6 Quick Tricks to Transform Crappy Ideas into Gleaming Nuggets of Undeniable Genius

6 Quick Tricks to Transform Crappy Ideas into Gleaming Nuggets of Undeniable Genius

It’s a deeply troubling thought, isn’t it?

That even your best ideas might be a little… ordinary.

Particularly if you dream of online success. The Internet hates ordinary.

Actually, scratch that; the Internet totally ignores ordinary. It doesn’t even register on the chart.

So naturally, you feel envious when other writers get noticed with ideas that aren’t ordinary at all.

Your jealousy is tinged with admiration, and you can’t help but wonder how they do it.

How come their ideas are so great when the ones that pop into your head are so damn average?

Newsflash – these people are not fundamentally more creative than you.

They just understand something about the nature of ideas that nobody told you yet.

The Common Misconception about Great Ideas

When you read a piece of writing that has a great idea at its heart, you can easily imagine that the concept popped spontaneously into the author’s mind, perfectly formed.

But most of the time, that’s not how the creative process works.

Great ideas don’t simply appear, like unicorns stepping out of the mist; they start out crappy, then evolve.

Great ideas don’t simply appear, like unicorns stepping out of the mist; they start out crappy, then evolve. (Tweet)

Ernest Hemingway famously said, “The first draft of anything is shit.” And the same is true of ideas. But how often do you hear people talk about the first draft of an idea?

The search for great ideas is like any creative process – it’s a journey from where you are now, to where you need to be.

And if you wait for the perfect idea to present itself on a silver platter, you could waste a ton of time.

So instead, start with an idea that has a kernel of merit, even if it’s been explored by others countless times before, and make it the starting point for something great.

The following tricks will help you transform pale and predictable ideas with a minimum of effort.

#1 Tie One Hand Behind Your Back

Nearly four hundred years after his death, William Shakespeare is still regarded as the greatest writer ever in the English language.

And if  you cast your mind back to English class, you may remember that his plays were written using iambic pentameter, where each line has exactly ten syllables (with extra stress on every second syllable.)

If music be the food of love, play on

Is this a dagger I see before me?

In other words, some of the greatest works in literature were created within rigid constraints.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but restriction breeds creativity in the writer. It also differentiates the idea.

So borrow this technique by taking your solid but uninspiring early ideas and introducing some kind of restriction.

Does that mean writing your next post in Shakespearean verse? Fortunately not.

Imagine you’re a travel blogger who’s currently visiting Sweden and you want to write a post about the top-ten things to do in Stockholm. As an idea, it’s not totally without merit, but it’s ordinary – dozens of similar posts already exist.

But what if you were to write about the top-ten things to do in Stockholm at night? Or the top-ten things that don’t cost a penny. Or the top-ten things that native Swedes choose to do whenever they’re in Stockholm?

A restriction won’t transform you into Shakespeare, but it will turn a faceless idea into one with significantly more character.

#2 Cut Your Work to Ribbons

William S. Burroughs, author of the Naked Lunch, experimented widely with the cut-up technique, where phrases were cut from newspapers and magazines and rearranged to create new sentences and paragraphs.

Often these combinations produced interesting ideas that were neither in the original text nor in the mind of the person doing the cutting. (Watch the video above for an example of cut-up text “predicting” the future!)

When working on your own blog post ideas, try cutting an element from one idea and “pasting” it into another.

For example, if you write in the career space, you might, for example, have a couple of long-standing ideas for topics you feel you ought to cover but feel uninspired by both. Maybe one is a post about creating the perfect resume (done to death), and maybe the other is about maximizing your productivity during your working day (really, again?)

Both ideas are desperately ordinary, but cutting up the concepts and rearranging them might produce a far more interesting blog post idea about, say, writing a resume in record time.

You can even use this technique to create interesting new hybrids based on other people’s ideas.

Let’s say the following were two of your favorite posts on BBT:

You could use the cut-up technique to create “9 Power Words for Growing Your Email List” – a post about the persuasive language you should use to get people to subscribe to your list.

Generating ideas in this way is a form of chemistry. And combining two ordinary concepts can produce something explosive – like popping Mentos in a Coke bottle.

#3 Ask “What Would Jesus Do?”

Okay, maybe not Jesus. That was just to get your attention.

But ask yourself this: what would your most creative writing heroes do with this idea?

In what direction would they take it? What spin would they put on it?

This is a useful trick because when you’re still developing writing skills – and particularly when you’re finding your voice – your conception of yourself as a writer is fuzzy.

