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Monday, March 5, 2012

Never Run Out of Blog Topics

Not too long ago, author, Jenny Schwartz mentioned stockpiling blog posts. It's a great habit to have especially when life gets busy. The second best thing you can do is stockpile topics.

Jenny cheats er...gets creative by using Toby as her scape-dog for when she runs out of ideas. This is, of course, a brilliant strategy because nothing draws me to a blog faster than a cute dog. Just ask Sarah Falen and Yvie. It's like crack to me.

While I'm just as guilty of using my dogs as topic fodder, it's not my only secret weapon. I have enough files on potential topics to make J. Edgar Hoover roll in his grave.

My notebook averages around 125 topics. Some I will never use because they're too controversial or no longer relevant.  But every idea births a dozen others. If something is too volatile, I can narrow my focus and discuss a topic, minus the gasoline and match.

Jenny and Shelley Munro plotted to bribe Tank and Iko out of my idea book, but it doesn't have to come to that. You can create your own idea bank. Here is a list of where I harvest my topics.

Idea Banks

• Eavesdropping on forums. (I get my best questions from there.)

• Current events in the news. If it's news that affects me, it might affect my readers too.

• Movies and tv. TV not so much, since I watch very little. But I am an avid movie watcher.

• Other blogs. Sometimes bloggers say things that spark a tangential idea from their original posts.

• Comments. Yes. YOUR comments. You guys constantly give me new material for another day.

• The homestead. I could write a blog post every day about what happens on this place. But that would limit my audience so I try to keep my homesteading posts in balance with my other posts.

• The dogs. Well, duh. :grin:

• Greg. I have LOTS of material on him. While you would be thoroughly entertained and amazed, I probably wouldn't be married long if I started a tell-all. Let's just say he keeps our marriage interesting.

• Slices of life. Every time I think of some giant drama going on in my life, I break it down to a single moment and share that little piece of it.

I keep a little notebook in my purse (and my bedside) and jot down everything that interests me, deciding later whether it's got the bones to be a good post. Even something as incidental as dinner conversation can find itself in my idea bank.

Things I never write about:

• Politics. Hate to read it, so I won't write it.

• Drunken monkey attacks on authors, agents, or publishers. There are enough drunken monkeys out there. They don't need me.

• Memes, excerpts, and blog challenges. I did one or two early in my blog career, but they're like dead air to search engines. You might as well be invisible.

Time is my enemy. I have way more topics than I have time to discuss them, especially now that I've cut my blogging to twice a week.

Since adding my Frugal Facebook page, Twitter has fallen by the wayside, too time-consuming to do it justice. 

It's a bear I still wrestle...and a topic for another time. :o)

Where do you get your blog topic ideas? Have you ever stockpiled posts to use on later dates? 


Shirley Wells said...

I feel so inadequate. I often see things on the news, on forums, on Twitter or Facebook that I think would make great blog posts. And then I forget all about them.

I don't discuss politics, I won't do the industry attacks and I'm never organised enough for blog challenges. My blog sort of stumbles from one thing to the next. :)

Maria Zannini said...

Shirley: You do something even MORE important. You write books. Congratulations on Silent Witness!!

Tracy Jo said...

Such a great idea and something I need to start. Life is full of great ideas when you start looking around. I use my pictures for blog ideas. Sometimes I just stare at them and something comes to me. I love how you said "a slice of life" and write about a moment of what happened instead the whole thing. Oh and I think you should tell us more about Greg! :-)

Maria Zannini said...

Tracy Jo: LOL. Greg has a restraining order on how far I can talk about him.

Ref: Photos
Yours tell a story, even if you didn't write anything, and that's what make them special.

Angelina Rain said...

I might have to do a blog idea bank. I have to admit, I'm always out of ideas.

I wouldn't discuss politics on my blog either. It just doesn't seem to be the place for it.

Maria Zannini said...

Angelina: My idea bank happened by accident. One day I was writing a blog post and realized it started rambling onto other topics. Rather than put it all in, I took them out and saved them for their own post. And my idea bank was born. :)

Mike Keyton said...

I have an envelope somewhere. A brown paper one with six topics scrawled in pencil. But up to now, topics have materialised from thin air - and when in doubt, I rant. Brings me out in a light sweat : )

Jennifer Shirk said...

Sometimes I see a topic people are talking and I'll jot it down because I want to talk about it too. :)
Most times it's just me rambling about my life. LOL

Raelyn Barclay said...

Marcia Richards had a great post on blogging in advance, I think she does a month at a time, and it's a similar idea. She'll brainstorm an idea or two and spin it into three or four posts for the month. Definitely something I'm aiming for :) Great post my friend!

Clarissa Draper said...

These are great ideas. I'm with you on the politics thing. It doesn't interest me at all.

Krista D. Ball said...

I try not to do politics, only because I'm Canadian and I have a hard enough time explaining that we don't have a President to my Twitter followers, let alone start blogging about it ;)

However, I love politics. It oozes from my pores and there was a time I considered getting a law degree and going into politics. I try to keep that for Twitter, at least. That way, people can just tune me out. Then again, when I talk about the "robocall controversy", no one outside of Canada knows what I'm talking about lol

Kim said...

