How to Write a Great Blog Post, Part 1: Creating An Ideas File

One of the gifts blogging rewards me with is the opportunity to write. I love to write. I've kept journals for years and believe few things are as beneficial as getting my feelings out on paper. I work furiously and joyfully on my posts. I do not have researchers. I don't have proofreaders or editors. I don't have advisers. And the lessons I learned in school are far behind me. In the last couple of months, I realized that I could not keep producing new material regularly without a system. I perform best with structure and organization, and my blog posts need to work with those elements in order to be successful.

This week begins a series in which I share the very simple process involved to take a concept from the idea stage to completed blog post. This process is successful because it always keeps new material in the pipeline. It keeps you inspired, helps prevent burnout, and encourages creativity.

Part 1: Keeping an active “ideas” file. 

I usually have close to a dozen possible post topics in different stages of development. These topics are typically based on one thought or question. My ideas flow from almost anything - blogs I read, magazine content, snippets of newspaper articles, conversations among friends, tweets from followers on Twitter, and comments left after blog posts (yes, you inspire me too!)

The most important thing to understand is that ideas are everywhere - do not stop looking.

Seeking out ideas isn't as tedious as it sounds. All it involves is becoming more aware of your surroundings, and recording ideas when they strike. Nearly every successful writer is inspired by another, so don't become obsessive about originality. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that every idea has to emerge completely from your own brain. Inspiration comes from diverse places.

  • People watch. This is an interesting activity for any writer. Go to a busy public place and just sit and watch people. They’ll amuse you, inspire you, fascinate you. There’s nothing more inspiring than humanity.
  • Travel. Whether it be halfway around the world, a day trip to the next town or an excursion to a new city, getting out of your usual area and discovering new places and people and customs can be one of the best inspirations for writing. Use these new places to open up new ways of seeing.
  • Carry around a notepad and pen with you at all times. You never know when inspiration will strike, and it's best to be prepared. Jot down whatever pops into your head.Write down snippets of conversation that you hear. Write down visual details and fragments of song lyrics or poems that move you. Having these ideas written down helps, because they can inspire you or actually go directly into your writing.
  • Take a half-hour every day to brainstorm. I usually do so at night before going to bed, when my house is quiet and kids are asleep. Turn off the TV and iPod, sit with a notebook and write a list of posts you would like to read about.What are things that interest you? What do you want to learn more about? What do you find inspiring? Any of these can become blog posts.
  • Become more comfortable with journaling. Journaling is nothing more than opening up a notebook and putting pen to paper. Write about what you did that day. Write about pivotal moments in your life. Write about childhood memories, your favorite music, your boyfriend or spouse, your friends. Write about your favorite season, your dream travel destination, what movies you've seen recently and books you've read. Just write.
  • Open your mind to new ideas. Be inspired by other art forms: Music, dance, sculpture, even movies. Sometimes, while watching a movie, a character will say something so interesting that I immediately think, “That would make a great blog post!” or “I have to write that down!” Screenwriters can write beautiful dialog.

At the end of a week, you should have a fairly decent collection of post ideas. Compile them in one notebook or journal with enough room on each page for for expansion. Over time, any of these ideas can be expanded upon and used to create compelling blog posts.

Next week, I'll focus on tips for expanding the concepts in your ideas file, and instruction for writing your first post using this system.  I'll also discuss why it's so important to get personal in your posts.


  1. Elissa, another great post. I love your writing style and your ... :D

    Thanks and keep it up!

  2. This couldn't have come at a better time. I have the WORST case of writer's block ever. I usually can't shut up, but you put a screen in front of me, with it's blinking cursor and BAM. My mind closes up on me like a steel trap. I am going to start trying out some of your tips and see if it cracks this case. Thanks!!

  3. Oh great post! I do carry a notebook around which is a start. I've found it hard to blog recently, not stuck for ideas as such but rather not having the impetus to follow them through. I seem to be getting back into it since yesterday and am working on future posts at the moment so am delighted to read your informative post!
    Linda x

  4. "There’s nothing more inspiring than humanity." - love this!

  5. Great article Elissa. Very inspiring for those of us - probably all of us - who get the dreaded writier's block. But . . . you can turn off your iPod????

  6. I'm been blogging for a short year and trying to grow in every way I can. Most of my skills I have learned from posts like yours. It's amazing how many knowledge is out there to grasp.

  7. Wonderful post! Love your tips for finding ideas.

  8. Great tips! For those that are tech inclined, I like to use Evernote to clip web articles of ideas to use later and Mindnode (if you're on a mac) is totally amazing. Mindmapping is a supercool tool to use to get post ideas that are all interconnected. Thanks for the tips!

  9. I was taking a peek at Links à la Mode and yours take my attention. I really appreciate this and i'll do all the efforts to improve my way to write. I've a blog if you want to see:
    xoxo :*

  10. Your a really great writer! And I've also been journaling for many years now. I love your tips on getting ideas, because sometimes I am in a rut for them. But thank you for sharing! I really like the idea of taking a half-hour away from technology to really come up with ideas! And I can't wait for the next part of this series! :)

    <3 Kelly

  11. I use my Moleskine planner as my idea file. I have blog post titles scrawled all over!


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