However, the writing personas of your online heroes spring vividly to mind.

So channel their distinctive brand of creativity to your own ends.

What would Jeff Goins do with this idea? How would Tim Ferriss approach it? What about James Altucher? Or (of course) Jon Morrow?

Allowing yourself to imagine how others would tackle your idea can reveal all kinds of possibilities that previously eluded you.

#4 Jump into Your DeLorean and Hit the Gas

Time travel has inspired countless Hollywood movies, but as a blogger, it’s more common to focus on the present. You naturally want to give your readers what they need right now.

But shifting your perspective backwards and forwards along the timeline is a fantastic way to add spice to a tired idea. It also helps you hold the interest of readers who are more (or indeed less) advanced than your average audience member.

So if you write about weight loss, instead of writing another collection of tips about losing weight, why not jump into the future and explore some tips about maintaining your ideal weight after a successful weight-loss initiative?

Or head into the past and write about what to do before you start any kind of healthy eating or exercise regime. How do you mentally prepare? What unhealthy triggers should you be aware of? What temptations should you remove from your home?

Alternatively, if you blog in the social media space, don’t write about how to get more followers on Twitter; jump forward in time and write about how to make the most of your following once you hit 1,000 or even 10,000 followers.

Or rewind and give readers a list of reasons they might want to start their Twitter profile from scratch.

By projecting a so-so idea into the future or the past, you can often make it as distinctive as a futuristic sports car with gull-wing doors.

#5 Be Intentionally Obscure

Ever notice how some TV shows seems like second-rate versions of others?

Usually it’s because the stories and characters aren’t based on the writer’s personal experiences, but rather on other shows they’ve seen. It’s not art imitating life – it’s art imitating art.

And the same happens in the blogosphere. As a blogger, you can’t help but be influenced by the other bloggers you read online, but your ideas end up sounding a lot like theirs.

Here’s a trick where having an obvious, well-trodden idea as a starting point is actually a virtue.

If a topic has been exhaustively covered by others, use their work as an inverse blueprint – a guide to what not to cover in yours.

People love obscure details and fresh ways to achieve old goals. That’s why “Little Known” is such a powerful phrase to include in a headline.

So if you run a personal finance blog, why not write a post about unusual ways to save money on groceries? Or unconventional ways to save for retirement? Instead of writing about Warren Buffet’s investment strategies, write about an investor who’s enjoyed huge success but isn’t a household name.

On the other hand, if you write about good parenting, why not gather parenting tips from different cultures so that every reader will find something new? Or write a humorous piece about the obscure parenting theories that (thankfully!) never caught on.

When you deliberately take the road less traveled, you can reinvigorate a popular topic and tap directly into interest from readers who are desperate for fresh ideas.

#6 Blow Up a Single Detail

In Antonioni’s classic movie Blow-Up, a fashion photographer snaps two lovers in a park, but only later, when the photo is enlarged, does he notice a dead body and a man with a gun lurking in the background.

That shocking detail drives the rest of the film.

Sometimes an idea isn’t interesting until you find the right detail to focus on. But when you blow that one detail up to full scale, you discover fascinating subtleties that weren’t visible before.

Use this technique to narrow your sights then dive deep into a topic. Give your readers a detailed understanding of one small aspect rather than a broad sweep of the whole thing.

They’ll get information that’s specific enough to act upon, and you’ll turn a single topic idea into many – each dealing with one part of the bigger picture.

Let’s imagine you write about relationships on your blog and “conflict” is a popular topic.

Instead of writing another generic list of tips about dealing with conflict, you could focus on one tiny aspect of that topic and teach people how to spot the exact moment when a conversation turns into an argument: 12 Warning Signs Your Conversation Is About to Go Nuclear (and How to Defuse It).

Like a snowflake under a microscope, sometimes the beauty of an idea is only clear once you zoom in.

Stop Waiting for Great Ideas and Start Creating Them

Great ideas rarely arrive fully formed. More often, they start out dull and derivative.

Your job as a writer is to work with the best of what you have and make it shine.

Because waiting patiently for your muse to arrive is a dangerous game.

Other writers will use that time more wisely, evolving their own ideas beyond the banal and beating you to the punch at every turn.

So quit being a perfectionist. Stop throwing away ideas because they’re not good enough.

Instead, see an idea as raw material. Be the sculptor who sees the perfect statue hiding beneath the lump of rough stone.

Use the tricks above to put your creative process on the fast track.

Dig out your list of old post ideas and get to work.

It’s time to turn mediocre into magical.

