Brainstorming Tips & Techniques for Bloggers

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Brainstorming Tips & Techniques for Bloggers

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In this post we are going to take a look at the fine art of brainstorming. Analyzing the ways and means that some of us use to get those clouds rolling in, and the storms raging relentlessly inside our heads.

I have talked in the past about the importance of the content on your blog, especially for garnering new readers, and so I decided that I would do a post that could help you achieve this content for your site. In this post we are going to take a look at the fine art of brainstorming. Here we will examine the important role that this plays in the creative process, and how it can be a blogger’s most invaluable content contributor.

The creative process is an involved structure with many pieces, fueled by our imaginations. In order to run wild with the process, we need to have the idea that is steering the wheel. For bloggers, this process is no different. But how do we find those ideas when we are facing this topical drought? Well, below are some ideas that tend to work in our house for this pair of creatives, so I thought it was time to share the style behind our storms, in hopes that they might work for others as well.

Mind Mapping and Cluster Diagrams

Cluster Diagrams, sometimes more commonly referred to as Mind Maps, are often times the visual representation and centerpiece of a brainstorming session. Transferring virtual thought clouds to paper have long been a staple in the productivity arena. By generating ideas that center around a single topic, and allowing for sub-categories to emerge through this mapping of your thoughts, you can help maximize the output of your storm.

Most of us, whether we have used them ourselves or not, are familiar with this type of thought structure, and have seen them in some form or another. They can be used to thoroughly examine a topic by allowing you to group information into clusters, and follow multiple avenues to draw connections to other areas or ideas. This can lead you to all kinds of content ‘clusters’,  allowing you tackle a topic from every possible angle. This also deters areas of your discussion to fall through the cracks, leaving gaps that readers will want filled in.

Using Statistics

A great way to understand your readers is to use your site statistics, such as Google Analytics or Mint. This offers some perspective as to what people are interested in. Find out what your readers are seeking, and then work towards giving it to them. This at least gives you a direction in which to point your creative output.

Now if you find that you have covered the area that is being searched, and are bringing people in to your site to the degree that you really cannot find a fresh approach, or at least an updated approach, then don’t. Have the presence of mind to know when enough is enough, and remember that re-hashing the same content over and over only diminishes the impact and effectiveness of your site’s posts.

Browse Through Related Blogs

Do not mistake what I am saying here. I am not advocating content theft or idea stealing by any stretch of the imagination. Copycatting is not exactly finding your way to your own content, as much as it is, helping yourself to someone elses. But simply browsing through blogs related to your topic can often times spark ideas separate from what you were looking at, yet still would not have come to without this jaunt through the blogosphere.

Another way that this can be especially useful is if you take the time to read through the comments to see if the readers are asking for more information, or have questions that were not addressed. Then you are not stealing their ideas, but you are expanding on them to help supplement the original post (which you should link to and credit so that readers can get the whole pie not just your piece), and fill in any informational gaps on the topic that have gone unbroached.

Social Media

Another great way to find content that is needed by the community, is by of course, going social. Media, that is. Get out on the various social media networks and find out what questions are being asked, and more importantly, which ones are not being answered. (I should qualify that with relevant questions.) This is another way to connect your content with the community, and that always helps it land.

Try to work a little social media into your brainstorming sessions, and you may just find that they tend towards the more fruitful end of the scale. Though, once again, be self aware and know if this media reach is actually helping, or simply distracting you from your search for content. And know that if you cannot find any questions that need tackling, take the initiative and ask some of your own. Find out via the SM outlets if there are any topics or questions your followers would like to see you take on for the blog. The outlets are there at our disposal, so make the most of them.

Use Your Own Growth

Another great place to look for ideas when you are brainstorming, is you. Look at the path that you have been on, and the many ways in which it has grown, and splintered, and what those changes have meant to your development and shaping. What have you learned on this road that you wished you had known before you got started?

What bumps in the road did you encounter, that had you known about them ahead of time, you would have avoided?

Your personal experience in your field can offer a look into that arena that others may not have noticed themselves. And as unique as you feel your tale will be, it can always assist others in their journey, even if their path does not always resemble your own. As you learn and grow in your craft take your readers along with you. You are a cog in the machine that is your industry, add value to your contributions by offering helpful insights to others from your own growth, so as to help them do the same.

More Useful Tips

  • Schedule 1 to 2 half hour sessions a week for brainstorming to keep a cache of ideas. Try to make it a time when you can get through the half hour without any interruptions at all.
  • Write down everything, even incomplete ideas. Don’t judge or criticize your ideas while brainstorming, just let them come, write them all down and make judgments later. This is the one time you want to go for quantity instead of quality.
  • Keep a small notebook with you at all times so that you can jot down ideas as they come to you – it’s really easy to forget an idea if you don’t get it out of your head immediately.
  • Set goals for brainstorming sessions. I might spend an entire session focusing on just freelance article ideas.
  • Know the limits of an idea, and extend it as far as you reasonably can. Let it lead you to other places and down other avenues.
  • Gap Filling. Identify your current spot – Point A – and your end goal – Point B. What is the gap that exists between A and B? What are all the things you need to fill up this gap? Write them down, and find out what it takes to get from point A to point B.
  • Have a backup of your ideas. I recently lost aprox 40 article ideas because I only had them stored in one place.
  • Free writing, free speaking, word association and the spider web
  • If you feel like you’ve completely run out of ideas, free write for 5 minutes. Write anything and everything that comes into your mind.

