I’m often asked by beginning bloggers: What do I blog about?
I have some answers for them, and hopefully for you.
While I recommend that you blog about your passion, whatever your blog’s purpose and goals are, there are times when the well of blog ideas dry up. While I’ve written much about how to find sources for your blog posts, I thought I’d give you some different kinds of inspiration to help you find something to blog about. It’s up to you on how you choose to incorporate these blogging ideas into your blog.
Ya cain’t sing nothin’ if ya ain’t got nothin’ to say.
Shotgun Willie by Willie Nelson
Blog About Anything
You can, if you want, blog about anything. Just start writing and see what happens as you write. Amazing topics can come to mind if you just start writing your thoughts.
However, just as you really wouldn’t want someone to read the thoughts in your head, nor do your readers. Take time to edit what you’ve written. Find the nuggets within what you wrote and edit your words to highlight those gems for your readers. If you have made a lot of points and possibly said too much, don’t delete it. Divide it up into multiple posts if you like the points you made.
Just write. Sit down and start typing. Go here and there and just let whatever you think flow from your head through your fingers.
Stream of consciousness writing can be amazing. Like journaling, if you let it happen, it’s kind of like channeling your unconscious through the keyboard to the screen. You never know what might come out. It might be a brilliant idea, comment, quote, or a new thought that takes you in a new direction.
There is nothing that can spur creative expression than a good rant. Whine, complain, bitch, moan, take something or someone to task and words may just explode onto the blank screen.
As with all such emotional vents, take care to edit and censor offensive and harmful language. And if you choose to whine and blame, be sure and offer a solution, so your rant will have a purpose, if you want one.
A well-written rant is a great attention-getter for like minds.
Pick a Newsworthy Story
We are inundated with news, and not every top news story is worth your time and effort. However, there maybe some interesting news bits that can set fire to your creative writing skills.
I find a lot of interesting stories from news related to my industry. Since blogging is an evolving industry, I monitor news about the writing and publishing industry, marketing and public relations, communications, and other similar industries to find out what others are doing and how what they do or say might be news or information my readers might want to know about.
But what is most interesting are the stories that are off “page one”, on the “virtual” page two or three of the news. Dig deeper into the news than just the surface to find the real stories that are often overlooked by the “big bloggers”. Make these into your own story with your own style, and possibly shed some light on a story that needs some light shone on it.
Human interest news stories can also trigger memories of your own, allowing you to tell more of your story as well as find a new perspective on the news.
Create a List
Come up with a subject and make a list. Lists are great sources of content and very popular for bloggers. Brainstorm over “the top 10 BLANK”, “51 ways to BLANK”, or “my 31 worst BLANK”. Fill in the blank and start working your head and researching what the items on that list might be.
In general, popular number counts for lists are 5, 6, 10, 12, 20, 25, 31, 50, 51, 99, 100, and 101. Why people don’t respond to the other numbers, who knows, and that might be an idea for a blog post!
Remember, a list is only as good as the “theme” and information provided. Add content and value to the list by making sure the information is interrelated, and the reader knows where they are going to end up when they click through the link.
Share Your Expertise
Everyone knows how to do at least one thing well. Most people know how to do many things well. Share your expertise on how to best do what you know.
Don’t tell it all in one post. Break up the information into smaller, digestable posts over time, leading the reader through the process, step-by-step.
Your experience and knowledge is important to someone, so share it. We can all learn from you.
There is an art in teaching and writing as a teacher is even more challenging. I think there is a little teacher in all of us. Let the teacher in you come out and share your expertise and knowledge with your readers by educating them.
Educational material can come from a variety of sources. You can teach them how to do a particular thing, or help them figure out how to do it themselves. You can also direct them to more resources on how to do it even better.
Writing a guide is different from sharing and teaching. Sharing your expertise and knowledge invites the reader into your head and experiences. Teaching tells them how to do it. Guiding shows them the path to do it on their own.
Guides come in all shapes, sizes, and flavors, leading the reader along the path to knowledge. It takes some skill to write guides, but focus on your experiences and how you proceeded along your path to knowledge and write it accordingly.
