Once you’ve picked out the top blogs in your niche, you can join the conversation. (The next post in this series will cover monitoring a niche.) To stand out, you want to offer either fresh ideas to further a blogosphere conversation or start a new one. Idea-generating can be a lot easier than some of you might think.
What to Do
For those of you that only have time for the condensed version, here is the gist of the article below.
- Read fiction, read non-fiction. Read newspapers, books, magazines, posters, ads and product labels.
- Listen to music of as many types and origins as you can manage.
- Watch movies, short films, documentaries, videos, and informative TV programs.
- Listen to the conversation of people out in public.
- Listen to the sound of other languages – just the sound – and then
approximate those sounds with English sounds. (Don’t ask why; just try
- Learn about anthropology, history, the arts, architecture, science and technology, and whatever else you can manage.
- Write every day, even when you don’t feel like it.
- Don’t overwhelm yourself; ease in.
- Utilize the crossroads of the Internet: the Blogosphere.
When you have time, come back and read the full article, and also read the superb article by Brian Clark/ Copyblogger, that I’ve linked to below. It’s coincidence that I wrote most of this article around the same time, but once I read Brian’s, I tied in my article with his – to join the conversation.
Way back in my Toronto “salad days”, I was probably at my most creative ever, though I didn’t harness the creativity as much as I should have. This was long before the Internet was available, so free time for reading voraciously was plentiful. But I was too busy partying it up when not working or reading to do anything significant or important. Work hard, party harder was my motto, and I lived it hardcore, much to my later detriment.
However, I did carve out time every week to meditate, and to read fiction in various genres and non-fiction across a number of unrelated topics. By doing so, I found that on many mornings, an endless stream of ideas was in my head as I awoke. They could be product ideas, article or fiction ideas, movie concepts, the seeds of a future invention, and so on. Sometimes I saw actual words in my head (and still do from time to time, at my most creative). Putting pen to paper, I could capture a lot of the ideas. But as soon as I stopped for any reason, the idea stream was gone until the next morning.
During one period of just under a month, I generated and recorded sixty ideas – mostly for new businesses but also for software or products. When I followed up a year later with a bit of research, all sixty ideas had been pursued by various someones somewhere in the world, and each idea had produced at least a million dollars of gross revenue (based on what I found during research). These people had come up with ideas essentially the same as mine, but they actually did something. I did not.
These ideas were borne of the intersection of different disciplines – the subconscious comparison of different frames of reference. This is what I believe Brian Clark is talking about in his superb Content Crossroads article, which starts off with a nod to Delta Blues legend Robert Johnson and ends with excellent advice about “finding the intersection of ideas”. It’s a must-read article, so find some time for it if you haven’t already.
Now unlike Johnson, you don’t need to sell your soul to you know who. You can generate a steady stream of ideas on your own simply by at least browsing various niches that interest you, and then doing it regularly. The deeper you read the better, but browsing will get you started. And watch lots of movies as well as informative TV programs covering anthropology and social issues, architecture, history, economics – whatever catches your interest.
While many bloggers complain that after they started blogging, their attention span for reading printed matter declined, you can still manage it if you separate reading and working environments. You work on your computer, sitting in some sort of “work” chair. So for reading, you should move to a more comfortable environment, such as a couch or easy chair. If you need to, use a different computer – preferably a laptop. (Just don’t put a laptop in your lap; use a piece of plywood in between.) Or better yet, pick up newspapers, books and magazines. (Tactility in learning is underrated these days.) And make sure that you feed your eyes with images, not just text; feed your ears with a variety of music.
Now I should point out that I meditated a great deal in my salad days, and this activity is in fact what helped me capture my ideas so regularly. I don’t think you need to meditate, but as Brian says, “free your mind.” Meditation allowed me to do that. For you, it could be a accomplished with a change of perspective, traveling, listening – points which Brian discusses in his article.
If you follow Brian’s tips and whatever else I’ve added above to the conversation, and then find yourself suddenly brimming with ideas for writing (whether by blogging or something else), make sure you do something with your ideas. Ideas are just ideas otherwise, flitting about waiting to be discovered. Bring them to life by “activating” them.
And now that I’ve said all this, you’re probably wondering why, since I haven’t really talked about blogging above. Well, I’ve previously discussed using blogging as a means to an end, not as an end unto itself. Don’t just blog to blog and hopefully make money. Use your writing to promote your real talents – the ones you’ve been denying yourself, or even the ones you haven’t.
Use the intersection of ideas to make your writing stand out. Use the intersection to join the conversation in your niche. Using the intersection is probably why, just when you think you’ve read one of Brian Clark’s best articles, he comes up with another one. And you can too. The Blogosphere is a crossroads unto itself.
spudart: Of course, you don’t want to spend too much time on subjects that don’t interest you, but often that’s where the “intersections” lie. And you’re right about the walks. That fits in with Brian’s suggestion of changing perspective. It allows your subconscious to process what you’ve taken in.
I do agree with filling yourself with many sources, but I find sometimes the best ideas come when I’m just going for a walk. (which is somewhat related to your point 8: Don’t overwhelm yourself; ease in.)
pholpher: yes, that’s exactly it. Those who tap such creativity are rarely disappointed.
Creativity = finding seemingly unrelated things and connecting them in a way that no one has before
Thanks, Brian. I read over your article 2-3 times, to absorb it all, and that little nugget was hiding there in your article, waiting for someone to say it
And that was one the main unspoken points. Great post, Raj!