Tools

Freemind is a premier free mind-mapping software written in Java. The recent development has turned it into a high productivity tool. We are proud that the operation and navigation of FreeMind is faster than that of MindManager because of one-click fold / unfold and follow link operations.

Mindmeister brings the concept of mind mapping to the web, using its facilities for real-time collaboration to allow truly global brainstorming sessions. Users can create, manage, and share mind maps online and access them anytime, from anywhere. In brainstorming mode, fellow MindMeisters from around the world (or just in different rooms) can simultaneously work on the same mind map and see each other’s changes as they happen.

StumbleUpon helps you discover and share great websites. As you click

Stumble!, we deliver high-quality pages matched to your personal preferences. These pages have been explicitly recommended by your friends or one of 8 million+ other websurfers with interests similar to you. By rating the sites you like () it automatically shares them with like-minded people – and helps you discover great sites your friends recommend. Use the search feature to stumble specific topics for ideas.

Cluster diagrams are a type of non-linear graphic organizer that can help to systematize the generation of ideas based upon a central topic. Using this type of diagram, the student can more easily brainstorm a theme, associate about an idea, or explore a new subject. Enchanted Learning offers a collection of printable graphic organizer templates for creating cluster diagrams.

Dabbleboard is an online collaboration application that’s centered around the whiteboard. With a new type of drawing interface that’s actually easy and fun to use, Dabbleboard gets out of your way and just lets you draw. Finally, the whiteboard enters the digital age!

Your Turn

What are some brainstorming techniques you depend on when your mind is on empty. Share your thoughts with a comment below.

About the Author

Angie Bowen is a freelance web & graphic designer and co-founder of Arbenting and Dead Wings Designs.

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  • http://www.insidethewebb.com/ Inside the Webb

    These are some incredibly useful tips. I find myself sitting down in front of my computer for hours just waiting for the right ideas to pump out of me for a new article or post on my blog.

  • http://weblogbetter.com Kiesha @ WeBlogBetter

    Thanks for this very insightful and thought-provoking post! When my brain is empty, that’s when I’ll turn to the Reader and catch up on some subscriptions. I almost certainly find something that either bothers me, touches me and motivates me to write.
    Really just the act of ingesting some other content generally gets the creative juices flowing.
    Sometimes I’ll even do a keyword search (Google’s tool) and see if there are any alternate ideas I can generate that way. I don’t always find inspiration there, but those rare moments when I do end up helping me to produce some of the best content on my blog.

    When that doesn’t work I open up the Notepad and just start type any old gobbledy-gook and wait until something finally jumps into my mind.

  • http://graphicdesignblender.com Preston D Lee

    Very nice post here. I have used social media extensively and it has proven very effective. Lately, though, I have been trying to utilize my analytics report. If people are looking for it already, why not write about it, right?

    Nice article. Thanks.

  • http://www.littleboxofideas.com Sneh Roy

    Wow Angie! I am going to print this out, you shared some really great tips! Thanks for that!

  • http://what-what.net shoaib hussain

    hey Angie you got one more loyal reader,thnx a lot for such a good insight.Please do keep inspiring and motivating.

  • http://www.smashingshare.com Smashing Share

    Very nice and informative read.

  • http://sexidesign.com Melody

    Wow, I did not know there were so many applications for brainstorming online. Personally, I use microsoft groove to orgranize a lot of things for my blog, it also has a sketching application for when I want to get ideas flowing..

  • http://518designs.com Bret Bouchard

    I have always found some of my best ideas come to me when I’m driving and not trying to think about anything. Because of that I keep a notepad in my car so that when inspiration hits I can jot down some notes so they don’t get lost by the time I get to a computer to be able to act on them.

    I think the most important part of brainstorming is being able to capture the little small ideas before they fly away. Its easy to lose little details that at when they hit are amazing, but when you come back to them alter are gone.

  • Gary

    Great tips and tools… another tool that might be an option for some is Google Wave. We’ve had some success with capturing ideas within a wave.

  • http://www.marcofolio.net/ Marco

    Loved the read – thanks for sharing this wonderful article Angie!

  • http://webylife.com Nikunj Tamboli

    Really Useful Post will surely help

  • http://www.newfirecreative.net Leighton Taylor

    Thanks for the very helpful post Angie. Brainstorming tools like this are great! I have also found that sketching mind clouds with pen and paper can be more effective than using an online tool.