History is a never-ending source of story ideas, corollaries, and creative inspiration for many. I recently heard of a writer for young people who has reinvented the Greek gods to create a popular book series, which is under consideration as a television series.
Dig into history to see what may fire up your writing motor. There is so much to learn from and write about history, it may seem overwhelming. Narrow it down to something related to your blog and find out if something similar happened in history. For instance, Russian Prince Vladimir Odoevsky, 1803-1869, is claimed to having been the first to write down a clear descriptive vision of what would become the Internet and Web. Who knows what you could predict and describe today that historians would claim you “invested”?
Boston 1775 is a blog dedicated to the 17th and 18th century United States and I’ve found a ton of correlation between the news the blogger has uncovered in his genealogical and historical research into that time period with today.
History is a wide open book. Start opening some pages and make some history on your blog.
Tell a Story
Everyone has a story. Your story could be from a moment you experienced today or an event from your past.
Stories are wonderful ways to make a point, support a moral or value, and to soften the blow of a more serious point you want to make.
Years ago, hiking and photographing on Mt. Rainier, we met a ditsy blond while watching marmots play. She couldn’t figure out what the marmots were and what value they could possibly have. The conversation with the young city girl was comical, and I incorporated the story of our encounter into an article called Rocket Scientists, White Mice and Dolphins. The moral of the story is that we need to introduce our children to nature early on so they can learn, appreciate, and understand better how they, and we, fit into the cycle of life on this planet. Without that understanding, the destruction of the ecosystem, and our place within it, will continue. The humorous story made the point while taking the edge off the harsh point.
Finding a way to incorporate story-telling into your blog shares part of you, your experiences, your history, and your frame of reference with your readers, personalizing your blog but also offering richer insights for your readers.
Dig Into Your Past
Your past is filled with story ideas. Dig shallow or deep to find a moment in your past that could be an interesting story, example, lesson, or comic relief.
Your past may be different from someone of the same age living in a different country or region. Share stories of how you grew up, how things were “back then”, and the lessons you learned because of your experiences.
Those who are older or younger may also learn from your sharing, as you may remind them of their past or help them handle their future.
For me, the most exciting part of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls was not that they copied parts of the bible. It was the diaries and journals of the lifestyle of these people so lost to time that are recorded in little remaining pieces of paper. It tells of their farming, eating, and life habits, as well as some of their religious rituals, offering us a glimpse into their lives.
Your stories of your past could one day offer future readers a glimpse into the past and how you lived. Did you walk or ride horses or wagons to school? How old were you when the first car, radio, or television entered your life? What did you think? How did it change your world? Or what about your first computer? Did it offer you a path to information and communication you never knew existed? Did it make your life easier or more complicated? Or did you find yourself playing games more than using it as a tool?
There are many stories you can share from your past that helps us learn more about you and preserves your life for the future.
Dig Into Your Memories
It’s not enough to just dig into your past, sharing how you lived “then” with “now”. Dig into your memories. Find missing pieces of the puzzle and share them. Or recall moments in your life and how it changed your thinking, or makes you look at the world a little differently today.
Our memories are important, as it learning from them and about them.
While living in Israel a few years ago, a box of goodies from home came wrapped in an old newspaper featuring a story about the capture of the Green River Killer in Seattle. My teenage years were very much influenced by the fear that the “Green River Killer would getcha!” This decades long search to find the killer of numerous women in the Sea Tac area of Washington State haunted those of us who grew up young women in those times. We changed our habits to stay out of “dark and scary places”. We took self defense classes. We learned to protect and defend ourselves. We thought every man we didn’t know was a potential killer. While exaggerated in our young minds, this kind of news event influences your life.
Finding out that the killer was caught and now off the streets, as well as now he’s an old man, got me thinking about those times I’d long forgotten, and how I grew up strong in spite of my fears, but how my fears also made me wiser about the choices I made along the way.
What memories are sitting in your life filled with potential blog post material?
Why stop with the past or memories. Why not blog your auto-biography?
