With a blog, we are always writing and always publishing—pushing out a never-ending flow of content: blog articles, guest posts, ebooks, and more. We have big writing needs and this necessitates a system built to support those needs. Enter your reservoir of ideas.
A reservoir is a place where water collects. We take water out as needed and use it. Then, as it rains, water flows back into the reservoir—filling it back up. It’s a natural rhythm of endless movement.
This is exactly how an idea reservoir works. You continuously pour your best blog post ideas into it, as they occur to you, collecting them there to be worked on. Then, you take them out when needed, as you add more blog post ideas back in. It’s a constant, fluid writing system.
This is a key component of a professional blog writer’s workflow.
Don’t Let Your Best Ideas Escape Down the Drain
There’s only so much you can keep in your brain before your best ideas escape—spilling out of your mind and down the drain. You need somewhere to store your ideas safely, before they are lost.
An idea reservoir is a collection of your content ideas stored in an easy to access place.
You can use your favorite writing app, a spreadsheet, or even a paper notebook to write your ideas in. I prefer to move all my blog post ideas into one collection point in Evernote—making for a long list of ideas, with each individual idea easy to find, and develop further.
The main advantage of an idea reservoir is that you have all your best ideas in one safe place that you can work with as needed. There are four components to master working with your idea reservoir—how to:
- Fill it with great ideas.
- Pour in ideas of any length.
- Filter your best ideas to the top.
- Keep your ideas flowing.
By applying these strategies you’ll have an overflowing reservoir of blog post ideas that you can readily work with and tap into long term.
1. Filling Your Idea Reservoir
It’s important that you not only never run out of ideas, but that you always have an overloaded number of ideas to work with in your reservoir. If you’re new to this, don’t expect your reservoir to develop fully in a single day.
It can take some time to go from water drops to reservoir:
- At first your collection may start as a small bucket of water—just a handful of blog post ideas dripping in one at a time—and that’s fine to get started.
- Try spending an afternoon, or a few afternoons this week building that list. Grow it into a well of blog post ideas, one that’s quite sizable and deep.
- Continue to add blog post ideas in daily and in time this well will burst with hundreds of blog post ideas and become a thoroughly developed idea reservoir—one that will serve your blogging needs for the long term.
With a large number of blog post ideas to work with, one you’re constantly adding in new ideas to, you’ll never suffer from writer’s block again. You’ll always have another topic waiting to be written.
Here are a few suggestions for capturing your blog post ideas:
- Have a quick way to record your ideas when at your computer. I do this by always having Evernote running in the background, as well as plugged into my browser, so I can easily clip ideas, copy and paste a url, or capture ideas I have quickly.
- When you’re away from your computer, take best advantage of your paper capture system. Or, use your mobile phone or voice recorder to grab your thoughts. These tools are handy no matter where you are.
Having lots of relevant ideas is the key to keeping your reservoir full. If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas, then try these strategies:
- Reading – Books, magazines, blog posts, newsletters, and more. If you read an interesting idea, it tends to spark more ideas. If you find it relevant to your audience and blog, then take note of it. Of course movies, the radio, and really any type of art, news, or culture you consume can spark all sorts of interesting ideas. Follow your niche and also look for ideas outside your area of expertise.
- Audience – Poll your audience, answer their comments, chat with them on Twitter, hang out with them on Google+. Take note of the problems they are facing and the issues they need assistance with. What they care about will give you lots of highly-relevant ideas.
- Offsite – Hang out in forums and join communities online, answer the questions that come up there, those are great sparks to an idea for a blog post. Even a one or two sentence answer you give to a question can turn into a the spark that ignites a detailed article.
- Real Life – We get so absorbed with online activities as bloggers, not surprising as our sites live online, but our audience lives in real life. We live in real life. It informs us and shapes our experience. Take note of the important or funny things that happen to you—this is the unique material that matters and will make your blog posts stand out with compelling stories.
Make a habit of writing down your blog post ideas. Question the information you take in and experiences you have. What unique insight can you bring to each idea you come across?
Ideas come from all around us, but we shape them, give them context, and fill them with meaning. Your ideas and your opinions matter—capture them in your idea reservoir. Let’s look at exactly how to do that.
2. Pouring in Your Ideas
I use Evernote as my idea reservoir, but Microsoft OneNote or Google Docs can work fine as well. Use what works best for you, but do look at the features you need first.
It’s ideal to use an application that is available in the cloud, one that backs up automatically and sinks between your devices. This way your thoughts are always easy to access and are stored safely.
These apps are flexible enough to record your full thoughts in any individual entry, and you can take full advantage of that when needed, but don’t feel you need long entries to capture your initial ideas; short is fine. Most of my ideas start as minimal entries.
All you really need to capture is enough of the idea that you can come back to it at a later day and work with it.
