Input From a Weblog Stalker: Lessons in Ideation
There’s a fine between following your favorite blogger and becoming a weblog stalker. I’m a stalker, myself. I have all my favorite bloggers on digital speed dial, so to speak, and I check in on them several times a day when I’m working–just to make sure everything’s okay and no one has developed a terminal case of writer’s block or anything equally tragic.
Some people take lunch breaks. I take short, happy forays into the worlds of my favorite contemporary writers. This is how I know that Mary Caperton Morton from Earth Magazine spent her Fourth of July hiking in the Tetons and that Ree Drummond is currently hip-deep in spring calves.
This is important, need-to-know information … at least for me.
I find some of my best inspiration in the poetic words and vivid pictorials posted by my favorite freelance blog writers. And when you make your living writing thousands of words per day and your livelihood depends upon your ability to constantly generate fresh, new ideas and interesting topics–inspiration is vital. Take it from me, someone who’s run dry on more than one occasion.
Happily, since I graduated from casual reader to hardcore blog-stalker, I’ve gleaned countless thousands of ideas from the giants who trod this path before me:
- Real-life experiences make the best blog posts. Never try to fake writing in-depth on a topic about which you know nothing. Research will take you part of the way, but never attempt to pass your research off as cold, hard experience. If I tried to write a blog post about my experiences spring calving, I’d sound pretty darn foolish to someone who’s done it year after year since they were knee-high to a fence post. Still, Ree’s blog post made me think about things I have done in the past that I might be able to pontificate intelligently about. For instance, I’ve spent some time on the Appalachian Trail –that could work as a post. I spent ten years working Black Friday at Toys R Us too–plenty of material there.
- Grammar and punctuation still matter. They STILL MATTER. I can’t stumble through a badly written blog, and I would hate to subject my own loyal readers to this atrocity. If you find your own blog posts littered with questionable acronyms or you’re not sure where your commas go, spend $20 on the AP Style Guide. It’s the kind thing to do.
- Write about the topics that you find most intriguing. My own inner circle already knows about my infatuation with Mary Caperton Morton because I talk about her and her Teardrop way too much. Eventually, mention of her found its way into my own blog because I’m passionate about her life…and because it’s pertinent to my topic. If you enjoy talking about subjects, you’ll enjoy writing about them even more. This is where passion comes into play: a well-written blog post about a topic you’re passionate about will be a hit every time.
These are all lessons I picked up from doing more reading than writing. I know what I like in a good blog and I try to replicate the best of these features in my own content–ideation most of all. So, if you’re a writer whose creative well is running dangerously close to dry, stop what you’re doing and spend a virtual hour rounding up cattle or taking selfies on mountaintops. New, clever ideas are out there waiting for you even now.
So go. Read. Write.
Anne G is an avid Internet stalker of fine writings and interesting people. She enjoys big words, grand ideas and lots of punctuation.