Welcome to another post in the Content Creator Basics series. Here, we’ll share our go-to tips for flexing your freelance writer muscles—whether you’re writing content for someone else or for your own blog. Check in for more tips to sharpen your online content writing skills.
If you’ve already written a large amount of content for the same client or on the same topics, you may find it difficult to think of new, fresh ideas. One of the best ways to find ideas for any of your writing projects is to brainstorm. Here are a few tips about how to conduct a productive brainstorming session and what to do if your brainstorming session didn’t generate the right ideas for your project.
Give the Session Structure
Brainstorming sessions work best when you use a clear structure. Use the following guidelines to make a clear plan, which makes the process more fruitful.
Set a Time Limit
Before you start your brainstorm, decide how long you’ll dedicate to the process. Set a timer or watch the clock to keep track. While you can do a quick and casual brainstorm in just a few minutes, the most productive brainstorms — especially for blog or article topic ideation — take a bit longer. If you’re brainstorming alone, around 15 minutes may be fruitful. When you brainstorm in groups, try around 20 to 30 minutes to give yourself enough time to collaborate on ideas.
Once your session starts, you’ll also want to keep track of your ideas somehow. A concrete list of ideas that you can refer back to gives you more freedom during the brainstorming, as you won’t have to remember all the ideas you generate. It also makes it easier to organize and filter your ideas after the session.
You can keep track of ideas in several ways. Some people prefer to write or type their own ideas, while others record their brainstorming sessions. You can use a camera or audio recorder to keep track of the ideas for you. For more complicated projects, you can even ask a friend or colleague to be a scribe for the session.
If you’re having a particularly difficult time coming up with ideas, try a different way to track them. Write each idea on its own sticky note or create a web of ideas on a large whiteboard or use a fun, sparkly pen to write them down. Tracking ideas should fuel creativity, not stall it, so use a recording method that aligns with your intentions for the project.
Lastly, you should set aside time after the brainstorming session to debrief. During this time, you’ll be able to judge which ideas work best for your project. You can also organize your ideas to find themes that may reveal more insights or patterns. For example, you can group similar ideas together in your list or combine two supporting topics to create one potential deliverable.
Accept All Ideas
In the corporate world, brainstorming is sometimes referred to as creative ideation. This name points at the desired outcome of a good brainstorming session: creative ideas. However, not all ideas generated during a session will feel like very creative ideas in the moment. Many of them won’t be ideas you end up moving forward with. That’s okay. These ideas are often stepping stones to your ultimate destination.
In a brainstorming session, all ideas are good ideas. You want them to show up; that’s their only job at this stage. You’re looking for quantity, not necessarily quality, at this point in the ideation process.
Accept all ideas as they come, and don’t filter yourself. Write down ideas even if they seem outrageous, boring, or better for a different project. If you find yourself wanting to modify ideas, write down the modified versions as additional ideas instead of the only option. This keeps the ideas coming and helps your brain make connections you may not have thought about before. You can determine which ideas are the best after the brainstorming session is over.
Step Out of Your Routine
If you’ve tried brainstorming and haven’t found the right ideas, switch up how and where you brainstorm. Move around your home or office to do your session in a new place. Try brainstorming during a different time of the day. Some new stimulus can help your mind refocus and tune in.
If your sessions still aren’t productive, try some other methods to further your ideation.
Feed Your Inner Creative
If you can’t come up with good ideas, your creative well might be dry. Do something that refuels you, even if it’s not directly related to your project. Go for a walk outside, watch a movie, or read some poetry. After your brain has a chance to relax, you might find that brainstorming becomes easier.
Widen Your Net
If your brainstorming sessions aren’t productive, you might not have enough resources to find the ideas you need. Ask people you trust to join you. Their unique perspective can give you new insights. Working together allows you to combine your knowledge bases, which can reveal more ideas than either of you could generate on your own.
If you don’t have other people who can join you, you can add more information to your resource bank. Do more research on your topic. Do a quick internet search and find a few articles to read or a few experts to follow. New information about topics related to your project can help you find angles you haven’t thought about before.
Ask for Help
For most projects, you have a support network to help you when you get stuck. If you’re stuck on a WritersDomain task, use the outlets we offer like the brainstorming thread in the forum or the support email inbox. We can answer specific questions you have about keywords or tasks, and we’ll offer other help as appropriate.
In other situations, you likely have similar support structures available to you. You can ask your teacher, your editor, or your boss for help. If none of these resources apply to your situation, create your own support network. A network of fellow writers or freelancers can guide you through your creative endeavors.
Many WritersDomain writers have contributed a steady flow of content for years, which takes dedication. If you have any other suggestions that we missed, we’d love to hear about them in the comments, on social media, or in the forum.