Although I’ve already covered how to overcome “blogger’s block” and how to reach other communities, these topics really don’t cover what one needs for true inspiration within one’s own topic. Where does that spark come from for those truly great posts, and where can I find it?
Inspiration for great posts is much like the formation of a pearl within an oyster. An oyster lives in a relatively sandy environment, and on occasion a small grain of sand will slip inside the oyster and begin to form a beautiful pearl over time. In other words, for any great post, there is a moment of inspiration (the sand) and a period of cultivation (the formation of the pearl).
Looking at cultivation For some of us, the “cultivation” period is very short; we want to write the post as soon as we come up with the idea; for others, it’s a much longer period where the idea gestates and grows until it is a perfect pearl. This is a matter of personality difference, one that is difficult to find advice on because we all write differently.
The area where we overlap, however, is the inspiration, and we all wish we had more of it. Much like the oyster in the water, though, there are a few things we can do to increase our chances of finding more inspiration.
Move to a sandier area. Subtly change your daily habits so you’re more open to inspirational moments. For The Simple Dollar, I did this by adding Money Magazine and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance to my regular magazine browses at the newsstand, adding CNBC to my list of “favorite” television channels that I surf through (I have about eight of them), and listening to Dave Ramsey’s radio show when I’m in his listening area. These are just subtle changes, but they provide more opportunities for ideas to find their way into my head.
Keep the sand stirred up in the water. Actively seek out opportunities for ideas to come along. This includes reading other blogs on your topic, browsing link aggregators like reddit, and reading print media on your topic (for me, this would include Money Magazine and The Wall Street Journal, as well as infinite numbers of books). Engaging your mind in a topic is the best way to plant the seeds for great ideas.
Open ourselves up a little more. Question everything you read within the topic. If you read something that engages you, ask yourself what you don’t understand about it, and try to find out more. Read specific subtopics that you’re weak on and try to understand what they’re saying (I do this with stocks).
Let inspiration come to you. At the same time, don’t spend all of your time thinking about the topic. Most of the times, ideas grow in our brains when we’re thinking about other things, so enjoy a wide variety of other things. Once you’ve set the sand inside the oyster in your head, the pearl will continue to grow even if you’re focused on other things.
Don’t spit out the sand. Sometimes we simply forget the core of a great idea when it pops up while we’re traveling or doing something unrelated. My best strategy for avoiding this is to keep an idea diary in which I can jot down those spare ideas when they come to me, then look over the ideas later just to make sure I haven’t lost that little bit of inspiration.
The world is your oyster, of course; you just need to be ready for it.
Building a Better Blog for 2007 is a month-long series at The Simple Dollar, outlining steps you can take to build a long-term healthy blog that will attract readers. Jump ahead to the next essay, The Content Comes First, or back to the previous one, Respond to Comments.