Idea Brainstorming in List Format

I make grocery lists. I write them long hand, sometimes I even use cursive writing. I like still having something to write. A time when I don’t type away at the keyboard. I miss writing long hand. But, I get writer’s cramp far sooner than I ever did before word processing evolved.

I write other lists too. Often I think they are silly and useless lists of ideas. Most of the time I don’t look at them again. I don’t really need to because I have so many ongoing lists of ideas I am never short of a fresh list. Even if I don’t use my lists in a productive way, they are fun to write. They do lead to new ideas and connections. So, even if you make dozens of lists, the brainstorming process is still worthwhile.

Start in one place, one idea and see where you end up.

From CopyBlogger, November Content Excellence Challenge prompt:

This is her suggestion on how to very quickly brainstorm dozens of ideas about topics you’re genuinely passionate about. I’ll use her words to describe the process, which I’ll bet you can knock out this afternoon:

“… list out 10–20 ideas or topics you vehemently disagree with in your market. Then, list out 5–10 aspects or features of your product or service that you’re incredibly passionate about. Finally, list out 5–10 misconceptions your potential customers make and how your offer turns them around.

“You now have a huge list of things you can speak or write enthusiastically about. Try creating emails, blog posts, podcast episodes, or videos from this list. Try speaking to local groups about something on the list. Try bringing up list items in your next sales call.”

– Tara Gentile, Creative Live

Planning for Your Future Self

I have memories of pure dread for the coming day. Something I didn’t do perfectly, something I put off, or something I did pretty badly and now… tomorrow would come, as tomorrow tends to do, and I would have to face everything. It is a hideous feeling as a child. It doesn’t get a lot better as an adult but, we can at least plan ahead better than our younger selves. At the very least, we have different options.

I learned to plan in order to avoid the looming dread of facing tomorrow. I’m not perfect at planning. I still procrastinate too. But, I keep working on it.

CopyBlogger is posting about planning for your future self. Making small changes to your habits now to avoid future problems.

How will things be for your Future Self?

When you’ve posted on your blog regularly for months?
When your savings account is nice and healthy?
When your regular workout habit has you feeling fit and strong?
When you’ve launched your side hustle?
When your novel is finished?
And of course, if you don’t get those habits in place — how disappointed, stressed, anxious, uncomfortable, or cranky will you be?

Find Fresh Ideas in Social Media

Copyblogger wrote this about keywords mainly. You may find some new ideas to add to your keywords list but, better yet, watch for topics you haven’t written about yet, or new topics coming up.

Search social media for your keywords. Find others who talk and/ or write about your topic and keep track of them.

Give credit to the source for the information and ideas you find. Let them know what you liked about their post and tell them how you were inspired to do more with it yourself. This is a great way to make contact and use social media to meet people you may not have approached usually. Don’t stick to just people who are authorities in your same topic. Branch out, find connections and bring old information into new uses.

From CopyBlogger:

Write down, word for word, what people are saying about your topic. You might find a phrase, a sentence, or a full paragraph … you never know what’s going to show up on a given day.

You’re looking for:

  • Frustrations
  • Rants
  • Questions
  • Irritations
  • Failures
  • Embarrassments
  • Triumphs

How Many Manifestos Have you Written?

The CopyBlogger prompt for September is to write a manifesto. I feel I’ve done that, more than a few times over. Writing a manifesto can be draining. As great as they are, you might limit them to not more than one epic manifesto a week.

This month — why not try a manifesto?

I define this as an impassioned rant about what matters the most to you, and why.

A great place to start is:

What makes you genuinely angry?

What do you wish people would quit doing? What do you wish people would start doing? What frustrates you? What scares you?

What breaks your heart?

Create an Intersection of Ideas

I especially like the CopyBlogger Content Excellence Challenge, August Prompt:

This month, bring some of your “off topic” passions into your content.

Now, you still need to make it relevant to your audience. This isn’t a permission slip to create content they don’t care about.

Your job is to look for unexpected connections. How can you bring your passion for Marvel comics into your fitness business? Where are the points of intersection between your love of Mark Twain and your personal finance blog?

Nearly 10 years ago, Brian called this the “content crossroads” — the point at which seemingly unrelated ideas connect. And there are always interesting things to be found at the crossroads.

