Many of the best writers and journalists in the world don’t pick their topics or write their headlines. For most writers not working for a major media publication, we are responsible for the topic, headline, article content, proofing, editing, finding images, and publishing the piece. Coming up with good topics to write about is a learned skill that doesn’t come naturally to most new writers.
After committing to publish 365 days in a row, I was suddenly faced with the need to come up with hundreds of topics. To find this many topics, I’ve had to get creative and look in places I’ve never even thought to look before. Just sitting down to brainstorm no longer gets the job done. To help others who are in need of new topic ideas, I’ve created a list of eight great places to look for new article ideas.
Interviews are my favorite source of content topics. Whether I conducted the interview or not, listening to others helps me expand my understanding of a topic and gives me plenty of new ideas to run with. If you’re interested in business and entrepreneurship, check out my Under30CEO interview podcasts on iTunes. When I get stuck, I go back over an interview to pull out quotes and tidbits to use as the main topic of an article. This has yet to fail me.
Example: After getting stuck this past week, I went back over my interview with Paul Gu. I used his piece of advice for other entrepreneurs as the centerpiece for Answer This One Question Before Starting a Business. Taking this quote, I tied it into a personal story.
- The Bible
Religion aside, the Bible is one of the best sources of quotes and inspiration for articles available. Finding ways to apply a verse to the modern-era, an aspect of your life, or a specific topic of interest can make a compelling article. Although my main topic is business and entrepreneurship, many aspects of the Bible cover topics I can link to business situations. Proverbs and Psalms are both great places to start looking for article ideas.
- Reality Television
Going from the Bible to reality television to find inspiration for article topics sounds dirty, but inspiration can come in many different forms. Although the majority of reality programming is far from the truth, there are times when the craziness displayed on camera can be used to apply to other situations and teach actual lessons.
Tip: If looking to gain inspiration from a reality show, make sure to focus on shows that have some relevance to your primary focus. Since I write about business and entrepreneurship, I watch shows that highlight business owners or closely related topics. Shows I watch include American Pickers, Shipping Wars, Auction Hunters, and Storage Wars.
- Your Journal
My best ideas often come to me when I’m least likely to have something to write them down with. Carry a journal, pen and paper, or a tablet/laptop to take down every idea that crosses your mind.
Tip: Instead of just writing down a topic idea, jot down a draft title, several key points, and any additional notes that come to mind when you first think of the idea. This will help you quickly remember your line of thinking and start to put the full piece together.
- Social Feeds
Social networks are an amazing source of article ideas. If you can’t find article topics from monitoring your Twitter feed – you just aren’t trying. Look for complaints, quotes, insight, article links, and people to potentially interview for a story idea.
If you have experience in what you’re writing about, chances are that you have dozens of stories and memories that would make great articles for your audience. Use stories that you can relate to an overall topic you’re interested in writing about.
Example: My most successful article from the last month of publishing was Why Ideas Are Worthless To Those Who Fail To Act. The article was based on my failure to act on a business idea that later turned into a reality in the hands of other entrepreneurs. Bringing your stories to life for others to enjoy and learn from is fun, and usually the most engaging reads for your audience.
Great article subjects often stem from work situations. Make sure to keep your journal with you at work to jot down ideas from 9-5. Good topics include things that you find helpful to your job, success stories, analysis of the tools you use, and topics related to your industry.
Tip: If going this route, look for positive situations or ways to turn a negative into a positive. Stay away from bringing up sensitive issues that may be seen by other co-workers, and be absolutely sure you’re not breaking any confidentiality agreements or bordering on ethical boundaries.
- Ask Your Audience
What problems and questions can you solve and answer for your target readers? Young entrepreneur Cory Levy writes an #AskCory series where he takes questions from his talks, and by email and social media to answer in article form. The questions help him know what his audience wants to hear, and his answers bring in additional people that are looking for this information.