A Compressed Version Of The Endless Idea Generator
This is how you never run out of ideas...
Dear Friend & Subscriber,
I just got back from Atlanta for a nice little getaway in the mountains. First time traveling since the beginning of the pandemic—and the only reason I felt comfortable traveling was because I recently had COVID and figured the antibodies would keep me safe. Was the plane still full of idiots who refused to follow CDC guidelines, mistaking their masks for chinstraps? You betcha. But the mountains were beautiful.
On another note:
Today is the very last day to sign up for Write The Ship, our first 4-week Live Cohort for writers who want to learn how to use data to accelerate their creative decision-making, audience growth, and skills as a writer.
It’s going to be epic.
The next Write The Ship live cohort won’t begin until May, so if this is something you want to be part of, you have approximately 8 more hours to do so.
But today, I want to talk about how to never run out of ideas.
Because too often I hear writers say things like, “I don’t know what to write about” or “I feel like I’ve already written about that topic.” But the truth is, once you understand how idea generation works for creators on the Internet, you should NEVER have the problem of “running out of ideas. If anything, you should have the OPPOSITE problem. You should be like me, where you have an iPhone Notes folder overflowing with so many ideas you can’t fall asleep at night because of the anxiety it gives you thinking about how you could write every day for the next 70 years and STILL not write everything you know you are capable of writing.
(I’m being dramatic but you get the point.)
The more you write, the more you write.
So if you can’t come up with ideas, chances are, you probably aren’t writing enough. On top of that, you probably aren’t gathering enough data. And on top of THAT, you probably aren’t listening to the data you ARE getting to make informed decisions about what you should write, next.
Let’s dive in.
Writing anything on the Internet follows a very simple 3-step process:
Step 1: What “Type” Of Writing Is This?
Form #1: Actionable Guide
Form #2: Opinion
Form #3: Curated List
Form #4: Story
Form #5: Credible Talking Head
All online writing is written using one of these 5 formats—which means, even though coming up with ideas is the first half of the battle, the second half is figuring out which format is best for the idea at hand.
So, let’s break down what *types* of ideas there are.
Step 2: What “Idea” Am I Communicating Within This Piece Of Writing?
Idea #1: Explanation (When/Where/How/What/Why Something Happens)
Idea #2: Habits (To Achieve A Destination, Goal, Or State Of Being)
Idea #3: Mistakes (Keeping You From Achieving A Destination, Goal, Or State Of Being)
Idea #4: Lessons (Learned In Pursuit Of A Destination, Goal, Or State Of Being)
Idea #5: Tips (That Can Help You In Your Own Pursuit Of A Destination, Goal, Or State Of Being)
Idea #6: Stories (That Symbolize Or Explain Some Aspect Of The Pursuit Of A Destination), Goal, Or State Of Being)
Idea #7: Timely Events (That Are Relevant To The Target Reader’s Knowledge, Awareness, Or Pursuit Of A Destination, Goal, Or State Of Being)
These are, for the most part, the 7 types of ideas that exist out in the world, and are then communicated through the written word. And if you notice, they all point back to some sort of benefit for the reader—which is something we talk about a lot in our Ship 30 for 30 community Office Hours sessions. Everything you write, whether it’s nonfiction or fiction, a personal story or actionable advice, has to in some way be relevant to the reader.
Remember: You are not the main character in your story. The reader is.
Step 3: Why Me?
Finally, it’s important for the reader to understand where this information is coming from. Beyond what they’re reading, why should they listen to you? Are you the expert on this topic? Are you curating other experts?
Credibility #1: “I am an expert on this topic. Here’s what I think.”
Credibility #2: “I went out and talked to all the trusted experts on this topic. Here are all their insights and opinions in one place.”
Credibility #3: “I’m just sharing my opinion, but my opinion is the most articulate one of all.”
When you combine these three steps together (1, 2, and 3 listed above), you suddenly get a very easy (and replicable) equation for consistently writing high-quality, high-performing content.
Here are some examples:
Curated List x Mistakes x 7 Industry Experts = an article titled, “7 Founders Share The Biggest Mistakes They Made Raising Money”
Credibility x Explanation (Why) x Expert = an article titled, “I Was A Professional Gamer As A Teenager. Here’s Why eSports Is Worth Billions”
Opinion x Lessons x My Perspective = an article titled, “Our Country’s Economy Is Falling Apart. Here’s Why Low-Income Neighborhoods Are Suffering”
Just go down the list, combine steps 1, 2, and 3, and you’ll have the outline of a piece of content just waiting to be written.
How easy is that?
Nicolas “Formulas For Days” Cole