10 effective ways to create more ideas for blog posts

June 6th, 2014
Posted In: Writing & blogging help

Do you run out of ideas when you blog? Is that writer’s block?

No, it isn’t. It’s just time to go out and talk to someone, or to see somewhere new. I once worked with a brilliant editor who used to talk about ‘cutting the cake in different ways.’ It means working the same material in different ways, and it’s a great trick for bloggers.

I’m often asked how to come up with ideas for blog posts. Using garden blogging as an example, I spent a morning with garden designer, Caroline Garland. She had been running out of inspiration, so we visited three gardens in one morning. I showed her how just one morning of research can give you ideas for twenty blog posts (see the first 10 here).

Vintage garden with stachys

Posy’s ‘vintage’ garden: both Posy and Caroline like using stachys, the grey leafed plant at the front.

1) Case histories

Case histories are the most popular posts in many blogs. How did someone do something, why, and what were the difficulties they overcame? What were their triumphs? We first visited gardener and garden consultant, Posy Gentles in Faversham. Her garden ‘vintage gardening’ theme. Caroline interviewed Posy on how she created her garden. Read it here.

2) Trends –  eg ‘new vintage’ colour combinations

If you’ve interviewed someone for a case history, think about whether anything they have done could constitute a ‘trend.’ Posy uses some old-fashioned plants and combinations, and so does Caroline. This could be called ‘a new vintage’ trend. Or you could call it ‘classic’…  You don’t have to be a major style icon to spot a new trend. Just keep your eyes open and see what people are interested in around you. Caroline can use Posy’s iris and stachys combination in a post about ‘new vintage’ colour combinations. She already has more photos that would fit into this post in her library.

3) Break up the different elements of the interview: garden furniture and furnishings

'New vintage' furniture

‘New vintage’ furniture is mis-matched and beautifully sun-faded.

In an interview about a garden, there are several elements (planting, landscaping, furniture, trees…) They could each be sub-divided into different posts at a later date. For example, Caroline could write a post about garden furniture, using the chairs and tables from all the gardens she’s visited. She would probably call Posy’s collection of 1950s chairs and floral cushions as ‘new vintage’ garden furniture.

4) Look for a ‘principle’: focal points in smaller gardens

Birches as focal point

These ‘transparent’ birches are the starting point for a post about focal points in smaller gardens – make sure that your eye isn’t quite sure where to stop.

What else could people learn from your case history? And can you add to it with your own knowledge? In the case of Posy’s garden, there are some interesting design tips, so you could use your interview with her to write a post on garden design at a later date. When Posy first bought this house, the garden was a strip of lawn surrounded by shrubs on either side. This made it look narrower. By placing three slender birches almost in the middle of the garden, she has deceived the eye. You see the birches but you also see beyond them, and the borders to the garden are blurred. This can be a starting point for a post on focal points in smaller gardens.

5) How does your case history answer common queries?

Think about the kind of questions that people ask about your topic. Gardeners are often asked about colour, so this would make another post for Caroline to write about. She could add Posy’s colour tips to other advice suggested by other gardeners she interviews, and she could also add her own advice in. Posy’s approach to colour in her garden is very simple – she excludes blues and yellows, which gives her a pink-red-purple palette. It looks charming and is easy to implement. Caroline could do a post on colour generally, adding her own tips or other people’s approach to colour.

Saxifrage and geranium
Using a limited colour palette of pinks and reds – here saxifrage and geranium ‘go together’ beautifully.

6) Case history 2: What is the main story?

The last garden we visited that morning belongs to Emma and Ian Daniell. It is also a town garden, tucked behind their 17th century terraced home in Faversham. It slopes down towards Faversham Creek, and would once have been the house of a merchant whose wares came straight off the boat and up towards the house. Emma has been an art dealer and she loves to collect art and craft from local artists, incorporating these in the house and the garden. The ‘main story’ here is ‘Using art and craft in your garden.’ But there will be other angles, too, and some of Emma’s garden will also fit into Caroline’s other posts (such as how to use colour or ‘new vintage’)

statue in garden

This quirky female ‘statue’ has a lovely dappled light effect – and looks great in a slightly shady garden.

7) Is there a ‘how-to’ in your interview?

What common problem did your interviewee have? How did they solve it? Emma’s garden is sharply sloping. So Caroline can write a post on how to deal with sloping gardens, using Emma as an example and adding her own advice. ‘How to’s are enormously popular blog posts. Caroline, as a garden designer, can give valuable advice and show examples on how to do terracing and steps.

garden at different heights

Emma’s garden is over three different heights – many people have slopes or sloping areas in their gardens so this would be a good ‘how to’ topic.

8) Top tips post – Seating areas for socialising

Garden seating area

Emma’s seating area has an arbour and picks up the morning sun.

How do people live in gardens? Is there another round-up to be created? See if the way people interact with your topic creates ideas for you to write about. Here Caroline can write a post on designing the part of the garden where people enjoy a drink or eat. Caroline could do this as a Top 5 Tips.

9) Find out what your interviewee wants to know

Do some research for your next blog post when you are interviewing someone. Emma asked Caroline what tools she, as a professional gardener, uses. There’s an idea for another post! Questions are a hugely important source of blog post ideas. Think about questions that people often ask you. Turn your FAQs into a blog post.

10) Think ahead to New Year, summer etc…

Get into the habit of asking people a few extra questions that might be useful at certain times of year. For example, how do you look after your garden when you’re away on holiday? What garden presents would you most like to be given? What is your favourite season and why.

Caroline probably won’t use all these ideas, as some will prove stronger than others when she sits down to write them. But she could write six or seven blog posts from this one morning, and publish them over a couple of months. She would still have lots of ideas to be added to as she visits other gardens.

This approach to creating ideas works for lots of topics, not just gardens. A session like this can give you a structure for six months of blogging – do contact me if you would like similar one-to-one coaching on blogging. I also run workshops for groups and companies.

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