The following is quoted from the post linked above, by Brian Clark. I reposted the points because they are all great points and I know they have worked well for me most of my life. I especially believe in listening to people I don’t agree with. Not an easy thing to do. Some people you don’t agree with just because of who they are. or who you think they are. Listen anyway. You don’t have to spend the day listening, just enough to know you heard them. Listening does not require you to change your mind, just hear what someone else thinks, believes and has experienced.

1. Learn for life.

To me, this is the most important and essential trait for any creative person. You’ve got to go well beyond learning everything in your niche and try to simply learn everything. Naturally curious people seem to come up with ideas easier than most, so kick your curiosity up a notch and investigate any topic that interests you. Then, learn about things that don’t interest you—you might be surprised by what you end up enjoying. You’ll also see more connections between things you thought were unrelated.

2. Change perspective.

Leonardo da Vinci believed that to truly understand something, you need to look at it from at least three perspectives. Leo did alright for himself, so maybe his advice is solid. The ability to look at something that everyone else is looking at and see it differently is the hallmark of creative thinking, and practice makes perfect. Train yourself to dispense with the commodity of opinion and examine things from multiple perspectives. You’ll be amazed at what you find when you play Devil’s Advocate.

3. Free your mind.

Many people think that creativity is something to schedule, like a staff meeting or a luncheon. While setting aside time for “brainstorming” and “thinking outside the box” can be helpful, you’re still perpetuating an illusion. The truth is, there is no box, and you have the ability to be creative at any moment. Allow yourself to recognize your own delusions and social constructs, and start questioning your assumptions at every opportunity. Better yet, reverse your assumptions and see where you end up.

4. Travel.

One of the great benefits of online business is freedom from the tyranny of geography. And the more we see of the world and different cultures, the more our minds open up and see limitless connections and possibilities. One of the worst things we do to ourselves in terms of creativity is to stay within the realm of the familiar. So make it a point to get out, do new things, and travel to new places. You’ll have to check with your accountant to see if a trip to Prague counts as a business expense, but there’s no doubt it can seriously help your business.

5. Listen.

Are you a talker or a listener? This is something I’ve really tried to work on, because I learn so much when I shut up and listen. Every person you meet has a perspective that differs from yours, and you can learn amazing things from simply listening. Just like the Medici family brought all sorts of different people together and sparked something phenomenal, you too can create a content renaissance by interacting with as many different people as possible. Don’t hang out with people who reflect your existing beliefs, hang out with people who challenge you.

Visualize Where you Want to Go

Do you have a clear idea of where you want to go? I can’t say I do. Sure, I have some general idea of my happy ending. Well, not even that because I’m not planning the end part of ending.

Without going that far, I don’t really have a set plan of how I want things to be by next week, or next month, or next year. I do plan. I just don’t plan on a timeline.

Some people may find this long distance planning a good thing. It just frustrates me. There are too many things I can’t predict, or be sure of. Trying to visualize ahead (more than a few hours) just falls apart.

I’m a road trip planner. I know where I intend to go along the way so I can map out a route, just don’t ask me when I will get to each destination. There will be stops along the way. There will be extra time spent in one place and less in others. I don’t want to promise to meet anyone at a set place or time, because that will change it from a road trip into a chore.

So, I can visualize where I want to go. I can’t visualize what the world around me will look like when I get there.

Without drama or self-flagellation? That just doesn’t happen for me. Chances are, that is the reason this exercise isn’t helping me.

It comes from Robert Fritz’s Path of Least Resistance, and in a nutshell, the technique is:

  1. Visualize where you want to go. In other words, what will the world around you look like when you’ve achieved what you want? Get extremely clear on this.
  2. Notice where you are now. What does the world look like as it is today? Get extremely clear on this.
  3. Without a lot of drama or self-flagellation, notice the specific differences.

The point here is not to beat yourself up about all the ways in which you don’t live up to your dreams. The point is simply to get very clear on where you are, and where you want to be.

The next step is just to figure out … what the next step is. What action, large or small, would move you in the right direction?

You can keep cycling through these steps — today, tomorrow, or quite literally for the rest of your life. Each cycle “pivots” you in a small way in the right direction. Over time, small pivots, with forward movement, add up to major changes.

From Copyblogger.

