Running Out of Ideas? Here’s How to Uncover Topics Related to Your Passion.
Two weeks ago, I wrote a piece dedicated to authors, on how they can develop categories for their social media posts to promote their work. This week, I want to dedicate a piece to my fellow freelance writers. It’s for those who want to keep writing about their passions but feel like they’ve said everything they can say.
Let me take a moment, first, to distinguish between two types of freelance writers that I want to engage with in this piece: the freelance writer and the content writer.
The freelance writer typically writes for their own purposes. This isn’t meant in a selfish sense; rather, freelance writers produce essays under their own name, and create a “byline” with the publication they’re writing for. When you see “By McKenzie Lynn Tozan” under the title of the piece, that’s the byline. These pieces usually are personal narratives, reflective and informative works, and opinion-based pieces centered around current events and hot topics. Freelance writers may appear as guest writers, where they produce only one piece for a publication. They may also be a contributing writer, writing for the publication on a regular schedule.
The content writer, on the other hand, writes for other people: blogs, corporate publications, authors, you name it. They are the writers “behind the curtain,” if you will. These are the writers who produce frequent, anonymous blog posts for a large corporation, or write all of the content that appears on a banking website. They write landing pages for solopreneurs, promotional materials for published authors, and test materials for college preparation websites. Much of the informative work we see online is written by freelance writers, who are employed (one-time or under contract) to write under the name of the publication, instead of under their own name.
Now that I’ve made this distinction between types of writers, I hope it’s clear how the approach to writing and staying inspired may vary. Below, are some tips for both, on how to keep writing to their passions, in light of daily writing assignments and deadlines.
To my fellow freelance writers: Through which avenues have you approached your topic? What personal ideas or memories can you relate to this topic? What other perspectives have you heard, and how did they make you feel?
When I was teaching freshman composition at the university, I asked my students to address the topic they had chosen from the opposite stance they personally held. For example, if they were Pro Life, I asked them to explore the Pro Choice perspective. This was an excellent exercise in oppositional writing. Also, it got my students thinking about how the opposite view formulated and maintained their perspective.
This is something I attempt in my own writing when I’m feeling stuck. I may not write an entire piece from the opposing perspective, but I will include a paragraph or two that thoroughly explores those ideas and how they make me feel. This often gives me new fuel to discuss my topic, as I look for more answers to the question of why I feel the way I do. This is something that I will recommend to you too. It works if you are interested in an opinion-based topic and need a new way to talk about it.
There’s also the avenue through which you typically address your topic for you to consider. Maybe you always write informative essays about the current events related to your subject. That means you now have the opportunity to write your emotional response to a current event. Or you could write a personal narrative that focuses on a memory of yours that relates in some way to your subject; this provides a unique opportunity to explore the subject from an emotionally-invested perspective.
To my fellow content writers: Is there another angle you could examine your topic from? Have there been new developments in your topic that you haven’t covered yet? How can your audience put your topic to use?
These questions are admittedly easier to answer if you are writing content that relates to debatable topics or current events. If you are, you can address new developments as they arise. The same may goes for digital marketing or technology, for which you can address new methods of use to your audience.
Let’s address something more complicated: maybe you write the content for a hotel franchise. You wrote the About page, distinctive pages that describe the landscaping (based on the location), and the more popular features of the various locations (saunas, etc.). But now the franchise wants you to add new content; what do you do? An easy way to add a fresh bit of information to the website, and also have fun doing it, is to describe events going on in the area. Write about relevant events that the hotel in some way accommodates (perhaps with special room pricing or a catered lunch!). Maybe you’re even able to attend one of these events for yourself, to provide that perspective.
Now, writing about hotels may not be your passion. But this is a good example of how you have to think when freshening up your content writing approach. You must think about current events and new developments when you can. Then there’s location, which brings to the table varied cultures, ideas, and events, in some way related to your subject.
And of course, there’s always the bit we need to write about how our audience can use this information. Also, tell them why they may see value in it. Answering this question is always important, and may give us a unique opportunity to hone our persuasive writing skills.
The moral of the story: No content area is exhaustive. It’s all a matter of how you think about it.
When I return to a subject I have long-loved and feel talented in writing about, it is a severe blow if I feel stuck. Stuck,wondering what new information I can bring to the table.
But if I give myself the opportunity to explore the subject through a new perspective, I can come up with something. Thinking about what might be new about that subject from the last time I wrote about it, also helps.
And from there, the passion flares back up, and the writing gets easier with each new line.