Or blog a biography of someone else? You can write a biography on someone once in a while on your blog, or make your entire blog into a biography about someone else. Or let your blog become your auto-biography.
Your story maybe important to you, but it might also be important to others. Consider starting a biographical blog to share your life with others – or the lives of others.
Play the What If Game
What if… Remember that game from your childhood? What if I were rich, what would I do? What if I were beautiful…What if I could fly…What if I could drive a car…What if I could travel…and so on.
Playing the What If Game is a great way to get started writing, allowing your mind to wander around and explore the full experience of the What If…leading you down some potentially surprising paths and insights.
Share Your Thoughts
Your thoughts have value, so why not share them.
We all have our own thoughts and perspectives on a subject. Let them be known. You may find a lot of folks think like you do.
Describe Your Day
Just as the Dead Sea Scrolls revealed the day-to-day lifestyle of this group lost to history, so a description of the events within your day offers insights for future historians to see how you lived.
More than that, just talk about what a day is like for you. If you are disabled or battling an allergy or disease, your description of a day-in-the-life could help others to be stronger or make different or better choices in how they handle their similar day-to-day experience.
Sometimes, it’s just relaxing to describe how the day went, the decisions you faced and how you responded to each one. You can look back at the day’s accomplishments and think, “Wow, I actually got a lot done today” or “Look what I did today”, and consider the day well done.
Talk About the Weather
While considered small talk, talking about the weather is a hot topic and big blogging business. The Weather Underground Blogs currently features many bloggers discussing various aspects of the weather around the world. The day to day reports aren’t much, but when there is a storm brewing on the horizon, these bloggers often give you information and insights into weather that is endlessly fascinating.
During my recent non-stop experiences with Hurricanes on the Gulf Coast of the United States, these blogs were invaluable, and I became one of those blogging about the weather, because the weather became more than just small talk – it was news.
When weather is “normal”, there is still a lot to talk about, but when weather is nasty, there is even more to discuss. People share their experiences within the different weather situations, how they anticipate and survive such weather, weather planning, weather prediction, weather conditions, all are hot topics for blogging about the weather.
Travel seems to open up the mind to a variety of story ideas. I find I do some of my best writing when I’m on the road.
You can write about travel from many different perspectives. There is the experience of travel, those you meet, planning a trip, recovering from a trip, wishing you’d done things differently on the trip, places you saw, places you didn’t see, what broke down or nearly did, how the kids handled the travel, how the road or flight was, and… well, I’ve been writing about travel for many years and still haven’t run out of topics.
Writing about what you think of someone, something, or any subject takes some writing skills to convey your intentions and experience, but writing reviews are very popular on blogs today. People want to know before they buy, try, or do and your experiences can help them decide.
A review can be of anything, from books to tools, real estate agents and companies to coffee joints. Some blogs are totally dedicated to nothing but reviews, but reviewing something on your blog occasionally helps to promote a favorite item or person, or helps you really express your disappointment in something that might be of interest to your readers.
Describe Your Dreams
The 70s and 80s were filled with dream books, writing down your dreams and analyzing them, hoping to discover the inner workings of your brain. Dream writing is still popular and some bloggers enjoy sharing their dreams.
A dream, though doesn’t have to be about what went on in your head while you slept. Your dreams can be your goals. Sharing them often helps to give them a solid foundation and better understanding for yourself as well as others. It can also be an open invitation to others to help you make your dreams come true. You never know who is reading.
Let your questions be your blog post outline, and let someone else fill in the blanks on a blog post. Interview another blogger, a family member, friend, co-worker, anyone you are interested in. Ask them how they work, why they do what they do, and what tips they have to share with others.
When you let someone else speak on your blog, you expose your readers to new ideas and concepts that you might not cover. You give them insights into how others think, and what you think of others. You also show them that you are important because of who you know, not just what you know.
I find endless inspiration in quotes, like the one that started this blog post. I’ve saved a huge collection of quotes, some of which I occasionally feature on my blogs. I love reading what others have to say, finding inspiration to help me say what I have to say.
Granny grinned. “That’s one form of magic, of course.”