Marketing Headlines

I don’t like the trend to write sensationalist headlines. They over promise, over dramatize and disappoint. Headlines all about marketing are too common and just add to information overload. People can only read so much in a day. Too often these marketing based headlines lead readers in but don’t deliver any real information, nothing fresh, relevant or important. Fluff!

Headlines like those do not build you as an authority on your topic. Traffic to your site may pick up but, especially if you are running a business, trust in your business will go down. You don’t deliver as promised.

100 Great Tips for Whitening your Teeth your Dentist Doesn’t Want you to Know…. 

Sure there are 100 tips but most of them are things you already know and a lot of them are things the author has not tried themselves, so chances are they don’t work. As for the element of things being secret – that’s just hype.

How many of these headlines will people read before they go blind to them? How much mistrust will you build trying to get people to come to your site?

Propaganda and sensationalism are fragile shells to walk on. Once the shell breaks it is very hard to rebuild trust with customers, readers or the public in general. 

This post was inspired from Copyblogger’s Content Excellence Challenge suggesting people write headlines as marketing propaganda. I don’t think they thought the idea through.

Play with your Words When you Write

Do you play with your words when you write?

Writing nonfiction can become dry, there is the expectation that your words are limited, without excess. Fiction writing is where you can think about how words fit together, how they sound when read, various meanings and ways to describe emotions, actions, etc. Fiction writers get to play with language readers may need a dictionary to find. Nonfiction writers are supposed to make sense, be easily read and come to a point.

I don’t entirely agree with that idea of nonfiction writing.

Beyond wiggling around with facts and swaying opinions, nonfiction writers can play with their words too.

Try a new word.

Look for words you often use and change them for a new word. Find a new synonym for an old word. There are lots of sites to look at, or try the local library.

Take out a word.

Eliminate a connecting word you often use and see if everything works, in spite of it. A good word to try is ‘that’. I watch for it myself. It is over used and doesn’t always need to be used at all. My last sentence has a few extra words. Take a look at it, edit it and then read your new version. Do the extra words make a difference, or are they just extra words?

Play with sound.

Some words have a crisp sound. They can be sharp and clear. Short words work well this way. Where do you put your short words? Move words around in a sentence and then read each version out loud. Change it around until you have a sentence that reads well, when spoken.

Play with sound patterns, like poetry. Turn an ordinary sentence into a haiku. Turn another sentence into a limerick, rewrite it so the pattern works even though the words are not a limerick.

Playing with your words helps avoid burnout because you go back to what you like about writing – the writing itself. Plus, it becomes about and for yourself, not just what will please your readers.

Writers who spend all their time “creating content” run the risk of burnout … and extreme creative boredom.

The bonus prompt: to sharpen your skills and perfect your craft, schedule some time to play with words
Screenwriting, playwriting, fiction, and poetry are all delicious ways to play with language, sound, and meaning…

From Copyblogger.


I’ve given myself this Copyblogger Challenge. The warm up for the year of challenges is to write about your values. I’m not in the mood to tackle something less than concrete right now. I feel frustrated, over burdened, and stuck in place. It’s my values which are in part to blame.

Values don’t always make you feel good. They can be too much to live up to. But, the ideals still matter so we just keep on trying. Once in awhile things catch up, in a good way. Then you can take a breath, feel you have done well by yourself, and … what? Self satisfaction is about it. If you go looking for, or expect gratitude from others, you’re likely to be disappointed. People may be grateful but tend not to express it, or not express it in the way you wanted.

Values have to be a thing you do for yourself, because that’s how you want to live.

  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Loyalty
  • Courtesy
  • Exploring
  • Creating
  • Ingenuity

The list could get longer, but that’s enough today.

Courtesy can be the hardest value to stick with. It sounds simple. Being polite to others. Thinking of others. Putting others first, in moderation. There’s the tricky part, moderation, and deciding where that line is. Where does courtesy and putting others first cross the lines between selfishness and self-sacrifice? It’s a personal choice, more likely based on feelings than facts.

Start the challenge (it began in January so this is a late start in November) yourself.

From the Copyblogger Content Excellence Challenge:

The exercise is to write out a list of 5–10 values that matter to you. Keep this list somewhere handy, and look it over from time to time.

You might write about:

  • What the value means to you
  • A quick memory or story
  • Frustrations with the value
  • Mixed feelings about the value

This writing is just for you, so write about what’s real, not what you think you should write.