About the Author: Glen Long is the Managing Editor of Boost Blog Traffic. He used to have a longer bio, but his puppy ate it.

93 Comments

  1. Andrew M. Warner
    Mar 19, 2015 @ 08:45:52

    Hey Glen,

    Awesome post.

    You’re absolutely right, the first draft is always bad. I keep the revisions of my posts and anytime I look back at them, I think to myself, “Damn, this is really bad. But look at how I turned this crap into something good.” And you can’t just wait for your ideas to form either.

    I like your Sweden example. Sometimes you have to go outside of the box with your idea to give it more meaning and character.

    But I especially like your cut-up technique. I never thought of that. Great tip.

    I’m going to start using your intentionally obscure tip because a lot of people are writing about the same exact thing and in order to stand out, you can’t follow the crowd. At least, I don’t want to.

    Great post here, Glen.

    – Andrew

    • Glen Long
      Mar 19, 2015 @ 12:01:35

      Hi Andrew. Thanks for your kind comment. The cut-up technique was a mini revelation for me because I thought “hey it would be cool if that worked for blog posts too” and I tried it on a few – and it did! 🙂

  2. Aniket
    Mar 19, 2015 @ 09:00:47

    Hello Glen,
    Liked 2nd and 5th trick very much , it will surely help me in future .

    • Glen Long
      Mar 19, 2015 @ 12:02:43

      Hey Aniket. Glad you found a couple of tricks to use in your own writing. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Lucy Barber
    Mar 19, 2015 @ 09:31:36

    Simple but very powerful points that I will put to use the next time I’m working on my content calendar. I really love the intentionally obscure tip, too. It’s true that your writing just starts to sound like other bloggers writing after a while (which is a good time to realize you need to come back to your own voice).

    I would also add that you can use extended analogies to add creativity to your post. I was reading Henneke D’s blog yesterday and she has an extended metaphor of spicing up content like you spice up a recipe. Using a metaphor to get your point across can immediately connect the reader with what you’re saying and make it easy to put into practice.

    Thanks, Glen!

    • Glen Long
      Mar 19, 2015 @ 12:05:38

      Hi Lucy,

      Yes Henneke’s great (makes mental note to tempt her back to write another post for us) and I’ll have to check out that post. I’m a big fan of metaphors myself. Sometimes a good metaphor can be the making of a post.

      Great to see you hear and thanks for adding your thoughts.

      Cheers,

      Glen.

      • Anil Agarwal
        Mar 29, 2015 @ 08:11:15

        Writing post ideas on Evernote or a file is the best way to capture your thoughts. Don’t just let them go away by not writing them down. Great post btw!

  4. Kevin Duncan
    Mar 19, 2015 @ 09:37:14

    Hi Glen,

    What’s this? I’m not the only one out there who writes awful first drafts?? 🙂

    It’s always a treat when I check BBT on Thursdays and discover you (Glen) are the author. These are some great ideas you’ve shared with us.

    I completely concur that we bloggers tend to be influenced by others and, as a result, we often end up sounding the same. I put it this way in a post I wrote a few months back:

    “The blogosphere is a lot like being trapped in an elevator with actors Jack Nickolson, William Devane, and Christian Slater. If you close your eyes, everyone sounds the same.”

    (To anyone who doesn’t get the reference, these three actors have VERY similar-sounding voices. Yeah, sorry for ruining “A Few Good Men” for you. Now, you won’t be able to get Christian Slater out of your head during the final courtroom scene!) 🙂

    Awesome work, as always, Glen. I’ll be tweeting this shortly!

    -Kevin

    • Glen Long
      Mar 19, 2015 @ 12:08:47

      Hey Kevin,

      Aw thank you. And based on the post your wrote for us I would have to say your first drafts are pretty damn good. But maybe there were several I didn’t see. 😉

      Thanks as always for sharing your thoughts.

      Cheers,

      Glen.

      P.S. I think it would be pretty cool to be in that elevator…

  5. John maduka
    Mar 19, 2015 @ 09:44:15

    Hi Glen, sir
    Cool that i got very earlier,
    i’ve always dream to write great articles like you do.

    Thanks for pushing out this unique guide to us.

    I love this and i need more – Cheer!

    • Glen Long
      Mar 19, 2015 @ 12:11:16

      Hi John,

      Yes you got here fairly early. Your challenge for next time is to beat Andrew to the first comment. That guy’s a machine! 🙂

      Glad you enjoyed the tips. You might like this one too:

      //smartblogger.com/posts-worth-writing/

      Cheers,

      Glen.

