At Creative Fierce we talk a lot about content processes and how they can help you reliably publish a strong piece of content every week.
And the very first step is always,
Find an idea
The reality is, you have dozens of ideas every day that could be turned into excellent blog posts, podcast scripts, videos or other content. You’re just losing them before they can get written.
If you remembered every idea you had all day, you’d have to lie down from the exhaustion. Your brain throws out stuff it doesn’t think it’s going to need.
So the first thing you want to do is to get yourself a nice net to catch all those idea butterflies as they flit past.
Any time you have an idea you could potentially work into content, write it down.
You can pop them into a note app on your phone, or scribble them on a folded index card in your pocket. You know your brain and your habits, and it doesn’t matter how you do this, so long as you do it.
One great use of your writer’s journal is to keep what I’ve been calling your idea stash.
Just like knitters collect yarn and quilters collect fabric, writers collect a stash of ideas that they’ll be able to use to make something later. (Luckily, ours takes up a lot less room.)
And just like any other maker, your stash comes in two flavors:
1. Raw material for a project you have in mind today
These are ideas around the themes and topics you already write about.
This can be interesting research in your field, an inspiring story, an intriguing analogy — anything at all that’s ‘on topic’ for you.
2. Raw material that you aren’t sure what you’ll ever do with
These are the ideas we collect that have absolutely nothing to do with our current projects. Silly ideas, rabbit holes, and wild hairs.
Don’t throw these ideas away!
You never know when a weird, off-base, or even just plain old dumb idea will turn into something interesting that is related to what you’re doing.
Keep a running list of ideas that you’re ready to write about
That gives you a nice stash of them ready to work up when you want to publish. I’ll talk about some of the mechanics of this in future posts, but this can be anything from a formal editorial calendar to a couple of pages in your journal.
And keep another running list of nutty ideas that you may never find a spot for.
Because you never know when a nutty idea will evolve into something really new and interesting.
Always know where you keep your stash
It’s one thing to capture ideas, and it’s another to make sure you can rely on them when you need to start writing.
You want to develop two habits that will make this work.
One, no matter how you might catch an idea on the fly, always relocate it to a single designated spot. Again, it can be a journal, an app, or any other system. It’s helpful to use a tool you already have your hands on every day.
And two, set aside some time to get in there and see what might be worth working up. It’s smartest to do this every week, but you can make it work every other week or even once a month.
If you think you’ll put this off, make a date with a friend to meet for a quiet cup of coffee and sort through your idea stash. Pull the most interesting ideas out, pop them into your content calendar, and start brainstorming headlines and figuring out what research you might need.
This is exactly what big, successful blogs like Copyblogger do, in the form of editorial meetings. It’s a great practice for making sure that your content stays focused, creative, and always useful.