How do you get ideas for blog posts? How do you add more original content to a blog, rather than relying on reusing material from others?
This was a question posed by a commenter on this blog, who is using the name ‘Beginner’. Beginner wrote:
I have a lot of ideas to write about whizzing around my brain, my question is how do I use these to write original blog posts, as I always struggle with this. Actually a post on this would be awesome. Problem is I seem to use a written pieces but change the words around, does this make sense, so in effect it’s not really my work. Does research have to come into this? If so where and when?
We’ve exchanged a few emails, and have been able to elaborate on this a little. Beginner writes:
“Instead of relying for information and ideas from other places. I want to create something original from my own perspective and experiences… It would be great if I could use my own experience and be able to write and show others what I have learned.”
I’ve seen the blog, which I’m not linking to at Beginner’s request. It’s more of a private journal for a select few than a big public thing.
But it seems like Beginner has lots of ideas of his own, but he tends to write blog posts by basically using other people’s writing, often quoting it verbatim, or sometimes changing things around.
He’s doing a good job of this really, because’s he’s not lifting material, not stealing stuff. He’s selecting wise and timeless advice from great writers, and presenting it as snippets.
But he would like to start more of his own ideas into his posts.
These are a few ideas of mine – I hope they help Beginner, and anyone else who wants to find ways to express more of their own thoughts and personality through their writing.
1. Write your ideas down
When you have ideas, dreams, thoughts, inspiration, write them down. Not straight onto a blog or into an online journal. Keep a scrap book where you can write with complete freedom, and just make quick notes. Hopefully, some of this will give material you can use at some point, perhaps in combination with ideas from your reading. If will also help with point 2…
2. Practice writing, lots of writing
Writing is one of those things that gets easier the more you do it. If you need ways to just get started, and write about anything, see my post here on ways to kick-start your writing.
3. Learn to touch type
I really can’t stress this enough. If you want to write, it really helps if you don’t have to struggle with the physical production side of things. Fighting the keys and hacking back the typos can really knock you out of your flow. I know learning to touch type will take a long time, but let’s face it, we’re all going to be working on computers for most of our lives, and that means keyboard input for the foreseeable future. Practicing touch typing for 15 minutes a day will pay off in the long run. There’s a free online typing course here.
4. Read more
It seems to me that Beginner is pretty widely read already. But the more sources you have for material the better. Because that brings us to point 5:
4. Don’t copy – recombine
If you take someone else’s idea and information and reuse it, even if you’re rewriting it, then that’s not really creative. But if you take three or four related ideas from different people, recombine them in original ways, show how they are related, discuss them, now that’s adding value. It’s also creative. Creative people don’t magic things out of fairy dust. Creativity is recombining old ideas in new ways.
5. Add personal experience and insight
If you take something written by someone else, and add your own perspective to it, add your own experiences to the original material, then you create an insight into how useful that book has been to one person. That’s useful. I think Beginner is already doing this, partly at least, and this is something he could build on. Instead of just quoting material, put something in about why you chose this, how you feel about it, how you found it, your thoughts, how it relates to your life, why you thought it might be useful for your readers.
6. Don’t beat yourself up
By selecting wise and informative snippets, quotes and writings from a wide range of sources, and presenting them in a new setting, you are creating something new. The trick is to do that in a way which adds value.
I found Beginner’s site interesting to read and I came across some new ideas, new names and authors I had never heard about before. So I think Beginner should take their time, and gradually start adding more ideas, mixing some of the stuff up so that each post draws on several ideas perhaps from different areas, showing how they are linked or how one sheds light on the other.
Beginner wants to: “use my own experience and be able to write and show others what I have learned.” At the risk of stating the obvious, I think Beginner has answered the question already. The solution is to use more of your own experience. Be aware of what you are thinking, doing, experiencing, reflect on that, and write about it when you are ready.
William Wordsworth described poetry as “emotion recollected in tranquility.” He means that writing poetry is the act of describing and evoking an emotional experience from the past, and doing so once you have had chance to think about the experience, and when you have the time to find the right words to express that emotion in ways that will create resonance with the reader.
Take your time, write lots, record your ideas, mix stuff together, and be honest about where you’re getting your ideas from. Best of luck.
Picture by Okinawa Soba via Flickr Creative Commons.