There are more than 82 things to write about. There are actually more than a million things to write about.
The other day I met an acquaintance, and he asked me how I thought about the posts I wrote on Linkedin.
Immediately I knew he was expecting the generic answer. Something like: I have a Google sheet with keyword research, or – I see what’s trending and write about that, or – I have a system for writing exactly what will impact, or – I brainstorm a bunch of topics in my content cluster.
All this advice is not only not helpful, it harms your writing. Why? Because when you write about something you don’t care about, you gradually lose motivation to write. And motivation is the number 1 thing you should care about when writing.
So here is how I pick the topics I write.
1. What is my expertise?
You could pick a random article you find in the newspaper, say “Is this the end of late-night television?”, and write about that. I wouldn’t recommend doing this. The main reason is again the lack of motivation for this topic.
Writing about something you are already pretty well versed at has several advantages:
- Over time, after writing several articles on the same topic, you will improve in the area that is most useful to you.
- You are familiar with the topic, so it will be easier to write.
- You have a better chance to produce a higher level of writing if you are an expert in the field.
Your expertise could be your profession. If you are a social media manager, write about social media. You don’t have to know about the specific thing you are writing about. If there is a new social media tool, for instance, write about your process of testing it out.
You can also write about your hobby, or topic of interest. Maybe you’re into pet haircuts. I don’t know. Write about that. Start with the history of haircuts for dogs.
My personal expertise, by the way, involves several topics:
- Content marketing
These aren’t the only topics I write about, and I don’t restrict myself from write about anything. But when I am looking for a topic, and am at a bit of a loss, I go to my stronger areas to find the next thing to write about.
2. What is a problem you recently faced, or someone recently told you about?
When you are communicating with your spouse, it is often considered bad form to try to be in “problem-solving” mode. When writing, however, being in this mode is pretty favorable.
Having a specific problem will help you organize your thoughts. Think of it like the closing argument in court. You state your case, and then give arguments why the jury should agree with your point of view.
This is not just a writing skill, it’s a life skill. It’s going to be extremely useful to be able to argue correctly over your case. It can help you with rent negotiations, job interviews, relationships, and countless other everyday activities.
3. Notice your thoughts
This point is more vague and hard to define, I’ll tell you that in advance. I’ll explain it like this: think of the fact that at any given moment, your brain is like a highway of thoughts. Some are conscious, some are subconscious, and you hardly have control over this traffic. What you can do is quiet yourself down, remove distractions, and try to notice if a good topic comes to mind. Once you quiet your emotions and state, the right topic will pop into your awareness. This is mostly a passive process.
4. Having a bigger goal in mind
We sometimes are too focused on a single task, to understand that the completion of the single task is dependent on having a bigger task.
For example, you want to “solve” the problem of having something to write about today, but you fail to see that if you had a bigger writing project, it would automatically solve dozens of these smaller daily problems. If you commit to growing your understanding of digital marketing for the next 3 months, you’ll have your writing topics pretty much written down for you.
5. Solving your audience’s problem
I know I’ve already written in point 2 about problem solving, but this point is a bit different, in a nuanced way.
Writing this blog, for instance, I myself had to struggle to figure out what to write about. I approached this as a detective would approach a murder mystery. I started to gather little bits and pieces of information, trying to answer the bigger puzzle.
The problem I started with was “How to write”. I knew I wanted to deal with this topic, and deal with it in a way that would help my audience. If they read the various posts I would write, I wanted them to be better at writing.
Then I thought, “why can’t they write”. To answer this I tried to think why I sometimes couldn’t write, or couldn’t improve my writing. I also pondered how I would help my colleagues and friends write.
I research and collected other pieces people had written about the same topic, noting which topics resonated with me and which didn’t.
This way, I gradually found various sub-topics I thought were key to improve writing:
- How to write more humoristically
- How to persuade people with writing
- How to write a case study
- Why write
This eventually became my writing topics, listed in a dedicated spreadsheet. It sounds simple but it really works.