. Ideas may pop in your head at any time. Trying to remember to action them off later can be very stressful especially if you are in the middle of something at the time the idea strikes.  The formation of ideas can also vary – sometimes, you may have an idea for a content’s headline or a statement you would like to make. Sometimes, two or three points may develop. At the point they appear, they may also appear very lucid and clear, leading you to think that such clarity will remain hours later but it may then get fuzzy. So, it is important to be able to capture them as they appear. It is handy to always keep a pen and notebook with you but even an app on your phone, say Evernote, could work as well. Just keep a log of the idea and when you are ready to deal with it, it is there.
  4. Each piece of content created is capable of life extension or adaptation for other audiences. This means a presentation before a PTA meet-up may form the basis of an infographic. An article could be converted into a podcast. Each piece of content could be converted completely as-is if you choose a different platform or mode of communication. For pieces of content that you intend to publish on the same platform (for example, an article being seen across a few publications), some degree of repurposing will bring about value as well. All ideas could be explored in alternate content pieces or you could do a deep dive into one idea only, expanding further into the topic.
  5. The pressure is high to generate all content yourself, especially if the inner critic rears her head. The alternate approach to jump start activity or to deal with a particular plateau is to look for content development externally. You could interview relevant third parties, using such experiences to gain more credibility, perhaps even to colour beyond the lines and experiment with new topics, people and ideas.
  6. Get out there. Live life and be part of things bigger than yourself. Try things not because you have to but because you want to. Every time you open yourself up to new possibilities, diverse environments and people unlike yourself, you create new opportunities for yourself to renew, realign, create and discover. And that forms the basis of the many ideas upon which you can write and which you are passionate about.

You get the picture, right?

 

If you like this post, I hope you will share it. If you need help with your writing, with getting published or with strengthening your brand, feel free to reach out. Let’s have a chat.

#writing #content #purpose #makeithappen
white ceramic mug with tea bag image courtesy pexels.com

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