When you're stuck on what to write, or what to teach, it's rarely because you actually lack good topics or enough knowledge… even though that's the conclusion most of us draw when we have trouble coming up with a topic. You're probably sitting on a treasure trove of great potential topics. The trick is to find a way to recognize them.
Techniques for mining your treasure trove of topic ideas
1. Think of the conversations you have with your clients. What types of questions do they ask you? What types of problems do you solve even if they're never explicitly asked? The answers you give and solutions you figure out are great topics for articles, classes, and even information products or classes.
2. What kinds of ideas do you find yourself discussing when you work with a client? What ideas do you like discussing on Twitter or Facebook? What ideas prompt you to comment when you read about them in someone else's blog? Start noticing the ideas and themes that seem to pop up a lot for you. You probably either have a lot of knowledge or a lot of passion around those ideas and themes (or both!). Either way, they're a rich topic resource.
3. What “stuck” points do you see your clients or friends struggling with, and what do you do to help them unstick those points? Write about or teach those techniques or solutions. (That's how this post developed!)
4. List the 10 things you work with, hear about, or talk about the most often. Do a series of posts–or a teleclass–on those 10 things. Even if the list seems really unconnected when you first make it, come back to it after a few days and look at it again. You'll probably start seeing unifying themes that point to some area of expertise you've got… even if you didn't realize it.
5. Ask people on Twitter (or Facebook, or on a forum you frequent, or on LinkedIn) what questions they've got for you about what you do. Any of those questions can become a blog post.
6. Find a few blog posts you've written that you really enjoyed writing or got really excited about. What topics were you discussing or pondering in those posts? Talk about those.
7. Make a list of five lessons you've learned over the course of being an entrepreneur thus far. Talk about those. I guarantee you that if you've had to learn those lessons, there are a slew of other people struggling with them or about to struggle with them!
8. Make a list of five ways you've become less stuck over the past year (or several years). Might be work related, might be personal, might be both–and might seem totally irrelevant. What bits of wisdom and flashes of insight are tucked inside those? What can you share from your own journey that might help others? (Hint: you've got more wisdom than you know, I promise.)
9. Drop all notions of what's useful or helpful, and ask yourself, “What do I feel like talking about?” Jot down whatever jumps into your head, no matter how un-useful or irrelevant it seems. Sometimes just lifting the burden of “I must be useful!” helps dislodge some great ideas. And those ideas end up being incredibly useful… we just didn't see them at first.
10. Pick three exceptionally frustrating situations from the past few years of your life. How did you get through them? What made them frustrating, and what did you figure out that helped the frustration to ease? What kinds of support or techniques for dealing with stuff did you use and find helpful–or did you use and find completely unhelpful?
You're more knowledgeable and useful than you think.
The most important thing to remember is that you are infinitely more helpful than you realize. The stuff that seems “too easy” or “too obvious” to you is someone else's insurmountable obstacle. The places where you've figured something out are places where someone else is feeling completely flummoxed. If you've gone through it, dealt with it, answered it, figured it out or fixed it–someone else will find that knowledge/experience invaluable!
How do you come up with stuff to write about when your treasure trove of topics feels empty? Where do you turn for ideas and inspiration?