image of a question markIn an earlier lesson we discussed how asking questions at the end of a blog post can possibly help us to gain more comments.

By asking questions, we not only open the topic up for discussion, but we let our readers know we’re interested in their thoughts.

And, if we answer the comments, our blog becomes even more interactive.

Today’s Lesson

When we sit down to write a blog post, the question we often ask ourselves is “What do I want to write about today?”. Oftentimes, we’ll just stare at our computer screen and our mind is blank.

Good ideas elude us and we’re left with a feeling of emptiness – an emptiness which can either lead to us not publishing a post, or throwing something up we’re not proud of.

In instances like that, I’ll often write backwards.

What I mean by “writing backwards” is, I’ll use the question(s) I want to end a post with and then write the copy which leads up to it.

This method creates what I see as a win-win. It gives me an idea for a blog post, plus furnishes a question to end on.

I used this technique today and my question was…

Today’s Assignment

If you’re stuck on a topic for a blog post, what method(s) do you use to spark your creativity?

Care to share?

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  1. RickNo Gravatar says:

    It seems like it is harder to come up with ideas when your blog is about one topic. My current blog is about anything at all, including family events, so there is no shortage of things to blog about.

    If my mind is blank I don’t force myself, I just don’t blog. Recently when I was asked what I want for my birthday, I said, “A blog post.” My daughter-in-law obliged me by writing a wonderful post about encouraging creativity in children. All I had to do was format the post.

    Sometimes I get an idea and if it is controversial I might be afraid to blog about it. But then I go ahead and write it anyway and often they are the most popular posts.

    I will have to try asking the question first as you suggest. That is a grand idea, I would have never thought of that.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you Rick,

      I LOVE your idea of telling family members (or friends) you’d like a blog post for a gift. How ingenious.

      Controversial posts can raise a few eyebrows and even attract comments we might not expect, but I think if we have a strong belief on a topic and know we can defend our views, I say, “go for it.” Like you said, they are often the most popular.

  2. This is a good idea for when brainstorming post ideas. Basically plan the comment conversation side of things before the post itself. Reverse engineering like that could create some pretty interesting topics.

    I agree with Rick that it is tougher to keep coming up with post ideas when not focusing on one topic. That angle might be tougher to keep readers and the search engines happy, With a tight theme readers are more likely to get what they’re looking for.
    Check out Jeremy @ Modest Money’s awesome post.The Financial Burden of Moving (and Breaking Up)My Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you Jeremy,

      Yes. If we have a tight niche, it can be difficult to come up with new ideas for posts. Another source I’ve found valuable are the comments we receive. Our readers will often tell us which areas they’d like more clarification.

  3. Barbara,

    My blog focuses on business, finance and strategy, and the ideas for my posts come from one or more of the following sources:

    1) Things going on (either in the news, at work, or connections) that I have an opinion, insight, or experience to relate,

    2) Reading other blogs that spark a thought or idea,

    3) A lot of files and books covering topics relevant to finance and strategy in business, and

    4) Understanding as much as possible what my readers like (such as popular posts, re-tweeted, etc.)

    I have never tried the backward technique for blogging, but often approach project management functions this way – well, to do x, first we need to do y, and if we are to that we need to start with z, etc. Thanks for shedding new light on that process and providing us with another tool!
    Check out david k waltz’s awesome post.Working Capital – Finance and InventoryMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      You’re welcome David,

      From the looks of it, your list of resources will supply you with topics for a long time to come. I agree with you about how we can pick up new ideas from reading other blogs.

      Good point – about checking which are our popular posts or those which got the most tweets and branching out on those topics.

  4. Barbara, been a long time since I last dropped in a comment. Hope you’re doing well.

    Well, if there isn’t anything that I can write, I try posting a quote and asking some questions based on that quote. It usually initiates good discussion and while the discussion goes on, I try squeezing some thoughts for my next post. If in spite of that, I don’t get anything, I start reading extensively. Reading helps me to get something to blog about.

    I have never tried the backward technique for blogging. Seems like a good idea.

    Take care.

    Joy always,
    Check out Susan Deborah’s awesome post.Why do you blog about trivial things?My Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Susan,

      It’s great to see you. I hope all’s well in your world.

