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Idea Starters: 20 Phrases to Help You Come Up With Topics to Write About

Does your brain hurt from coming up with new ideas for your blog? Whether you are the writer and idea starter or you assign topics to other people, coming up with topics every day or sometimes several topics per day can drain the most creative of spirits.

In The Artist's Way, a guide to freeing your creativity, author Julia Cameron refers to that drained feeling as the “creative well” being empty. There are a number of things you can do to refill your well, and we talk about them in 10 Ways to Overcome Writer’s Block When Blogging, but one of the easiest ways to come up with ideas when you don't think you have anything left to give is to use idea starters.

An idea starter is also called a prompt. It is simply a phrase that is meant to jog your brain and get your creative juices flowing. When you are at a loss for ideas, you can turn to these prompts and come up with something to write about. In addition, these prompts use good SEO and attention-grabbing methods as described in Jerry Low's 35 Headline Samples From The A-List Bloggers.

20 Prompts – New Ideas for Your Articles!

For the prompts below, you will take the title and fill in the blank. This will serve as your idea for a new article. There are hundreds of ways to finish each prompt. Even if you're at a loss for new ideas, with these prompts, you'll never face that problem again.

1. A Beginner's Guide to ___________

Fill in the prompt above with a topic that someone who doesn't understand your blog subject at all. For example, if you run a blog about baking cakes, then the above prompt might become: A Beginner's Guide to Smooth Icing.

2. Top 5 Ways to __________

This title is general enough that you could write on any topic from beginner to intermediate to advanced. For example, if your blog is about garage door openers, then you might write an article titled Top 5 Ways to Keep Your Garage Door Opener in Working Order.

3. How to Prevent __________

This title prompt is a call to action. There is something in your niche that is worrisome to readers. What is it? If your blog is about action movies, then this title might become: How to Prevent Action Movie Burnout.

4. What __________ Should Know About __________

This headline is an attention grabber for a specific audience. You will fill the first blank in with your target demographic and the second with the topic. So, if you own a car rental agency, you might write: What Vacationers Should Know About Getting the Best Rental Rates on Passenger Vans.

5. Special Report on What _________ Think About __________

Case studies and special reports lend an air of authority to your site. Let's say your site is about herbal remedies for dogs. You might turn this headline into something like this: Special Report on What Dog Owners Think About Milk Thistle for Liver Function.

6. 10 Lies You've Been Telling Yourself About __________

This is a warning style headline. It draws the reader in because she wants to know what she's been doing wrong. One example might be a dating website. The headline would become something like: 10 Lies You've Been Telling Yourself About Why You're Still Single.

7. Best Ways to Stay Safe During __________

This type of headline follows the same idea as a warning. It plays on our sense of wanting to be safe, smart, and happy. Let's use the example of a security company. The article might become: Best Ways to Stay Safe During a Home Invasion.

8. 4 Stages to Gaining __________

This is a how-to type headline but with a specific number of steps for getting from A to Z. So, a construction company might write on something like: 4 Stages to Gaining a Completely Waterproof Basement.

9. Why You Should Steer Clear of __________

This is another warning to the reader. You can fill in the blank with just about any topic imaginable. If you are an SEO specialist, you might turn that title into: Why You Should Steer Clear of Paying for Search Engine Placement.

10. Best Tips for Creating __________

This title should be reserved for your very best advice for readers. It should come from an expert interview, personal experience, or scientific research from reputable sources. Let's say you run a site that sells clothing. You might write the following: Best Tips for Creating the Perfect Outfit for New Year's Eve.

11. 3 Steps to Learn __________

This title is very versatile. To fill in the blanks for this title, think about what your readers need and want to learn and what special knowledge you have. If you run a cooking school, you might right about: 3 Steps to Learn to Make the Perfect Souffle.

12. Pros and Cons of __________

What are some of the most common pros and cons involved in your industry? If you run a public relations company and you want to reach potential customers, you might write a topic like: Pros and Cons of Print Advertising in Today's Digital World.

13. All You Need to Know About __________

This is a comprehensive guide-type article. What are the big topics for your site? If you have a site about cats, then you might write something about: All You Need to Know About Introducing a Kitten to Your Other Cats or All You Need to Know about Feline Leukemia.

14. The __________ Guide to __________

Speaking of guides, how can you provide extremely specific advice to your readers that no one else is offering? If you sell sewing supplies, you might write something like: The Teenager's Guide to Sewing Your Own Prom Dress.

15. Increase Your __________ by __________% with __________.

Play on reader's desire to improve themselves with this headline. Let's say you run a site that offers financial planning advice. You might write something like: Increase Your Retirement Portfolio by 50% with Penny Stocks.

16. Fast Relief for __________

If someone is suffering, then what do they desire? That's right…fast relief. This title meets that need. Let's use an example of a website parents. You might write something on: Fast Relief for Cholic or Fast Relief for Sore Throats in Kids.

17. Are You Worried About __________?

“Are you” headlines are another way to touch upon a concern your site visitors might have. The article then presents a solution to that concern. So, if you run a site where people discuss political issues, you might write something like: Are you Worried About the Upcoming Election? or Are You Worried About Voting for the Wrong Person? Think like your readers and try to figure out what they are most concerned over.

18. Get __________ Like __________ (famous person)

Another technique is to use the name of a famous person to draw people into the article. Let's say you run a dieting advice website. You might write something like this: Get Biceps Like Channing Tatum.

19. For People Who __________

This title can cover a wide range of topics. The idea is to fill in the blank with a wish. So, you might write something like: For People Who Want to Lose 30 Pounds or For People Who Want to Improve Their Golf Swing.

20. X Proven Ways to __________

You are offering value with this type of title. These ways are “proven” and the experts recommend them or you've tested them yourself. For a site about writing, you might come up with: 20 Proven Ways to Finish Your First Novel.

Don't be afraid to add to the titles, but try to keep them under 10 words or you risk losing the reader's attention. Extremely long titles also look strange in mobile devices. According to Pew Internet Research, two-thirds of cell phone users go on the Internet. Keep that in mind as you formulate an interesting but short title. So Top 5 Ways to Bake a Cake, could be expanded to Top 5 Ways to Bake the Perfect Cake.

Emergency Technique to Find an Idea

photo credit: juhansonin via photopin cc

If you've tried each of the writing prompts above and still don't have a solid idea to write about, try a free association technique called clustering. Celestine Chua, founder of Personal Excellence, recommends the clustering technique in her article 25 Useful Brainstorming Techniques. This is a technique I have used successfully myself to come up with ideas for research paper topics, article ideas and even to work on scenes for novels. It is simple, yet effective. Here is how it works:

  • Grab a large piece of poster board or find a white board to write on.
  • Close your eyes for a moment and free your mind of distractions.
  • Now, start writing! Write the first thing that comes to your mind in a circle in the center of your board.
  • Write the next word that comes to mind in a circle that comes off the main circle, like in the image below.
  • Continue, creating more and more clusters of circles until you have a train of thought or several going.

Now, step back and look at your cluster. Can you come up with an idea from what you've written? Look for patterns and big ideas. If you are still stuck after trying this exercise, enlist the help of others either via a virtual meeting or in person. Repeat this exercise, but allow everyone to throw out ideas that add to the clusters.

By using the prompts above and this clustering exercise, you should be shaking off any lack of creativity and hit on that brilliant idea that will drive readers to your site and keep them there.

Photo of author

Article by Lori Soard

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