How to Mine Everything for Content Ideas
Sometimes the hardest part of writing is coming up with new, compelling ideas. Sure, you can do keyword research if you are trying to rank for SEO or respond to a prompt sent out by a Medium publication, but that doesn’t always provide the jolt of inspiration you need to get your fingers flying across the keyboard.
In order to continuously generate ideas, you need to let go of the belief that every content idea you have has to be original and unlike anything you have ever read before.
There’s no such thing as originality. In fact, one of the main principles in the book How to Read Literature Like a Professor is that all stories come from other stories.
That revelation used to make me sad. I wanted to strive for fresh, impossible originality but quickly began to feel like everything I wanted to say had already been said.
But once I started looking at the concept in a positive way, I discovered that I could mine anything and everything for content ideas.
Here’s how to create great content from literally anything:
Respond to something (like a letter to the editor)
Have you ever read something and then couldn’t stop thinking about it? Maybe it made you really angry or had you questioning everything in your life. Use that to fuel your writing, but make it understandable even for an audience who has not read the article so that you don’t alienate any of your readers. Give a brief summary and use the piece you are responding to as a catalyst for your own thoughts. Here’s an example I wrote using a New York Times article.
And it doesn’t have to be just another article. Use TEDTalks, podcast episodes, Instagram posts, tweets, inspirational quotes, books, movies, song lyrics, or even text conversations. Find inspiration in anything and everything.
Expand upon an idea in one of your pieces
Often times we write pieces full of so many good points worth pondering, but if we expanded upon each one in the same piece, our word count would rival that of a Diana Gabaldon novel. Read through your existing stories and highlight anything that is worth exploring further and create new stories from those little gems. Think of it as going off on a tangent, but making that tangent an entirely new piece.
Let the comments inspire you!
Okay, I know the comments section isn’t always a place full of intellectually stimulating civil discourse and encouragement. Sometimes I get responses on my stories that make me want to delete the whole thing and never write again. But responses can also be a source of inspiration. Did someone comment something on one of your stories that really resonated with you or challenged your way of thinking? Explore their argument or point in a new piece.
The excuse “I don’t know what to write about” is no longer valid. If you consume other content regularly and take note of anything that sparks your interest, you’ll have a neverending supply of content ideas.