  6. Muhammed Abdullahi Tosin
    Mar 19, 2015 @ 10:38:19

    Hello Glen,

    This is an epic post. I agree with you that great ideas start out crappy and perfectionism always stands in the way of content creation. I was first introduced to the very liberating concept of shitty first draft by Anne Lamott in “Bird by Bird.”

    Thanks for the reminder. Glad to be here. 🙂

    • Glen Long
      Mar 19, 2015 @ 12:14:03

      We’re glad you’re here too Muhammed. 🙂

      I’ll have to check out “Bird by Bird” – it’s not a book I’m familiar with. Maybe we should add it here:

      //smartblogger.com/essential-writing-books/

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Cheers,

      Glen.

      • Alison Beere
        Mar 19, 2015 @ 12:45:58

        Glen, It’s already mentioned on this post that Marsha wrote:
        //smartblogger.com/essential-writing-books/

  7. Cathy Goodwin
    Mar 19, 2015 @ 10:44:59

    I especially like the one about tie one hand behind your back. I do stand-up comedy (not professionally!) and find that when they give us a shorter time – like 3 min instead of 5 -or when I’m challenged to create a bit on a specific topic, the jokes are funnier and the audience responds better.

    • Glen Long
      Mar 19, 2015 @ 12:16:17

      Hi Cathy,

      I know exactly what you mean. I used to do a bit of standup too. One time I had to squeeze a 15 minute routine into just 5 minutes and every time I got a laugh I had to say “There’s no time for laughter – I’ve only got five minutes!” and the audience loved it. 🙂

      You’re very brave though. Standup’s a scary business.

      Cheers,

      Glen.

  8. Anne Ricci
    Mar 19, 2015 @ 10:50:06

    Hi Glen,
    love this post; I just got plenty of new ideas to come up with interesting guest posts. I especially like #4, and I’m definitely going to travel in the past and the future…
    Thanks!
    Anne

    • Glen Long
      Mar 19, 2015 @ 12:18:41

      Hi Anne,

      Nice to see you hear – really glad you liked the post. What I like about the time travel trick is that it’s so quick. It’s so easy to ask yourself “Does this idea become more interesting if I move it into the past (or future)?”

      Thanks for your comment. 🙂

      Cheers,

      Glen.

  9. Sonia Thompson
    Mar 19, 2015 @ 10:56:17

    Yeah Glen – I have wasted to a of time, and not produced nearly as much as I should because I haven’t been in love with an initial idea.

    Thanks for the reminder and the tips, to just sit with the ideas a little longer, play around with them and let them develop.

    I suppose now I have no excuse now for not producing more posts! 🙂

    Your puppy is super cute BTW!

    • Glen Long
      Mar 19, 2015 @ 12:24:29

      Hey Sonia!

      I suppose you’re leaving your comment from an internet cafe in some exotic South American location? 🙂

      I think for every idea that seems brilliant at point of conception but soon loses its appeal, there’s at least one that doesn’t seem quite so exciting but has hidden potential. So yes, we should give our average ideas a little more love!

      Thanks for commenting.

      Cheers,

      Glen.

    • Glen Long
      Mar 19, 2015 @ 12:26:34

      P.S. Glad you like the pup. He’s called Cooper. He’s a tiny agent of chaos.

  10. Neil
    Mar 19, 2015 @ 10:57:56

    Hi Glen
    Loved the idea of being intentionally obscure. If someone is starting in 2015, the “usual” topics in any niche would be already covered in sufficient details. One can either try to better them or be intentionally obscure. Makes perfect sense to me.

    Thanks
    Neil

    • Glen Long
      Mar 19, 2015 @ 12:25:32

      Hi Neil,

      I totally agree. Almost every topic worth writing about has been covered many times from all the obvious angles. Obscurity is your friend! 🙂

      Cheers,

      Glen.

  11. Glowrite
    Mar 19, 2015 @ 11:09:14

    Awesome post

  12. francis okereke
    Mar 19, 2015 @ 11:22:33

    Hey Glen, Lovely post.

    The ideas are just real and practical I must confess.
    Great ideas to run with.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Glen Long
      Mar 19, 2015 @ 12:26:01

      Thanks Francis!

  13. Zarayna
    Mar 19, 2015 @ 11:28:11

    Hello Glen,
    Nice dog, by the way. It would be good to know the name of this literary critic and rascal.
    Thank you for the six tips. Anyone who can mention William S Burroughs and Jesus within a few sentences of each other has to be listened to with pen and notebook in hand.
    Personally, without sounding unduly corseted, I do find having restrictions helps me but I am a bit of a mind-wandering dilettante (to put it politely).
    Anyway, much to think and digest here so I thank you again and wish you well.

