How to Come Up With Blog Post Ideas

Last month, Brian Swanson and I presented a webinar on building a publishing culture in an accounting firm. It was the first time we presented the topic and, to my knowledge, no called us idiots, so I think that makes it a success. You can judge for yourself, though; the playback is available on YouTube.

At the end of the webinar, we did a little Q&A. Our host, Matt Wilkinson, asked me about how clients should prepare for meeting with a third-party content creator. I don't really remember what my answer was (I haven't listened to the playback yet), but it did get me thinking about the main problem people have when it comes to blogging.

Simply put: Ideas. That is, they say, "I don't know what to write about."

It's a valid struggle. I feel your pain. I've been writing almost daily for over six years and I can tell you that even I have days where I struggle to come up with anything interesting to say. However! My own challenge is usually one of motivation rather than ideas

Don't worry, I can explain.

In my experience, the easiest and most effective way to get ideas for blog posts is to read. It seems kinda silly, that reading someone else's words could inspire your own, but if you think about it, reading forces your mind to focus and process; staring at a blank Word document causes your thoughts to spin in a loop. Plus, reading evokes reactions. And for the most part, good blog posts are reactions to something else someone has written. 

I can't take credit for this idea, unfortunately. I'm stealing it from a 2010 Felix Salmon post. In that post he makes the case to young journalists to read more because "reading is to writing as listening is to talking." 

And when you listen, you just might feel the need to elaborate, set the record straight, argue, rant, mock or none of those things. You might end up recalling an old mentor who taught you an important lesson that he stole from Churchill or somebody and that inspires you to write about the importance of mentoring or something. 

The point is, inspiration comes from lots of places and the easiest way to consistently be inspired is to read a lot. It might come from one article or one sentence, but read enough and the ideas will come to you.

Now, I know accountants are busy people and many of you, for whatever reason, still bill by the hour and your time is valuable. I have a few suggestions: 

1. Drop your favorite blogs -- including this one and Going Concern -- and websites in an RSS reader (I recommend Feedly) or follow them on Twitter. 
2. Carve out some time on a daily basis to catch up on some reading. Over lunch, maybe. You need to take a break anyway.
3. Read.

I don't know when an idea will drop in your brain because that would make me a deity of some kind, which I am most definitely not. but ideas will come to you. Also, and this is important, you have to make your writing a priority. Just like, well, everything, consistent practice and persistence of reading and writing will yield results. It's cliche, but it's true.

So, to recap: read more and you'll get more blog post ideas. And if you don't like reading then you should re-examine your life.