Sometimes my entries in Evernote are as simple as a potential title and a few bullet points, like this:
“How to Write Powerful Headlines”
At other times, my Evernote entries are a few paragraphs or longer thoughts on a topic. I also write down outlines, when I quickly visualize the structure of a post. The more you write on a regular basis, the quicker you’ll think of an article structure and strategy early on.
Don’t worry too much about the form your initial ideas take. It’s much more important to just get your ideas into your reservoir and keep building your list.
If you’ve written ideas on scraps of paper or as voice memos, then add them to your reservoir as soon as possible. The simpler your system and the more direct from idea to placing in your reservoir, the more ideas you’ll capture safely. Also, you can place Evernote on your mobile phone to speed up your process—quickly capturing your ideas wherever you are.
After you get lots of ideas into your reservoir, you’ll need to prioritize them, so you can work with these ideas in your list effectively.
3. Filtering Your Ideas
If you’re filling your reservoir with lots and lots of ideas, then you can’t possibly write them all. This is an ideal situation—when your reservoir is well stocked with a large list of hundreds of ideas.
Unfortunately, some ideas you collect in your reservoir can sit for some time. That’s okay, some blog post ideas are great and others prove to be mediocre. It’s important to filter them.
Put the best ideas you have at the top of your list. These are the ones you want to make a priority to write on. By filtering your blog list, your best ideas are consistently written. You can prioritize the ideas in your reservoir by:
- Reader Impact – Place blog post ideas that feel like a high-impact hit with your audience high up on your list.
- High Energy – If you’re excited to write on a topic, it’s often best to tackle writing your blog post when you can capitalize on that enthusiasm.
- Timeliness – Give a higher priority to any post that’s covering a currently trending subject or news event. You want to catch the upswing and cover a topic when it matters most.
- Strategic Alignment – Ultimately, your blog posts ideas need to fit within the framework of your blogging strategy. Those that have the greatest fit for your current and long term goals should be given proper priority.
Filter your blog post ideas on a consistent basis, putting the best ones for your goals in position to be written next.
You can also cull your list periodically as needed. If you use a system like Evernote, then your mediocre ideas can always just sit at the bottom like sediment, with your best ideas flowing like water over the top.
But if you want to keep your list clear, then pull out the dirt on occasion. This can re-incentivize you to add more high quality ideas to your list. If you have a hundred ideas in your reservoir, but only twenty of them are good, then you really only have those twenty workable ideas to pull from.
Filtering helps keep your list of ideas properly prioritized, so you put your writing time into where it will make the most impact. But, many of the ideas in your reservoir are neither good, nor bad—at least at first. They are just in need of additional thought, work, and development. Once an idea enters you’re reservoir, you need to keep it moving forward.
4. Keeping Your Ideas Flowing
The ideas in your reservoir are constantly in motion. You can work with any individual idea at anytime in an application like Evernote. Just jump in and work on improving a single entry:
- Do some research and add a few paragraphs of notes.
- Plan the points you will make on this topic.
- Work on an outline or strategic structure.
- Develop that initial idea you had into the beginning of a robust article.
At any given time, you will have a number of brand new ideas in your reservoir, right next to a number of more developed ideas.
I have a Stack in Evernote called “Writing,” which serves as my reservoir. I pour all my initial ideas into a Notebook there called “Ideas”. I also work with my ideas further within that same Notebook, until they feel developed enough to pull out and turn into a complete draft.
Use this simple strategy to keep your idea reservoir moving: anytime you pull post ideas out of your system, add at least that many back in, if not more.
Some blog post ideas require longer development before they are best written on. These are the ideas you add to over time—bit-by-bit—more thoughts and information, slow cooking them until they are planned and ready to write your first draft.
Ideas flow through your reservoir fluidly—some travel quickly, while others take their time.
From Idea to Reservoir to Publication
The path that ideas take through your reservoir isn’t complicated. Let’s recap how an idea reservoir works (with an example):
- Ideas are collected. Your ideas are collected in lists in your system. This is your idea reservoir—an archived list of blog post ideas. Example: You add a “time management” blog post idea as an entry into your reservoir in Evernote. It’s now safely stored and easily accessible.
- Ideas are developed. You work with these ideas as needed—individually—move them up or down in importance as you develop them. Example: You work on your “time management” blog post idea when it fits your schedule, adding in research, ideas, work on an outline, and develop the post.
- Ideas move toward publication. You pull these ideas out as you move from rough draft toward content that is ready to publish. Example: Pull out your “time management” blog post idea after it’s been mostly written, then polish it, and prep it for publication. You then make sure to add more ideas back into your reservoir; in this case, more “time management” related post ideas—so your reservoir is always filled to the brim.
Your idea reservoir should be an active stream of ideas in motion—with ideas entering, then growing, developing, and moving on toward publication.
What does your idea reservoir look like? Do you use Evernote or another solution to keep your growing list of blog post ideas? How do you capture ideas, develop them, and move them through your system toward publication?