Some lucky souls don't have to brainstorm blog post ideas. Their ideas come freely, like little gifts wrapped in pink ribbon dropped from the gods of the internet into their waiting Evernote files.

I’ll admit, I’m usually one of those lucky souls. Please don’t hate me for it.

But if you’ve been left off the internet-gods’ gift list, don’t worry.

You’re a strong, 21st century woman, and you can bloody well brainstorm blog post ideas for yourself. Screw you, internet-gods.

Instead of sitting there listless, feeling out of ideas and out of touch, you can take steps to actively brainstorm blog post ideas that:

  • your readers will love
  • will bring you more traffic
  • will grow your list
  • you can write about well, and
  • will leave you feeling energized.

Follow this step-by-step guide to gently coax your creative juices into bubbling. And once they hit a rolling boil, you’d better have a pen ready…

How to brainstorm blog post ideas: A step-by-step guide

Step 1

Gather your supplies. For this blog post brainstorming session, you’ll need:

  • 5 sheets of paper, letter (A4) sized or bigger
  • coloured pens, sharpies, markers, felt tips or pencils
  • your work calendar, schedule, goals plan and/or to-do list (don’t worry if these don’t exist for you yet)
  • a list of two or three blogs by your competitors or industry inspirations.

Why are we going old school?

If real pens and paper make you feel like you just fell out of Doc’s DeLorean, I get ya. But going old school is important here. Writing by hand coordinates the left and right sides of the brain, making us more creative.

This works better for some more than others, but we all benefit from it. Try it once. If it doesn’t work for you, then you have my blessing to grab your laptop and head back to the future.

Step 2

Take four pieces of paper and turn them sideways (horizontal). In the centre of each, in big, bold colour, draw an image that represents,

on paper 1: My Story

on paper 2: My Clients’ Biggest Questions

on paper 3: Behind the Scenes of my Business

on paper 4: The Competition

From here we’re going to use mind-mapping to get those creative juices bubbling to brainstorm blog post ideas. You might have run into mind-mapping before. It’s a technique that uses spider diagrams to visually “map” out information.

It works by engaging your cortical skills—word, image, number, logic, rhythm, colour and spatial awareness--to work together to allow you to think creatively. Here's an example:

An example of mind-mapping from Tony Buzan (read about him below).

An example of mind-mapping from Tony Buzan (read about him below).

Step 3

  • Put papers 2, 3 and 4 out of sight for now.
  • On paper 1, My Story, we’re going to use mind-mapping to find blog post ideas from your personal story.

Why personal story?
Readers want to get to know you. It helps them trust you, and they want that.  It helps them realise you “get” them, and helps them feel like they’re not alone.

  • Use the guidelines below to map out any ideas that come to you about your personal story. Write down every single idea, no matter how fleeting or dumb. The silly ones often lead to something brilliant.

- Think big and broad
- business
- family
- play
- history, and
- goals and dreams.

  • Give yourself plenty of time. Come back to it throughout the day or week.

Mind-mapping might go back as far as the 3rd century, but became popular in the 1970’s by British author and TV personality Tony Buzan.

Mind mapping guidelines from Tony Buzan

Mind mapping guidelines from Tony Buzan

Step 4

Repeat Step 3 for the remaining papers:

  • My Clients’ Biggest Questions
    What questions do they have before, during and after working with you? What questions do they ask about your work, their own lives and goals and dreams, and anything else?

Why biggest questions?
Discussing your clients’ biggest questions—even if you’re not answering them—is inherently helpful to potential clients. Smart discussion shows you’re smart. Shows you’re an authority. It also shows you understand their thoughts and concerns.

  • Behind the Scenes of my Business
    This is where you reference your work calendar, schedule, goals plan and/or to-do list. Map out all the activities that go on behind the scenes of your business: interesting and mundane; obvious and unusual; super professional and super embarrassing; and any thoughts that come to mind about it all.

Why behind the scenes?
You might be inclined to hide the messy life behind the computer screen, but don’t. Talking about the good and the ugly shows you’re honest. Honest = trustworthy. Giving insight into your processes shows just how much depth goes into your work. Talking about your mundane business stuff proves you’re a legit businesswoman.

  • The competition
    What are they doing? What blog posts have they written? Which are the popular ones? What have they missed? What do you agree or disagree with? How are you different or similar?

Why the competition?
They can be a fantastic inspiration. If they’re already blogging successfully about a particular idea, it means lots of people want to discuss that idea. So take the core idea and write about it your way, from your own opinion. Your reactions to the competitions’ thoughts can also be invaluable material.

Another mind-mapping example to brainstorm blog post ideas

Another mind-mapping example to brainstorm blog post ideas

Step 5

Nearly there! Now we've brainstormed blog post ideas, we’re going to narrow down those ideas to the best ones for your readers. Why? It doesn’t matter how much you want to tell a story, if it doesn’t help your readers.

Your blog is for business, after all. And good business is based on being helpful.

That doesn’t mean it has to be “all business.” Often sharing personal stories is both appropriate and beneficial.

But it must HELP.

  • Consider each idea you brainstormed, and ask the following questions of it:

1. Does this idea help my readers?
Really? How?

2. Can I write 500+ words on it?
This is arguably the minimum recommended length of a blog post.

3. Can I write about this and stay true to my values?
If “always be positive” is a value of yours, a vitriolic tirade on the idiots on Fiverr wrecking your industry might not fit with that value.

4. Could this be considered self indulgent?
We all write self-indulgent stuff sometimes. Try to step outside of yourself and assess if it could be, perhaps, a little bit more about your ego than helping your readers.

Take the fifth piece of paper and copy down every idea for which you answered yes, yes, yes, no to.

Then step back and celebrate!

This is your initial list of blog post ideas. You likely need to sleep on, wrangle and re-frame some ideas, but they’re there, in this list.

Keep the list safe and soon we’ll talk about:

  • how to outline a blog post from an idea, and
  • how (and why) to make an editorial calendar.

(Next week is this blog’s official launch! To celebrate, I’ll be sharing a very special post with personal advice from 12 of the internet’s biggest entrepreneurs. Seriously! We’ll continue our blog development in March. Sign up below so you don’t miss a thing.)