    • Glen Long
      Mar 19, 2015 @ 12:31:50

      Hi Zarayna!

      No, I don’t think you sound unduly corseted (what a great phrase!)

      The canine rascal is called Cooper – he’s a Miniature Schnauzer. They’re sometimes called “Minis” for short (apparently). And there’s a classic car here in the UK called a Mini Cooper. Hence “Cooper”. Bet you wish you hadn’t asked!

      Glad the blatant literary name-dropping made me look clever. I owe it all to Wikipedia 😉

      Thanks for your comments and I hope to see you on the blog again soon.

      Cheers,

      Glen.

  14. Akshay Hallur
    Mar 19, 2015 @ 11:32:28

    Hey, Glen. I think this is my first comment on BBT.

    I’ve been here for a while.

    The uniqueness about the posts here is, I can’t miss a single point,while reading blog posts here.
    You guys are greatly implementing the strategy of single aspect at a time.

    Many bloggers, including me has the habit of broadly sweeping. Readers can understand the content of my site, just my scanning for 5 seconds.

    Another strategy that inspired me is, in BBT you craft sub headings so that, readers cannot the judge the content underneath it.

    These strategies come in handy to maintain audience retention.

    Cheers.

    • Glen Long
      Mar 19, 2015 @ 12:34:51

      Hi Akshay,

      Congratulations on leaving your first comment! I hope it will be the first of many.

      Yes we do try to craft our subheads to be as attention grabbing as possible. It’s one of Jon’s signature techniques and it works pretty well.

      In fact we wrote a whole post about it here:

      //smartblogger.com/subhead-blunders/

      Anyway, thanks for taking the leap and leaving a comment. We certainly appreciate it.

      Cheers,

      Glen.

  15. Alison Beere
    Mar 19, 2015 @ 11:34:06

    Timely post, Glen! I was just in the GuestBlogging homework forum bewailing the fact that all my ideas had been done to death — you have given me a glimmer of hope that I may yet sift a golden nugget from the dross.

    And I will share this post with my students who are this week creating their first-ever cartoon character. The fact that “Great ideas rarely arrive fully formed” is what I have been communicating to them since Monday 🙂

    • Glen Long
      Mar 20, 2015 @ 08:59:17

      Hi Alison,

      Always nice to see a GuestBlogging student here on BBT. In fact last week’s post was written by one of our wonderful students. 🙂

      Hope you manage to find that golden nugget and I’m glad the principle works for cartoons too!

      Cheers,

      Glen.

  16. Winifred Reilly
    Mar 19, 2015 @ 11:36:13

    Great and timely post as I sit here scratching my head about what to write about this weekend.

    This piece is proof of what you’re talking about. The topic of OH MY GOD WHAT WILL I WRITE ABOUT has certainly been done. Still, this one is fresh and full of new ideas.

    My hope: if I read this post over five or six times a genie of an idea will pop out!

    Maybe I’ll ask, What would Glen do?

    • Glen Long
      Mar 20, 2015 @ 16:07:18

      Hey Winifred,

      Great to see you as usual. Yes the “What the hell do I write about?” question is a doozy. And it keeps coming back! Hope a genie pops out of the bottle at some point over the weekend.

      Cheers,

      Glen.

  17. Ellen
    Mar 19, 2015 @ 11:37:48

    This is a great post Glen, really inspiring for all of us to get off the ‘safe’ fence and push ourselves to write. I love #3 especially – it reminds me of a creative idea generation technique, superheroes, where you take a superhero and consider whatever you’re thinking about from their point of view.

    Other creative idea generation techniques might be useful for writers too, such as Reversals (flipping the idea), or thinking about Edward de Bono’s 6 thinking hats and viewing the topic from the perspective of each hat ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six_Thinking_Hats )

    I look forward to playing with these ideas soon 🙂

    • Glen Long
      Mar 20, 2015 @ 16:11:57

      Hi Ellen,

      So glad you enjoyed the post. I hadn’t heard of the superhero technique but that’s a great approach too.

      Funny you should mention de Bono’s hats. I wrote about hats here:

      //smartblogger.com/writing-tips/

      Thanks for leaving a comment and sharing some excellent techniques.

      Cheers,

      Glen.

  18. Dee @ The Kitchen Snob
    Mar 19, 2015 @ 12:33:31

    This was really helpful and quite inspiring. I can’t wait to get home and look at some of my shelved ideas!

