BloggingTips—one of my favorite sites for blogging and SEO advice—rolled out a couple posts today on how to stay inspired with the handful of sap-your-motivation-to-work holidays that are coming up. I thought those posts were great starters, but they came up short on specifics and I thought I’d offer my two cents on what I use to stay creative and motivated (though I’m not immune to the occasional dry spell).
I pull most of my blogging ideas from five different sources that vary in their chronological frequency. I’ll go in descending order of frequency for the first four and save the “out of left field” one for last:
1. Twitter (right now)
Most of the stuff I pull from Twitter goes into category No. 3—at least if I feel inspired enough to blog about whatever I’ve seen. Sometimes I’ll blog right away, but usually I’m at work (my real job) so it gets saved for later. If I have any “can’t lose” thoughts, I’ll jot them down in an e-mail, subsequent Tweet or blog draft and come back to them later.
2. Google Reader (today/last week or so)
I’m probably as guilty of anyone of letting Google Reader fester for weeks at a time every now and then, but I try to keep up with it as best as possible. Since I subscribe to a ton of feeds, I skim using list view and “Option 3” (or 4) anything that I can’t get to right away. I don’t know how anyone survives—creatively, organizationally or otherwise—without an RSS reader of some sort.
3. Instapaper (last week/last few weeks)
I just recently discovered Instapaper, but it’s grown on me quick. It’s a great tool for when I’m otherwise swamped, but still incidentally picking up bits and pieces from The Stream. A simple click of my “Read Later” bookmarklet drops whatever item I’m interested in into my Instapaper queue and I get to it the next time I have a few free minutes.
These are long-term storage devices and I use both because I really do value the links I collect. (Specifically, I use the Publish 2 bookmarklet and duplicate most all of my links into Delicious, just in case.) When stuff goes in here, I’m thinking either, “Good read, worth passing along, but I’m not inspired enough to write just yet,” or, “I know I’ll need this five months from now, so into the file cabinet it goes.” Every so often when I’m feeling uninspired, I’ll click through my tags and see what jumps out.
Some of my favorite posts that I’ve written have come from things that have nothing to do with journalism or blogging (re: “Star Trek” and “Lost“). I like them because they feel the most creative—here I am sitting around watching a “Star Trek” preview and I think, “Ooh—this is sorta like journalism!” (which also marks an odd feat in branding myself a “Star Trek” and journalism geek in the exact same moment). They also break up the “expected-ness” of my blog.