There is a common question among people these days, from book author to amateur bloggers, in particular those who are new to the medium. They want to know how it is possible to come up with an original idea anymore. Hasn’t everything been taken?
With the creation of the Internet, we have been provided with access to content in a way never seen before. We can share our own work, see the work of others, and bypass the step of finding someone willing to publish and promote it. That task now falls to us as individual creators, and the platform is massive.
Due to this information overload, it is easy to become disheartened. How can you ever hope to come up with a truly original idea? Human beings have a tendency to follow by cultural motifs, telling the same stories over and over again. How many times have you come across the story of Romeo and Juliet? Or the heroes journey found paralleled by Mithras, Jesus Christ or Hercules?
Following these patterns, you will probably be coming up with ideas that have been presented many times before. But there is a secret to always remember: it doesn’t matter.
Old Content, The New Way
When creating awesome content, you have one job: to give the viewer something valuable. It doesn’t matter if they have heard the story a thousand times, as long as they have never heard if your way, before. And if they have? Well, if you still manage to entertain, provoke or connect, then you aren’t losing anything.
If you can find an angle, you can do pretty much anything. Here is an example: In 2010, Frank Auer wrote a piece entitled “What Star Wars Can Teach You About Inbound Marketing”. Sounds intriguing? Yes and it catches your attention and makes you click.
What Auer managed to do in that article is take a well known story that people have referenced to death, and apply it to a new concept. It made sense, was relevant, and it continues to be a helpful post four years later thanks to insights that still apply.
Overcoming Creative Blocks
Maybe the issue isn’t that you worry your idea is stale or overdone. Perhaps your struggle is due to a lack of any ideas to focus on in the beginning. When you are constantly faced with other people’s approach to a topic or idea, it can kill your interest in that particular bit of content.
Everyone has a creative block sometimes. There are a few things you can do to overcome it:
- Ask for help. Sometimes it’s just easy as that: Just tweet it, for example. Crowd-source! That’s what we do at MyBlogU as well: Have content ideas flow from people who may have an absolutely different experience and expertise but who will suddenly sparkle your imagination with their fresh outlook.
- Use idea generators. These work by putting in a topic or idea, and then letting it come up with a randomized concept for you. For example, it can give you a title for a blog post, then the reasons broken down for each part. HubSpot asks for three nouns to make a more targeted, specific blog title. Content Row gives you a link bait title that lets you choose style, like controversial or lists. I just generated a headline and got, “Guns don’t kill people, Voldemort kills people.” Provocative, huh? Note: Don’t take these title generators too seriously (I mean there’s no need to write the exact,y generated title. They work to sparkle your imagination)
- Check out writing prompts (this one is nice for example). Writing prompts aren’t just for writing. I know illustrators who use it for comic or drawing ideas, and video directors who use it to short film inspiration. Writing prompts are everywhere, and they give you a solid foundation to start building an idea. No matter how tapped you feel, reading through a list will be sure to spark something in you. Just be careful not to follow them too closely. Prompts should give you a very basic framework; your own ingenuity should take you the rest of the way.
- Go back to unfinished content. That piece of content you started planning six months ago before shoving into an elephant graveyard of past ideas? It’s time to bring it back out to give it another look-see. Many people, even famous authors, will do this. There are times when you just aren’t feeling an idea, or you become invested in something else. You very well may be ready to tackle it now.
- Go back to finished content. Did you create something that was well received in the past? Revisiting the topic will a follow-up, updating it, or straight up recycling it can be a really good way to capitalize on an idea that worked once before. Just be careful not to create the exact same thing in a transparent attempt to relive your glory days. The Weather Girls had a hit with It’s Raining Men, but they didn’t with Dear Santa (Bring Me a Man This Christmas). You feel me?
- Look at what others are doing. When in doubt, take a look around. What are other people focusing on? What is trending, hot, or making a comeback? It might not be a timeless piece, but it could be a semi-popular, temporary post that helps you get through a period of being otherwise burnt out.
- Let your mind drift. When I want to come up with ideas, I will just let my mind drift, Inevitably, I will daydream. This leads to come truly interesting ideas that I didn’t expect to have. Just relax and see what floats to the surface. Once you have an interesting idea, focus on it for awhile and follow the trail.
- Make a massive list of ideas. Not every idea has to be followed through with. So don’t be afraid to just let loose with a huge list of ideas you will never use. Sit down, start writing down anything that comes into your head, no matter how dumb or random. There is a good chance that, while you will have a lot of misses, you will come up with at least one hit.
If you feel like every idea has been taken, you’re right, it has. But who cares? That doesn’t mean you can’t come up with your own interesting take on it. You just need to come up with an idea, and go from there.