    • Glen Long
      Mar 20, 2015 @ 16:17:01

      Yay – pull some of those idea off the shelf and give them some love. 🙂

  19. Anne Bechard
    Mar 19, 2015 @ 12:39:52

    This is GREAT, Glen! It’s not about new ideas, but new ways to say the same old thing. This actually inspired me to rethink how I create my titles. Titling is real way for me to get super clear on my post topic. Now I can find fun, creative ways to express an interesting spin on tired, dusty ideas.

    • Glen Long
      Mar 20, 2015 @ 16:21:09

      Thanks Anne! And I like the concept of “dusty” ideas. We just need to blow away some of that dust. 🙂

  20. Carol Webster
    Mar 19, 2015 @ 13:10:24

    I was struggling with writing a post this morning but then you showed up and saved the day. I can put several of these suggestions in action right away. Thanks, Glen!

    • Glen Long
      Mar 20, 2015 @ 16:22:06

      My pleasure! And saying that you can put them into action right away makes me smile – that’s exactly what I was aiming for. 🙂

  21. Larry G. Maguire
    Mar 19, 2015 @ 13:33:17

    Hey Glen, great post!
    I know for me, when I’m looking for a topic to write on, the best always comes a couple of hours into the search. At first its so broad I just can’t seem to narrow things down, but then something sparks and I find I’m into a specific subject and the post is nearly writing itself!

    Also, I have found recently that a great new post can come out of an old post. I took a post from about 6 months ago and decided to rewrite it for a specific audience. Initially I was only going to spend a little time refining it but I took about 2 days and it became a totally different animal. Et Viola! New (and better) post.

    Thanks for the inspiration.
    -Larry

    • Glen Long
      Mar 20, 2015 @ 16:25:44

      Interesting. I guess rewriting for a specific audience is a version of #1, adding a constraint.

      And I totally agree that sometimes the best ideas don’t emerge right away. You sometimes need to get all the obvious ideas out of your system before the better ones emerge.

      Thanks for stopping by Larry.

  22. Michelle
    Mar 19, 2015 @ 14:18:29

    You guys obviously know what your talking about, because I’m absolutely addicted to your blog. But seriously, I’m in the fitness niche and everything has been done a million times. Thanks for the ideas on how to take a different perspective.

    • Glen Long
      Mar 20, 2015 @ 16:27:33

      Hi Michelle,

      Wow – you’re a BBT addict. Well I hope we manage to keep you hooked. I can imagine that the fitness niche is a tough one for originality but hopefully some of these tips will help!

      Cheers,

      Glen.

  23. Reelika
    Mar 19, 2015 @ 15:39:21

    I love these ideas, very helpful! And I have to agree with Michelle, I am also totally addicted to your blog and advice here!

    • Glen Long
      Mar 20, 2015 @ 16:27:56

      Another addict – fantastic! 🙂

  24. Jake Mcspirit
    Mar 19, 2015 @ 15:44:19

    Hey Glen,

    I’ve been a little stuck with my brainstorming lately, so this post couldn’t have come at a better time. It just felt like everything I was coming up with had no unique spin I could put on it.

    I had the realisation that I needed to focus a little more on the specifics. Make them more appealable to very specific situations. It was a combination of my own thinking and this post that brought this on, so thank-you!

    Yet another valuable post from you.

    • Glen Long
      Apr 02, 2015 @ 05:56:10

      Thanks Jake. Appreciate the comments. Yes, being very specific is a great way to make your post distinctive. Some many writers go too broad and end up with a bland post as a result.

  25. Susan Suehr
    Mar 19, 2015 @ 17:02:25

    Glen,
    I have been developing products and received numerous patents all my work life and I can vouch for your thoughts on the creative process. It just does not come out of thin air, but I must say “What would Jesus do?” is not a bad question. I like to go out there and ask what would someone who really wants to solve this problem do. I think Jesus was quite a problem solver.

    Susan

    • Glen Long
      Apr 02, 2015 @ 05:57:51

      Hi Susan,

      Good to see you here on BBT. 🙂

      Yes and I think any exercise that gets you out of your own head and into someone else’s is good practice for a blogger.

      If you’re stuck, try to put yourself in the shoes of someone who doesn’t seem to get stuck.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Cheers,

      Glen.