“What, just knowing things?”
“Knowing things that other people don’t know.”
Granny Weatherwax in Terry Pratchett’s Equal Rites
There is plenty of magic in quotes, too, helping you make a point, define the indefinable, and help bring your reader into your story with the words of someone else.
Tell It Better
They say that there is no such thing as a new idea, just an old one spiffed up in a new way. Why not take an idea, blog post, news story, or anything and tell it better on your blog.
Tell it your way. Tell it from a different perspective. Turn it on its ear. Offer a counterpoint. Play devil’s advocate.
Whatever it is, I know you can tell it better. Why not?
Inspire and Motivate
Inspiration and motivation comes from many places. Why not your blog?
Blog about something that inspired and motivated you, but also find ways to write to inspire others. Challenge your readers’ way of thinking. Change their minds. Change the world.
Write a Tip
There are never enough tips and techniques for doing things in the world, and the web is becoming the number one source for as a resource when you want to know how to do something.
I want to start a greenhouse so I can have fresh veggies and herbs through the winter, and get a jump start on next year’s garden. Where do I go? The web. I am also learning about drying and preserving the fruits and vegetables from my garden through the winter. Where did I do my research? On the web.
The car is making a knocking sound in the trunk area. Do I turn to the Car Talk guys? Nope. I do a search on the web and it looks like I can live with it for a while, but there’s a big mechanic bill in my future.
Add your tips, advice, techniques, and how-tos to your blog to help people learn how to do what you know how to do. We come to learn from your experiences, failures, and successes, so share them with us.
Publish Other People’s Content
There are two types of “other people’s content” you can publish on your blog. You can have guest bloggers, bloggers who “drop by” on request to have their say on your blog. You can also choose from a variety of paid or free content providers which permit you to reprint their writers’ content on your blog.
Publishing other people’s content does three things. It expands the market for the other blogger, reaching a new audience through your blog. It also shares their expertise with your audience, making you look good, too. And the article links back to the author, connecting your two blogs together by content and subject. It’s great for everyone.
If you choose to pay or seek out free content to publish on your blog, the personal connection of a guest blogger may be lost. And please, check thoroughly before using other people’s content to make sure you have permission and the right to publish their work and/or images.
I find a lot of things to write about from incoming links to my blog and links I find on other blogs.
Incoming links to my blog posts catch my attention as I want to know what they wrote about my post and blog. Once on their blog, I check out what else they have written if they’ve impressed me with what they wrote about me, and the content appears to match my own. I find a lot of interesting posts and ideas on these blogs and I write about them and give them credit for the inspiration.
As I explore blogs in general, I’m always curious about what others recommend and link to. I find a lot of ideas and topics to blog about from what others recommend. Especially if they find the subject of interest but they only link and not discuss the topic. If it’s interesting enough to them to link, it may be interesting enough to me and my readers to link to the same thing and add more to the conversation.
Say Something Nice
So powerful is the act of kindness, it can change the course of a lifetime.
If you find yourself saying sad, nasty, or just emotionless things on your blog, stop and say something nice for a change. It can do wonders. For you and your readers.
Trend watching can bring up many blog post ideas, from what it hot to what is not. Google Hot Trends and Yahoo Buzz can help you track what’s going on in your industry, as can monitoring the many blog feeds from bloggers within your topic or industry.
By watching trends, you can not only blog about what is happening, but possibly make predictions on what will happen next.
Content mining is a phrase which describes the process of digging for article ideas. It’s like online brainstorming, following categories to subcategories, to links, and to more links, looking for that idea worth blogging about.
Quintura and Data Mining (from DMOZ Directory) are examples of sources through which you can dig for content, but you can also use any search engine or directory to just explore words and concepts, following whatever path opens up, and see what you dig up.
Search the Searchers
I’m always curious about what people are searching for. I look in my own blog stats to see what search terms brought visitors to my blog and think about which blog posts I have which meets those needs. If I don’t have much, it’s time to start writing.