      You’ve brought up a good point. Sometimes we don’t need to write a post, but instead can post a quote (as you do), or a photo, and ask our readers for their input.

      I agree with you on reading – stepping away from the blog and concentrating on other topics can spark new ideas.

  5. susanNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barb! I’m almost afraid to confess this – like I hope I don’t get hit – but I have not once in three years of blogging had a problem with what to write about. I can only thank Monkey Mind for that – otherwise Monkey Mind is a pain! I have folders full of stuff to blog about that get added to randomly – like articles I clipped out to comment on, things like that – or, I flag books I read with post-its. I’m always wayyyy behind in this regard – so nice to have a big folder of stuff to chose from!
    Check out susan’s awesome post.Bacteria Worth Embracing!My Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Susan,

      You’re funny. No worries, I won’t hit you. 🙂

      I like your idea of having folders and/or flagging pages of books. That way, as you said, you always have something to fall back on in the event your creative juices aren’t flowing.

  6. Zac CoplanNo Gravatar says:

    There is no worse feeling for me than when I finish up a blog hit publish and I know its not my best work. On the other hand I love it when I am proud of an article I post. Thank you for this advice hopefully it will increase the percentage of times I hit publish and Im proud!
    Check out Zac Coplan’s awesome post.Why Would The Seller Pick Your Offer?My Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      You’re welcome Zac,

      I hear you. We know when what we posted isn’t our best, don’t we? In those instances I find it’s best to not post, but instead wait until I “get it right”.

  7. veredNo Gravatar says:

    I just open my reader… lots of ideas there, always.
    Check out vered’s awesome post.Painful Beauty? No ThanksMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Vered,

      I forgot how much information we can find in our readers. Probably because I no longer check mine. 🙁

  8. HilaryNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara … I’m lucky the ideas are all around me – mind you my blog is about anything – and usually relates to something I’ve recently learnt or has interested me and that I think others would be interested in hearing about too.

    Cheers Hilary

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Hilary,

      That’s one thing about your blog. For me, every time I visit you, it’s a surprise. I like that, plus you’re always teaching me something new. It’s a win-win. 🙂

  9. JameNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara,

    I think we’ll get lots of idea come from the reader (e.g. their comment), and our friend. In my experience, when I get stuck, I just relax, read reader’s comment, and more idea would come!
    Check out Jame’s awesome post.The Adventures of Tintin 2011 HDMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Jame,

      That’s true. We can get lots of ideas from comments, too. Like you said, it helps if we relax – and wait for an idea to surface.

  10. NatanielNo Gravatar says:

    I agree with david these points are really an good points
    1) Things going on (either in the news, at work, or connections) that I have an opinion, insight, or experience to relate,
    2)Understanding as much as possible what my readers like (such as popular posts, re-tweeted, etc.)

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Nathaniel,

      Yes. Current events are a great source for new ideas. With all that’s happening in the world, we’re bound to find something that pertains to what our blog is about.

  11. JamesNo Gravatar says:

    Asking a question can make the task easier for you. Not only while writing a blog, but if you are running a business or performing any activity, if you are stuck then asking a question to yourself regarding it can be the best way to solve the problem. Whenever I get stuck in any of my business activity, I often ask myself a question related to it and soon I am able to find the answer to it myself.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi James,

      I agree. Asking ourselves questions will often shed light on a situation – for both online or offline situations. I think it also helps to ask the right type of question, like “how can I get from point “a” to point “b”?” and not ask questions like “why am I so stupid?”.

  12. AbleakNo Gravatar says:

    Commenting increase the beauty of blog post. Peoples who get less comments either they post many posts per day or they don’t have traffic or they don’t comments on others post or they post boring posts or their title is not attractive. Once you will provide value to others you will comments for sure.

  13. Kelvin KaoNo Gravatar says:

    I’ve never thought about going backwards from a question. That’s an interesting approach.

    That said, I never really struggle to look for ideas, since I am not really running it anywhere close to a business venture. If I have no idea, I just don’t write. Of course, that also means I don’t have a consistently updated blog and I am okay with that.
    Check out Kelvin Kao’s awesome post.I am on TV!My Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Kelvin,

      I’m glad you brought that up. For some bloggers it’s not necessary to publish new posts on a regular basis. Not only can that help us not get stressed out, but would help with burnout, too.