  26. Sanj Sethi
    Mar 19, 2015 @ 19:58:34

    fantastic. For someone like me who is not a professional writer, simple and easy to follow. Thanks

    • Glen Long
      Apr 02, 2015 @ 05:58:16

      Hey Sanj. Glad you found it easy to follow. That was my aim! 🙂

  27. Jeffrey Benson
    Mar 19, 2015 @ 22:45:08

    Glenn, thanks a lot for this blog post. It’s an eye-opener for me and I think for anyone too who likes to put thoughts on paper and share it with the world. If one is to wait for when the idea will be perfect before developing it, then one would wait forever.

    This is where I have been for many years thinking myself low and waiting until I get it right one time but what I have read here has made me to realize that I just have to start where I am and then develop it forward until I get it right. Nothing good starts out being good from day one.

    Thanks for this great post. I love it.

    • Glen Long
      Apr 02, 2015 @ 05:58:47

      Thanks Jeffrey!

  28. Bryan Collins
    Mar 20, 2015 @ 07:57:03

    Great post Glen. I haven’t tried cutting ideas to ribbons yet, this point 2 did make me thing of idea sex. James Altucher writes about this concept on his blog explaining that great ideas are often the products of other ideas that are combined.

    • Glen Long
      Apr 02, 2015 @ 06:00:35

      Many thanks Bryan.

      Love the concept of “idea sex”. I’ll have to check out James’ post!

      I think in truth there are very few truly original ideas and so most have to be a fusion of pre-existing ideas.

      Cheers,

      Glen.

  29. Larry
    Mar 20, 2015 @ 09:24:09

    Good post.
    I’ve heard a number of these ideas before yet sometimes things don’t necessarily sink in.
    Anyway, this post got my mind moving.
    Thanks for the thoughts/suggestions/tips.

    • Glen Long
      Apr 02, 2015 @ 06:00:55

      Hey Larry. Glad to have moved your mind! 🙂

  30. Debarpan
    Mar 20, 2015 @ 15:22:54

    Well after reading this complete blog post, I will just say It’s awesome. I really like the way of explanation in this article. Tips are very good and helpful for me. I think other people should also read blog post very seriously because this will help them to learn something new which they need. Hope this post will also help others when they will read it. Thanks for sharing this wonderful blog post.

    • Glen Long
      Apr 02, 2015 @ 06:01:46

      Hi Debarpan. Thanks for your comment – glad you found the tips helpful.

  31. Jenna Dalton
    Mar 20, 2015 @ 17:19:51

    Awesome post, Glen! My fave tip is to create some kind of restriction. I love the idea of creating restrictions in all kinds of ways – from health (no desserts on weekdays), to business (no laptop on Sundays), to Facebook (no social media at the dinner table), and all sorts of other ways.

    It can come across quite negative to put restrictions on ourselves, but I’ve found that the easiest and quickest way to deal with overwhelm is to set some restrictions. Give myself a clear boundary to follow. Suddenly things seem less overwhelming because I have less decisions to deal with.

    I love the idea of applying this to blogging and you bet I’m going to use this the next time I come up with an ordinary topic that needs some jazz. Thanks!

    • Glen Long
      Apr 02, 2015 @ 06:02:51

      Hi Jenna,

      Thanks for dropping by – really glad you liked the post. Looking forward to seeing yours on the blog later today. 🙂

      Cheers,

      Glen.

  32. Lorraine Reguly
    Mar 21, 2015 @ 05:30:44

    “Allowing yourself to imagine how others would tackle your idea can reveal all kinds of possibilities that previously eluded you.”

    I totally agree with this statement, Glen.

    When I write a post, I look at things from all angles. I think this is what makes my posts rank so high on Google!

    • Glen Long
      Apr 02, 2015 @ 06:04:52

      Hi Lorraine,

      Well done for successfully wooing Google. Others will be jealous!

      And yes, going out of your way to see a topic from as many angles as possible will result in a much better post than one by someone who just looked from the obvious angle.

      Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

      Cheers,

      Glen.

  33. Rachel Haverkos
    Mar 22, 2015 @ 01:01:28

    Hi Glen, Thank you for the timely assistance! Your puppy may be an agent of chaos, but if he’s willing to eat your words, he must be well-trained indeed. (Smile)

    I think this post is just what I need to help me get on with my Guest Blogging efforts. Now when stuck I’ll find myself asking, “What would Jesus do?” Or no, make that, “What would Glen write?” (Just wanted to practice this new attention grabbing trick I’m learning from you.) Cheers!

    • Glen Long
      Apr 02, 2015 @ 06:07:26

      Hi Rachel,

      Well – you got my attention. 🙂

      The pup is lying at my feet as I type this so I’ll just have to hope he doesn’t jump up and eat any more of my words…

      If this helps with your guest blogging efforts then I’ll be doubly pleased that you enjoyed it.