I also try to stay away from politics for the most part - unless it's something I really feel very strongly about. I've seen too much of people trying to shove their ideals down other people's throats to do that myself. :D

I had a file of blog topics. Then my computer went kablooey last fall and so went the topics. Rats. I'll have to try to recreate it, but I've found that instead of focusing solely on writing posts (which made me put off posting because I'm hardly an expert), I went back to my old way of a little bit of everything thrown in. And now I'm blogging more regularly again. Win!

Kaye Manro said...

I get ideas from all sorts of places. Some you have mentioned. I think my biggest problem is trying to make a blog topic interesting inside the main blog theme-- which at the moment is very writer/sfr oriented with techie tidbits that seem interesting thrown in. I'm sure that will change as I grow. I have to say that you and Shelley both seem to be very good at finding blog topics. And I love the more open concept of your blog. Themed blogs and coming up with topics can be harder, I think.

Sarah Ahiers said...

i can't believe that i've never thought about lurking on forums for blog topics!
And also, i LOVE your homesteading posts. I live vicariously through you

Maria Zannini said...

Mike: Nice to know some things still excite you. ;-)

Jennifer: What with tea parties and theme parties, you lead a pretty interesting life.

Raelyn: I used to write 4-5 posts ahead of time, now I'm lucky if I'm two ahead.

Clarissa: I have a friend who simply doesn't believe I'm not interested in politics. It boggles her mind. It's not that I don't have strong opinions, I just choose not to share them.

Angela Brown said...

Discussing politics seems to bring out the "darth" in people so that is one topic I also stay away from.

I haven't done an idea bank, but that's a good idea.

I love all your different topics. Living in an apartment, your homestead posts give me a chance to pretend I'm out on sprawling acres with chickens and other interesting animals to vex me.

Maria Zannini said...

Krista: Because I know I have a global audience, I try to stick to topics where everyone can weigh in.

Kim: I've never enjoyed doing writing posts unless it was just to illustrate how I handled a particular problem. Chickens are far more interesting.

Kaye: Shelley is great! I've always enjoyed her blog. And you're right. I think writing to a theme is harder. But your theme is a little broader based than other blogs, so you've got some latitude, whereas other sometimes paint themselves into corners.

Sarah: I am waiting for the day when you get your chickens. LOL. I have a feeling yours will be a very unique experience.

Melissa McClone said...

I wrote about politics once four years ago when I found a meme that told you who you should vote for. I thought it was pretty interesting and some of my readers did it, too! But otherwise, it's a topic I avoid.

With my cats and dog, they are always my go to posts. I used to be really good about having drafts of blogs preloaded. All they needed was a date. Should go back to doing that because otherwise I forget what I wanted to write about!

L.G.Smith said...

I've actually caught myself a few times writing a comment on someone's blog and stopped what I was writing because I thought it would make a good blog post. True.

I should start a file. I always hit panic mode the day before a post is scheduled and have to scramble for something to write about. Not good.

Maria Zannini said...

Angela: Ref: "Darth"
LOL! You are so right. You'd think we were voting for their mothers.

Melissa: I especially love your "lol cats and dogs". Some blogs are known for stirring controversy, but sometimes I just want to visit people who make me feel at home.

LG: Ref: I've actually caught myself a few times writing a comment on someone's blog and stopped what I was writing because I thought it would make a good blog post.

OMG! I do that too. LOL. Glad I'm not the only one.

jackie b central texas said...

Blog topics abound, especially everyday happenings and my pets are a fun source to share with others. However, I play my cards close to the vest so to speak because what may sound really "cute" or "interesting" to me never quite turns out that way as a blog topic posting. My turn of phrase is not as poetic as yours Maria so like you said I have painted myself into a corner with books and book related happenings being my main topics.

However coming to your site always gives me ideas, just not really good at executing them.

Darke Conteur said...

I just started doing this. I have a folder with a few posts that I really liked, but my standby are pics of the CatPack. :D

Tracy Jo said...

Maria - I just read your comment back to me and wanted to say thank you. :-)

Marian Perera said...

I grew up in the Middle East, where politics just didn't matter - the sheikhs were in their positions for life and nothing us expatriates did could affect their policies. So even after I received Canadian citizenship, I couldn't get interested in politics. Not the best attitude to have, probably, but there it is.

I did get an A in Political Science (one of the required courses) when I was in university, though, but these days all I remember from that course is the two-party system in the States. Oh yeah, and "Tippecanoe and Tyler too."

But getting back to the blog posts topic, I built up a collection two years ago, only to run out late last year. Slowly stockpiling again now.

Jenny Schwartz said...

Maria, thanks for a post on where to *find* blog post ideas. As enviable as your ideas bank in building my own is even better! I hadn't thought of scribbling ideas from forums. As for politics *shudder* I could rant on about politics forever, but ranting is pretty self-indulgent and therefore offputting to everyone else. So I've reduced my ranting to the slap and rattle of the newspaper pages ... I don't think I could read a newspaper digitally. When I'm disgusted in an article, I like to be able to slap it down, literally :)

Maria Zannini said...