  14. JayNo Gravatar says:

    When I can’t seem to find ideas I will usually take a break. I always keep a small pad with me where ever I go so when ideas hit me I just jot them down. I’m fairly new to this so it’s still a work in progress, but I do see the importance of having fresh and valuable content if you want to acquire a consistent following.
    Check out Jay’s awesome post.Using Content Curation to Make Money OnlineMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Jay,

      That helps, doesn’t it? – carrying a notebook with us since we never know where the next idea will come from. Another thing I do is use the recorder on my cell phone if an ideas surfaces and I don’t have anything to write it on.

  15. PaulNo Gravatar says:

    I like Rick’s idea as it does leave your blog open to more topics which is easier to create posts for, I keep meaning to setup a personal blog doing just this.
    Check out Paul’s awesome post.WordPress Web HostingMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Paul,

      Yes. A personal blog is a great place to share a variety of ideas. Not only can we post hints and tips we use, but could use the blog to publish nearly anything.

  16. PrithviNo Gravatar says:

    If i am struck with this kinda situation, i just visit my competitive blogs ( I have made a list of blogs) .. And i research about their posts which of those has the most popularity.. And then i cover up that topic in my blog.. 🙂
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    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Prithvi,

      I like that idea. If a blogger who writes in our niche gets a good response to a specific topic, chances are we may too.

  17. JulieNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks for this nice and useful post, I really like your point on the writing backwards.
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  18. JulieNo Gravatar says:

    As always Barbara, thank you for making me think. I like your idea of writing backwards. One thing I’m learning from you is to step aside. It seems easy to write about yourself and your experiences, right?

    What I think I’d like to learn is to listen better and ask better questions.

    When you say write backwards it reminds me of dressing backwards. Sometimes for example I think how I’m going to leave the house and I’ll start with the outermost layer, like the jacket, then dress backwards.

    Funny, huh?

    Same goes with my graphic projects or even my blog. I like to think of the finished project and then try to get there. Seeing is believing, right?

    Hugs to you friend.

    Check out Julie’s awesome post.A #Blogger #Blogging about her #Blog {and such.}My Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      You’re welcome Julie,

      You’re right. We can use the backwards technique for many aspects of our life. I never thought about it, but sometimes I dress backwards, too. Especially if I REALLY want to wear a certain jacket or sweater.

      Hugs to you, too. xo

  19. it is true that sometimes I don’t have any idea about what should I write in my blog article and I use the technique you are talking about here which is very useful… then I’m glad that when one idea comes, it often happens to come with more ideas also… I write the article asking myself what would my reader need to know about and right there, in between my lines I find more and more questions and ideas to answer to those questions in my future articles.
    Check out Amanda Silver’s awesome post.Top 5 silver jewelry trends 2012 (part II)My Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Amanda,

      That’s smart of you to ask what your readers may need or want to know more about. If we can put ourselves in their shoes, the answers can come quickly. Great idea.

  20. FriarNo Gravatar says:

    I get my best ideas at work, when I’m stuck in a boring meeting and I start daydreaming.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Friar,

      Daydreaming can create great ideas, and I know you like to doodle too. Your doodles look like works of art. 🙂

  21. CatwomanNo Gravatar says:

    Such an inspiring post, when I’m stuck of the theme of the actual post, I always try to get a different view from it. I have to get out of my comfort zone to change the view and find something inspiring in it. And then, I only focus on that thing.
    Check out Catwoman’s awesome post.Fogászati asszisztensMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you Catwoman,

      Yes. Getting out of our comfort zone is a good way for us to not only expand our experiences, but like you said, give us fresh ideas for blog posts.

  22. Adam JamesNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara,

    Whenever I get stuck for new post Idea’s I start off doing a mind map of possible idea’s, then as I come up with different topic Idea’s I then continue with it and take a closer look at how I can make even more post idea’s within one area that I could blog about.

