• Michael Linsin

How to Find Article Ideas: My Method

I'm sure there are many strategies online for finding article ideas. I'm going to show you one, the only one I've ever used. It's worked well for me for the past 12 years - publishing over 700 articles. It's decidedly low-tech, but that may be its greatest strength.


Here's how it works:


Gather your materials.


You're going to need a ziplock bag, stacks of sticky notes, and some pens. The bag can go in a file cabinet or kitchen drawer or wherever is convenient. The notes and pens should be available within arms reach at all times - or nearly so. In your car, bathroom, nightstand, treadmill, even by the dog leashes so you can put them in your pocket on the way out for a walk.


Open your mind.


You're not going to force yourself to come up with ideas. This rarely works well. It's far better to simply be open to them, all day every day. In other words, it's okay to think through your genre or subject area, but try not to be too specific. Your ideas must be inspired or the actual writing process will be a struggle. Wait for an idea that makes you say, "Hell yes!"


Do not sit down and think.


Setting time aside to sit with a journal and brainstorm will definitely get you some ideas. However, when you go back and look at them, with the thought of actually using them to write an article, they rarely work out. Again, when an idea is forced (i.e. without inspiration), then writing becomes a slog. When your ideas come organically, while in the shower or working out, for example, the article will almost write itself.


Immediacy is a priority.


Much of my writing comes from ideas that come to me just prior to actually beginning a new post. The reason is because the inspiration is fresh and therefore even easier to write about. The writing itself will also feel more passionate to me and thus resonate with readers. So if I'm inspired with an idea on a Saturday, and I begin the week's writing on Sunday, I'll more often that not choose that idea over the many hundreds I have stored in Ziplock bags.


Write title and bullet points.


Sometimes you'll get five ideas in a row. Some weeks you'll get ten. Other weeks only one or two. No matter. Your job is to get them down on a sticky ASAP and store them away in a ziplock. I've found it best to jot down the title that comes into your head along with a few bullet points that help remind you of the vision you have for the article.


Selection.


If you don't have an immediately inspired idea, then pull out your ziplock and start rifling through your post-its. Again, selection is best dependent on inspiration. Don't think too much. Read each idea and wait for one to jump out at you. It's weird, but you might see the same idea week after week for years on end without it stirring you. But then, all of a sudden one day you're flipping through and you know it's the one.


The Muse


By following this system, I never have writer's block. In fact, I never think much about anything before I begin writing. I'm a blank slate directed by the muse. I start typing on faith that the idea that came to me, did so for a good reason. I just let it unfold in front of me.


Whatever is there, is there.


In this way, you ensure that who you are and what you've experienced - and the wisdom therein - pours out onto the page and is thusly revealed to the reader. The best, most writable ideas, you see, come to you. They don't come from you.


PS - If you get a chance, please check out the tools Scott and I recommend. Also, if you haven't done so already, please join us. Click here and receive articles like this one in your email box.



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