Jackie: I'm a firm believer that we should write what makes us happy. Only then will we find the audience intelligent enough to agree with us. :)

Darke: Honestly, you can't go wrong with animals.

Tracy Jo: I mean it. You're welcome!

Marian: My friends seem to think that just because I don't discuss politics with them, I don't have an opinion. When in actuality, it's just the opposite. It's because I do have an opinion I won't discuss it with them.

Jenny: I miss newspapers. I had no trouble giving up print books, but I truly miss being able to crackle that newspaper open or slap it on the table to make my point. :)

Barbara Ann Wright said...

I get topics from funny little things that happen to me during the day. Or from dogs, great blog fodder there. Also, I get sick a lot, so there's that. ^_^

Dru said...

I get topics from my daily life or something that I've seen or heard about. Sometimes my best posts are the ones where I ramble.

Maria Zannini said...

Barbara: Getting sick is never fun, but it's amazing how so many of us can relate.

Dru: You can ramble all you want when you talk about all the neat places you go to eat. :)

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I too avoid politics on my blog or any other social media venue.
I usually blog about something to do with the writing life and only mention my family or home as examples for something in writing.

Shelley Munro said...

Thank you :) I love visiting your blog too, but I always seem to be hours later than everyone else. I'm trying to do more writing at present, hence the late visits. I have to say that I'm the proud owner of an idea bank. It has eight ideas on it, so I didn't need to bribe the dogs after all.

I have been doing a sort of theme this year, but my topics are still very random. Politics? No way. I watch the news for that. There are a couple memes that I enjoy, and I have done some blog hops this year. I try to make those fun with an easy question. The one where I asked everyone about their pets was fun since I'm a sucker for animals.

James Garcia Jr. said...

Wow, Maria! Who's amazing? I think it's you!
I'm always scrambling at the last moment to come up with something, and I'm only posting on Monday's!! *laughs* That's only partly true. If I finish a good book, I use that as my post. If something happened to me (like last week), then that usually becomes the post. I see my stories like a movie in my head; no one is going to learn any writing advice from me there. That's why I don't do those. The only thing I really own is offering encouragment. I can do that until the cows come home. Give writing tips? Not a chance!


Marianne Arkins said...

Would that I were so organized. I have blog topic envy... need one for tomorrow on beginnings. Have anything to share? *sigh*

Nadja Notariani said...

I pretty much pull from the same places you do, Maria. Kids also add ideas daily. I'm currently attempting (at long last) to get ahead in my blog posts, too. Life gets hectic! As for dogs....(smiles) I could go on and on and on...well, you get the idea.

Oh! I must not have clicked the follow comments button last week when I asked how many years you got out of your laying chickens...could you please repeat yourself? Sorry! I cannot remember which post I asked the question on to find it...haha.

Wendy Ramer said...

I have definitely stockpiled posts and agree with you on the blog challanges. I've never done one and, before reading this post, felt guilty that I wasn't properly participating in the blogosphere. Thanks for removing the peer pressure :-)

Maria Zannini said...

Susan: I started out blogging about writing, but that became too limiting to me as the year wore on. One day, I just found myself talking about other stuff.

Shelley: I consider you my blog mentor. :)

Jimmy: I've never been a big fan of giving writing tips. If someone writes me and asks how I did such and such, then I consider it potential blog material. It's not so much a writing lesson as it is experiential.

Marianne: You mean DD and Dakota don't give you enough material? LOL.

Nadja: 3 years is the usual turnover rate for layers.

Wendy: This is my main beef with challenges and such. Once in a while might be fun, but not if it monopolizes a big chunk of your available time. When would you get your work done? I have to think of my work first. Play second.

Southpaw said...

Blogs and comments are really good. I've had a few good post (in my opinion) come from that. I like your other suggestion.

I don't write about the same stuff you don't write about.I have done a few blogfests and they can be fun, but they are exhausting.

Cate Masters said...

Great idea to stockpile ideas. These days, I'd probably lose the notebook, though, lol. Because of time constraints, I try to post mine over the weekend for the week ahead.
I like blog hops. It can be a great way for readers to find you.
I also like reading excerpts. Kind of like a Page 99 test for readers to give them a taste of your story.

Margo Benson said...

I love the idea of stockpiling ideas for blog posts. I write down so many things for book ideas, I feel daft not extending it to blogging.

I blog and tweet primarily for writing stuff - I'm quite reclusive so find it a bit daunting to share life things, although when I do, I get wonderful responses. Maybe I'll brave a little more 'out there'!

Maria Zannini said...

Southpaw: I always say the best conversations and topics have come out of the comment streams in this blog.

Cate: I have never been able to bring myself to post an excerpt to any of my books unless I was forced to by a blog host. I just feel that if people were interested they'd look that up themselves. --maybe I should get over that.

Margo: My writing topics got used up fast, and now of course everyone seems to cover the same topics. I think a good balance of everything keep the blog interesting.