    When I first started my blog I wrote a long list of different post Idea’s, and each time I write a new post I end up thinking of something else so I just add it to the list, which has worked out well on my latest blog because I’ve still got plenty of area’s to cover.
    Check out Adam James’s awesome post.Need a WordPress Backup Plugin? Here Are 5 Awesome OptionsMy Profile

    • JohnaveryNo Gravatar says:

      i totally agree with you mr. James.Mind maps are a great way to organize thought IMO. Ironically how much ever mind maps make sense for the one who uses it, for the on-seeker it looks like scribbling most of the times.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Adam,

      I like how you dissect your posts and by doing so, create even more ideas for future posts. It’s amazing how just one topic can be the catalyst for many more. Thank you for sharing.

  23. LocNo Gravatar says:

    I’ve never thought of “writing backwards” but a concept that I will definitely try in my blog. As the part being stuck, Google, CNN, Entertainment Tonight all play a major role in brainstorming the list of topics to choose from. The great thing about my blog is that I’m not under pressure to blog on a regular basis but rather whenever I feel inspire to write. Some weeks I write as many as 5 posts/week while other times, I write as little as 1 post in 2 weeks. I’m what you call a part-time blogger.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Loc,

      You’re in a perfect position – being a part-time blogger. I think the less pressure we put on ourselves, the easier it is to come up with content for blog posts.

      I agree. TV can be a great source for topics, whether it’s the news or even a sitcom. Inspiration is everywhere.

  24. NeoNo Gravatar says:

    whenever i struck on creating post, i will try to learn something new from other bloggers and read some tech books..
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    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Neo,

      Reading blogs or books is a fabulous way to generate ideas. Not only do we learn more, but we can then pass that information onto our readers.

  25. Well, I have tried to be smart and creative in the past by asking questions etc. However, since I removed commentluv, noone really answer those questions though they consume the content 🙂

    When I am stuck with ideas to blog about, usually I look into the backlogs in my draft document. If there’s nothing there, I just look into my categories and check on which category I haven’t posted for a while. Then I try to dig out a topic around that category using the web, social media shares etc.
    Check out Ajith Edassery’s awesome post.Ultimate AdSense Myth-BustersMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Ajith,

      I never thought of using categories for creating ideas for future posts, but that would work perfect. And I’ll bet the same technique would work with tags, too.

      P.S. I find that interesting how after you removed CommentLuv, your readers aren’t answering your questions. Hmmmm…

  26. MarisaNo Gravatar says:

    Sometimes I’ll start with a witty remark, but that’s not always easy to come up with. Starting with a question seems much easier. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Marisa,

      I like your idea of starting a post with a witty remark. It’s like you break the ice and hopefully entice your visitors to read the entire post.

  27. I usually just calm myself, go for a walk or read a book/article; do anything that will relieve the pressure of coming up with something and letting the ideas flow freely. But your way of doing it the other way around is clever. Why didn’t I think of doing that before? Maybe I was too busy asking myself why can’t I think of something to write? LOL.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Mdenise,

      I’m with you. Stepping away from our blog is one of the best ways to get more ideas. It’s like when we let our brain relax or concentrate on something else, the writing muse shows back up.

      A hint that works for me. Instead of asking why I can’t think of something to write about, I ask myself, “what would my readers like to read about?” Just changing the question seems to ignite new ideas.

  28. Ah the old asking the question in the end, always keeps the reader intrigued and willing to participate. I hate it when they do it in movies though. When a movie ends, i don’t want any questions, had enough in the beginning of the movie 🙂

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Gabi,

      Yes. I agree. If we let our readers know we’re open to suggestions or their opinions, they’re more likely to respond.

      Like you, I don’t enjoy movies which leave a question mark at the end. 🙂

  29. Barbara, I would say , you have given me a nice way to jump off my chair and start interacting with my readers by asking them relevant questions. Anyways , If i get stuck in any topic I do get myself involved in Newspapers and try to figure out some interesting topics to express my thoughts!!! In my way, I think the topics or the subject about which you write upon are much more affected by our daily activities. e.g. If you watch any sci-fi movie you will be thinking a lot regardless of that movie was good or bad. Thanks Barbara, everytime you publish , there is kind of a hidden message for us!

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      You’re welcome Adrian,

      I’m happy to hear this lesson has been beneficial to you. I like your idea of reading or watching TV when you’re in search of new and different ideas for your blog. Creative ideas will strike when we least expect it, and oftentimes that’s when we’re relaxed and concentrating on other topics.

