Creative Ideas for Writing Content

by Matt Ward

on March 28, 2011

in design Resources

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We may, by trade, call ourselves web designers and/or developers, but let’s face it: many of us also have to wear the hat of writer from time to time too. Whether it’s a matter of producing content for our own blogs or perhaps being enlisted by a client to pen some of the copy for their site, I would guess that a sizable number of readers find themselves in the author’s chair from time to time.

But writing in and of itself is not always easy, and sometimes blogging can be even harder. Often, the biggest hurdle of all is just coming up with an interesting and compelling topic to write about.

In this article, I would like to look at a number of different techniques that you can use to help take that first step and come up with a topic that readers will hopefully latch onto, and perhaps even talk about on social media, thereby driving more traffic to your site! Also, while a lot of the examples that I will be pointing to come from the design community, I don’t think that these techniques are necessarily restricted to writing about design. They can be applied to almost any niche at all!

Write the Impossible

One great way to come up with a truly creative post is to look at your niche and then write something impossible that still sheds light on your subject! Sound confusing? It’s really quite simple (though perhaps not easy to execute). It involves looking at your topic from the perspective of something that cannot actually exist, but which will still provide an interesting perspective on your topic.

Want an interesting example? How about discussing how a number of the most popular blogs in the web design niche would smell. Yes, that’s right, smell. Just over a year ago, the site ThreeStyles actually published a blog post in which the author took 10 of the most popular design blogs (including DesignM.ag, based on its design at that time) and actually tried to imagine how each of them would smell.

But, you say, that’s impossible. Websites don’t have a smell! You’re quite right, of course, but it’s still an interesting idea to think about, and while I think the ThreeStyles post could have gone a little deeper, it certainly worked well for them, as the article was posted all over design-related Twitter streams after its initial release.

Just because something is impossible doesn’t mean that people don’t want to think about it as though it were possible. It’s called fantasy, and when done right, it the kind of thing can actually result in truly interesting and meaningful content!

Find A Different Perspective

Instead of always writing from the perspective of your particular niche, try coming at your topic from a different perspective to help keep things fresh and interesting. It’s really amazing the way you can find different parallels and similarities between two seemingly unrelated topics. It can also be an extremely valuable learning exercise for your readers.

One example that I remember reading came from the blog over at Agents of Good, a non-profit based agency based out of the (Greater) Toronto area. This particular post was looking at some of the things that non-profit organizations could learn from the story of the Titanic. Yes, that Titanic—the supposedly unsinkable ship that quickly proved the experts wrong by crashing into an iceberg and sinking to the depths of an icy grave. The article in question uses a number of key elements from the Titanic story (not the movie) and translates them into meaningful metaphors that can actually be instructive on how to effectively work in the not-for-profit fundraising sphere.

Another common example of writing from another perspective is articles that use the 7 deadly sins (you know: envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, pride, sloth and greed) as a framework to talk about some other topic. Just look at some of the design articles that do this: “The Designer and the Seven Deadly Sins”, “7 Deadly Sins Represented with Web Design Colors” and “The Seven Deadly Sins of Design”. Each article makes its own unique points, but does so in the context of this popular cultural motif.

Whatever topic you’re writing about, using a different perspective can result in interesting ideas and a fresh understanding for your readers.

Combine Your Passions

We all have things that we are passionate about. Hopefully what you’re writing about is one of those things, since passion almost always leads to more engaging writing than objective indifference. In my experience however, people rarely have just a single passion. In my case, I am passionate about design, but also about writing, and baseball, my family and even music.

Often, the things that draw us to one passion are also the same things that draw us to another. Given this relationship, it can often be both beneficial and enlightening to bring these passions together, and examine one in the context of another.

Using the music example, we can consider out the article “5 Things Musicians Can Teach Designers”, published over at SpyreStudios. In that article, author Oleg Mokhov—the self professed “world’s most mobile musician”—approaches the issue of design by drawing meaningful parallels with the music industry. It’s an interesting article that provides a unique perspective on the subject.

On a more comic note (pun intended, as you will see), I also have a passion for my favourite caped crusader, also known as Batman. It’s not an obsessive passion by any means, but it did lead me to write the article “If Photoshop Was Batman, Then Illustrator Would Be…”, in which I made different comparisons between Adobe’s two products and the relationships between the Dark Knight and a number of the other characters from his particular universe.

It was a fun, somewhat silly article, but it drew on something that I was genuinely interested in and really cared about. It also proved to be a hugely popular post at the time that it was published.

Draw on Current Events

Different things are always happening in the world, and while a given site may not be directly related, it’s always at least worth considering whether or not you can develop some sort of correlation between current events and your topic. This can help establish a connection between your site and/or niche and what people are already talking about anyhow, thus drawing attention and also providing you with some extra SEO benefits—if people are talking about it, you can be sure that they are searching it too!

Back during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, I was really invested in the games and was spending a lot of time watching the events on TV and following them on the web. And I knew that I wasn’t the only one. The Olympics are always a pretty big deal all around the world. So, I started to think about what kind of parallels there might be between being and Olympic athlete and being a designer. Interestingly, the more I thought about it, the more I came to realize that there were a number of parallels. So, I sat down and wrote an article entitled “6 Things Designers Can Learn from The Olympics” and published it around the fourth day of the games.

It proved to be a very well received article, with lots of comments and feedback!

More recently, the world has been overrun with discussions about the infamous Charlie Sheen and his “winning” and apparent “tiger blood”. Irregardless of what is likely a poorly conceived metaphor, the comment has obviously received a lot of press and people have been talking about it. So, the people at Harcos Laboratories (who sell a variety of “potions” for entertainment purposes and no real medicinal value) have capitalized on Sheen’s antics and created a product called Tiger Blood. It’s a brilliant, humorous bit of content, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it became one of their top sellers over the next little while!

Conclusion

Writing content can definitely be one of the hardest parts of running and/or creating a website. With the techniques listed above, however, I hope that you will be armed to work at coming up with unique and interesting content that will offer a new perspective on your subject, and which will resonate with your audience.

Of course, this list is by no means exhaustive, and there are all kinds of other, similar techniques (and probably even different ones). The key is to allow your creativity to run wild. Think about things from different angles and try not to get stuck in a rut, through which all of your content ideas come from the same basic technique.

Mix it up, have some fun, end remember to challenge your standard methods of finding new and creative ways for generating your ideas, posts and articles!

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About Matt Ward