There are many search engine tools which help tell you want searchers are searching for, giving you ideas for popular themes, phrases, and words on the web. Dogpile SearchSpy, Digg Spy, Lycos Top 50, Google Zeitgeist, and other top search term sites may help you learn more about what people are searching for.
Don’t write blog posts with the names of the most searched for people, or use these top search terms just because they might bring traffic to your blog. Choose the words and terms that most reflect your blog’s content, and write about them because it will help your readers.
You can put any term into the news alert and get potential story ideas and lead coming right into your email inbox.
Describe a Conversation
There is something about how people say things, or how people talk to each other, that can be brilliant moments of inspiration worthy of writing.
Dialog can say a lot about the moment, the personalities involved in the discussion, and the story you want to tell without “telling” the story.
When my mother discovered the ease of online chatting, I shared a multiple day conversation across 10 hours of time zone with my mother with my readers, who thought this was delightful, but that one or both of us needed to be treated by a professional.
Noted science fiction author, Alan Dean Foster, and fantasy writer, Terry Pratchett, are brilliant writers of dialog, covering whole pages with descriptive conversations that need nothing but the discussion to make the point. Their ability to write dialog is so powerful, you know exactly who is talking in the moment without all the he said/she said definitions.
Have you overheard or participated in an interesting conversation lately? Why not share it?
I love clichés, those common phrases we throw out when a real sentence just doesn’t say what we want it to say. Terry Pratchett offered a wonderful example in Jingo:
Sergeant Colon had had a broad education. He’d been to the School of My Dad Always Said, the College of It Stands to Reason, and was now a post graduate student at the University of What Some Bloke in the Pub Told Me.
I bet there are some great saying and cliché you use all the time that could easily work their way into a blog post.
Describe something. Anything. Close your eyes and imagine something. It can be person, place, or thing. Write a description of it, and the describe why this is important to describe. What is it about the thing that is important to you, or someone else. Does it mean something? Does it have a purpose? What is it?
Sometimes by describing something, you discover more about the person, place, or thing that you did in the first place. Description also helps expand your writing skills by working on visual descriptions combined with intellectualizing the descriptive subject.
And you may find inspiration in the description that leads to a blog post.
Describe Your Habit
We all have habits. Ones we like and ones we hate, and ones we want to break. We have these habits for a reason. They benefit us.
Choose a habit and write about it. Find a way of connecting the habit with your blog’s purpose and goals. Can you? For instance, one of the worst habits a blogger can have is procrastination. After the thrill of the blogging experience is over, we spend more time thinking about what we will blog about than blogging, finding excuse after excuse not to blog.
I’m sure you have more than one or two habits that would apply to your blog, and by sharing the lessons you learn about your habit, or breaking your habit, you could provide valuable insights and lessons for your readers.
Blog About Your Hobby
We all have work, and then we have hobbies. Have you shared your hobby with your readers? Should you? Why not.
Again, we are all turning to the Internet for information on how to do things, seeking tips, advice, and lessons to learn on the web. I’ve recently learned how to knit and I find the Internet a never-ending resource for tips, techniques, and patterns to keep me learning how to knit and pearl, and unravel. I’ve also been learning to cook for the past few years and found the Internet invaluable for recipes, but cooking and food blogs are starting to appear in my feeds as I love learning from those who can tell me more than how much seasoning to add.
Blog about your hobby and you will attract others with like interests – and who knows where that might lead.
Write About Someone Who Changed Your Life
It is amazing how a few seconds or a lifetime with someone can change your life. Why not blog about someone or something that changed your life?
By sharing the lessons learned and how they changed your life, you preserve a moment, and honor the person who changed your life. It’s a great way of saying thank you, but also might help change someone else’s life in the process of reading your blog.
The Whole Wide World
You never know where a good blog post idea will come from. Just have the courage to use it when it arrives.
The author of Lorelle on WordPress and the fast-selling book, Blogging Tips: What Bloggers Won't Tell You About Blogging, as well as several other blogs, Lorelle VanFossen has been blogging for over 15 years, covering blogging, WordPress, travel, nature and travel photography, web design, web theory and development extensively as web technologies developed.