  30. Lily RoseNo Gravatar says:

    When I don’t have anything to write about – I don’t write! Actually, I do, but I need to go away for a couple of hours, doing something different. Usually something like swimming, running or just walking. The ideas come to me when I lave my mind blank and stop forcing it to come up with new ones.
    Check out Lily Rose’s awesome post.Healthy Trim Reviews – What User’s Really ExperiencedMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Lily,

      I hear you. Anytime I try to force a blog post, not only does it not “flow”, but I feel like I’m fighting for every word. Stepping away from the blog is a great way to rejuvenate and clear our minds.

  31. Jessica JaneNo Gravatar says:

    I am completely agree with your point that at the end of the post we should start a discussion, it will be very effective for our blog regarding commenting and to increase readers. One thing more i want to ask you about blogging that how many times i should post on my free blog in a week, 2 time, 3 time or more? please give your views about it.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you Jessica,

      Yes. By asking our readers for their opinions, we open the door to more comments as well as being able to receive different viewpoints.

      As for how often you should post, it’s really up to you, your time frame and the type of posting schedule you feel you can stick to (that’s not to say you can’t change it).

  32. I think i have wasted more than a year but we learned from our experience and I believe that your bad experience is your good teacher. I also have learned that we should focused on the quality of our Blog rather then the income and then time comes when you start earning from your blog..

    Thanks 😉

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      You’re welcome Mina,

      The quality of our posts is the most important thing. We often hear “content is king”, which is true. Monetizing a blog can always be done at a later date when our readership is higher and we have a good inventory of great articles in our archives.

  33. Paul E. LeeNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks for posting this. I think writer’s block is the hardest part for making a good blog. I sometimes have trouble finding inspiration. Usually when this happens, I like to step back for a second and start reading news articles and current events to see if anything will inspire me. Sometimes, if that doesn’t work I sort of back away from the post for a while. If I can’t make it work, I like to go do something else for a while and relax, before coming back to start afresh. Great post!

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      You’re welcome Paul,

      Like you, I find stepping away from the blog is the best way to spark creativity. And what I often find is, by letting go of my original idea, new and better ideas surface.

  34. I think asking questions is also a good method. The other would be to post links and photos. I think that this will not fail to attract readers.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Debbs,

      Yes. If we post photos or informative links, we’re bound to attract readers. Not only can pictures be nice to look at, they might also inspire readers to leave a comment.

  35. As for me, I try to get inspiration from other popular article directories such as Hubpage and Squidoo, then go from there about writing my own blog post.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Andrea,

      That’s a great idea. Hubpages and Squidoo are superb spots to spark our creativity.

  36. Very interesting tip! starting your post with question that you want to throw to your readers makes your mind wander and come up with great ideas.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you Danica,

      Yes. Not only will starting with a question help to inspire a post, but we’re that much closer to knowing how we’ll end it.

  37. BrianKNo Gravatar says:

    I have easily mastered the art of using wordpress and building websites, but the more difficult part is to make everything interesting enough for visitors to, firstly, come then share with others and want to come back.
    Barbara you have a very easy conversational style which makes everything easy to read but also truly informs. I can’t imagine many people leave your articles mid way.
    You are a good example to would-be bloggers.
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    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you for your kind words, Brian,

      I know what you’re saying. Starting a blog and even understanding the WordPress platform can be easy, however gaining a loyal readership can be more of a struggle. What I’ve found is it takes time and patience, plus a matter of getting our name “out there”.

  38. When you ask a question at the end of your posts, you encourage your readers to leave a comment. Does every post need to end with a question? Of course not. But if you’re looking for comments, it can certainly help. Sure, you may feel a bit foolish if you ask a question at the end of your post and no one answers. (This has happened to me a few dozen times.) But if you’re patient, the answers may come weeks later. Even if they don’t, keep trying.


    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Silbhan,

      You’re right. It might happen that no one answers our questions, but like you said, weeks later someone may. And even if they don’t, that’s okay, too. 🙂

  39. Good ideas elude us and we’re left with a feeling of emptiness – an emptiness which can either lead to us not publishing a post, or throwing something up we’re not proud of.

  40. I am not going to say what everyone else has already said, but I do want to comment on your knowledge of the topic.
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