  • http://arbent.net Angie Bowen

    Thanks for the feedback everyone! I’m glad I could turn you all on to some new techniques.

    Kiesha – Doing a keyword search is a great idea. Google has another tool that I was turned on to a while back and had forgotten about it until you mentioned this. I’ll try to find the name and will come back and post it if I can.

    @Bret – I always carry a notepad around with me too. And it never fails, if I forget my notepad, I suddenly have tons of great ideas lol.

  • http://twitter.com/rafaelmiranda Rafael Miranda

    This is a very helpful post indeed Angie, you just got yourself a fan!
    Im tweeting this post so I can share these words with some friends.

  • http://www.reviewclinic.co.uk Shane

    Very useful post, I am definitely bookmarking this page for future reference!

    Thanks.

  • http://john-stokes.co.uk john

    Thank you for the tips Angie, a great help :-)

  • http://www.managerjobs.mobi Jason

    The process of brainstorming is similar to composing music.

    If you don’t write down your ideas right away then you probably will forget them. In addition, you should also back up your notes in case you lose them.

  • lindagal2

    Excellent tips – thanks so much. One last-ditch effort that helps me came about when I had a design deadline and was stumped. A friend said, “Well, you promised them it would be done so you’d better do SOMETHING.” I forced myself to just put SOMETHING down. It was crap. Absolute crap. But the process of getting that out of the way really opened up the floodgates and I came up with 4 other designs I felt were good enough to present to the client. So … sometimes just forcing yourself to get through the block works, even if you’re not pleased with the initial result.

  • http://bonfx.com Douglas Bonneville

    I’ve been using Freemind for years. I’ve owned several other commercial mind mapping programs for Mac and PC, and it seems that none of them can stop the tide of feature creep. It’s the clutter of some of the commercial programs that makes them distracting. Freemind has until now (fingers crossed) remained a relatively simple app. It gets out of the way and lets you brainstorm. That said, it is totally UGLY because it’s cross platform and uses Java. But, it’s snappy once it’s running, and brainstorming is just so simple. Love it.

  • http://kenneth528.blogspot.com Kenneth Fach

    Good facts that I want to share with others. Thanks for posting such complex detail. You are a good blogger, and information source!

  • http://designluv.com/ Jon Bergan

    Angie! I wasn’t expecting to see your name at the footer of this post! How awesome!

    I really like a lot of the ideas you have here. I’ve underestimated the power of mind mapping yet have recently started to gain some interest into the whole idea. Hopefully that will help with my blog posts. :)

    JB

  • http://www.acnefreeblog.com Krista Vais

    Your RSS feed doesn’t work in my browser (Google Chrome) how can I fix it so I can subscribe to your blog?

  • http://www.migratedesign.com Laurent Jouvin

    Great points Angie. Thanks for sharing. Social media and statistics are what I rely on the most. I recently came across a site that offers statistics based on heatmaps technology. Just thought I would share this here in case some people might find it useful: http://www.clicktale.com/

  • http://www.bighdesign.com Justin Moore-Brown

    Love the tips!

    I have a book called “caffeine for the creative mind” which I use and it comes in handy but I definitely love these tips too!

    Looking forward to building that content!

  • http://www.sjlwebdesign.com.au SJL Perth

    Hi Andrew, thanks for the set of useful tips, when I first started blogging I found it hard to find inspiration.

  • http://hospitaldoctorsqueensland.com.au Hospital Doctors Queensland

    I am using Microsoft Groove since the time I started Blogging and found it quite helpful. Your post has really opened new horizons for me and most of the tips were quite new for me and worth trying. I think that a blogger should brainstorm for at least one hour each day in complete isolation for better ideas.

  • http://www.inktknal.com/product_info.php/products_id/548 HP 27 + 28

    These were great tips and techniques for starting a blog. They helped me a lot with achieving my goal.

  • http://www.infoways.in Amole

    Wow, Its really great post. I bookmarked this post. Thank you very much for the sharing your valuable knowledge. It will help me lot. Thanks again.

  • http://www.analyticsevangelist.com Analytics Evangelist

    Really pleased to see you mentioned Google Analytics above – one of the most powerful things you can do is rate all your blog/site pages using Analytics to understand which ones are contributing to build traffic or SEO value. Keep it up

  • http://www.erage.nl Webdesign Bergen op Zoom

    Excellent tips, Angie, thanks! I’m a big fan of mind mapping myself. Seems to work the best for me whenever I have to create a new blog post. What’s your preferred technique by the way?

  • Paul

    Man, this is -really- great stuff here. I was reading this post – http://www.lauraburkart.com/blog/making-blogging-easier/ and found some things to think about there too. I found your post to be more complete and spoke better to my way of thinking or how my brain works (whatever you want to call it).

    I want to start blogging but wanted to do it right and now I feel more armed to provide value out there.

  • http://wristweights.org hand weights

    I find myself sitting down in front of my computer for hours just waiting for the right ideas to pump out of me for a new article or post on my blog. i like it . thank you so much