How to Source New Content Ideas?

Okay, for all you aspiring content marketers out there, or for those of you want to promote your blog or business or product or service via content marketing, let’s talk a little bit more about content production lines and how you can build them.

The first step in the content production line is this:

Choose your topic or title. What are you going to write about? Review your list of keywords, look over your crummy first drafts, browse through your folder of ideas and one-liners, look over the notes you made while reading, peruse your extensive research and quote collection.

Content Ideas

This seems like a pretty simple first step, right? Choose what you’re going to write about.

It’s where a lot of us get hung up on the details. However, if you have that list of helpful sources, though, you save yourself a lot of time and trouble.

This list. Here, I’ll put it in bullet points because I know you Internet readers like that:

  • List of target keywords
  • Crummy first drafts
  • File/folder of ideas
  • File/folder of one-liners
  • Notes from reading
  • Research (articles, books, magazines, studies, so on)
  • Quotes

And let’s add a few more to that list, just because we can:

  • Swipe file of awesome blog post titles
  • Journal
  • Freewriting files/notebooks
  • A starred article in your RSS reader
  • Instapaper or Evernote file of articles you clipped/saved
  • Pinterest boards
  • Infographics you drool over
  • Blogs you follow religiously
  • That big sketchbook or moleskin notebook you’re always jotting random things in
  • The content you’ve already written and published (old blog posts, tweets, ebooks, white papers, so on)

All of these function as sources of inspiration.

You know about inspiration, right?

It’s that little zing in your brain, the one that gets you excited about scribbling down some illegible notes that will certainly later turn into the great treatise on your topic of choice.

The thing with inspiration, as you may also know, is that it’s prone to fits and doesn’t always respond the way you want it to. Tends to disappear when you need it most. Tends to run away when you look at it directly. Shies away from direct sunlight, like a vampire.

No big deal.

Because you, armed with even a few of those items off the list above, have crafted your own well of inspiration.

You set up these buckets (see my analogy here? smart, eh?) and you dump the inspiration into them as you run across it.

It’s a reverse process of filling the well: you see an infographic that inspires you to write an article or spew a thought on a message board; you dump it into one of these buckets; and every bucketful becomes part of your well of inspiration, from which you can draw any old time you want.

Look, I even made a little picture of this process (graphic designer people, muffle your laughter. I’m a writer, k?):

We’re all pretty good collectors, without any training whatsoever. There are just two simple little rules for collecting inspiration for your buckets, er, well:

  • Don’t put crap in the well. It makes for stinky water.
  • Draw from the well! You’re saving all this good stuff for a reason; go back and use it. When it’s time to start creating, don’t revert to collecting/curating mode. Instead, pick through what you’ve already collected until you hit on something that zings (even if it’s just a little bit). Use that zing to fuel the first five minutes of creation, until you start rolling. Then keep rolling with it.

That’s it. I remembered one line by Albert Einstein on the new idea which feels true now.

The mind that opens to a new idea never returns to its original size.

— Albert Einstein

What are your sources of inspiration? How do you collect? How do you hold? How often do you go back and draw on what you’ve collected? Let us know by commenting below.

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