      Bye for now!

      Glen.

  34. Nadeem
    Mar 22, 2015 @ 06:30:13

    Great writing style, I love these ideas, very helpful! And I have to agree with Michelle, I am also totally addicted to your blog and advice here

    • Glen Long
      Apr 02, 2015 @ 06:08:35

      Another blog addict – wonderful! We do try our best to deliver good content every week. Sometimes we even have to write it ourselves!

      Remember to subscribe if you haven’t already Nadeem. 🙂

  35. Cheryl
    Mar 22, 2015 @ 10:38:13

    Thanks for the great post! I feel inspired to try the cut-up technique!

    • Glen Long
      Apr 02, 2015 @ 06:09:39

      Hi Cheryl. Glad the cut-up techniques inspires you. It’s cool when it works because it feels like the idea came from almost nowhere. Best of luck!

  36. Helen
    Mar 23, 2015 @ 11:36:40

    I have days when my inspiration is gone somewhere far away from me, and in such moments I barely can create something truly useful.
    Gladly, such days are rare now because my mind learned the new subjects and is prepared anytime to speak about.

    • Glen Long
      Apr 02, 2015 @ 06:22:10

      Glad to hear it Helen. 🙂

  37. Kulwant Nagi
    Mar 24, 2015 @ 13:43:02

    Getting new blog posts ideas is one of the hardest things to do. And I have seen this as one of the biggest blocks in online progress.

    Glen you have done pretty good work by relating this skill with the great industry leaders like Shakespeare and William S. Burroughs. I have gone through some of their works and found that they were experts in their fields.

    Your article is very unique in its own sense because you explained everything in a very creative manner. 🙂

    Although it took me more than 15 minutes to read the article but it was more than a worth to spend time today.

    Thanks for this great article.

    • Glen Long
      Apr 02, 2015 @ 06:10:37

      Thanks for your kind words Kulwant. Glad it was worth 15 minutes of your day – time is precious! 🙂

  38. Jeannette Koczela
    Mar 24, 2015 @ 22:34:51

    What I like best about this post is the title. But also this has given me a new perspective on how to take ordinary ideas and transform them into something others might actually read. I especially like #5 about deliberately take the road less traveled. That seems most appealing to me, and I’ll put the others in my writer’s toolkit for later. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

    • Glen Long
      Apr 02, 2015 @ 06:12:19

      Hi Jeannette. Yes we do spend quite a bit of time working on our headlines. It’s actually a good example of the restriction idea – trying to squeeze something tantalizing into a restricted number of characters. Thanks for adding #5 to your writer’s toolkit. Cheers, Glen.

  39. Amy Dunn Moscoso
    Mar 24, 2015 @ 23:51:36

    Great post Glen. I think too many people are waiting to come up with the “perfect idea” and don’t realize that ideas are perfected as you work through them – and insights come along the way.

    Great idea to blow up a single detail.

    Thanks for sharing.

    P.S. I laughed pretty hard at the Jesus part.

    • Glen Long
      Apr 02, 2015 @ 06:15:18

      Hi Amy. Great to see you back on the blog after your outstanding post for us a few weeks ago. I have to admit it’s very nerve-wracking as an editor to know that writers you’ve worked with are going to be reading your own stuff. 🙂

      Yes, blowing up a detail is one of my favorite technique. It’s often the easiest way to make a bland idea far more interesting.

      See you again soon I hope!

      Cheers,

      Glen.

  40. Mohammad Naeem
    Mar 26, 2015 @ 07:15:55

    Hello, Glenn ! Your article is very unique in its own sense because you explained everything in a very creative manner. Your Article helped me alot. I am a big fan of your articles. Keep it up ! I am looking for more such nice articles.

    • Glen Long
      Apr 02, 2015 @ 06:15:50

      Nice to hear you’re a fan Mohammed. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  41. Mark Whois
    Mar 26, 2015 @ 08:07:31

    “great ideas don’t simply appear, like unicorns” thats’ true but ideas are never getting executed as they come.

    • Glen Long
      Apr 02, 2015 @ 06:23:00

      Hi Mark. Yes that’s a good point. It doesn’t matter how good or bad your idea is if you don’t act on it. Cheers, Glen.

  42. Jatin Nagpal
    Mar 28, 2015 @ 04:51:45

    This is a great post. In fact, after reading it, I realised many of these were subconciously behind some of my greatest ideas(which I will publish/execute after some years). But I have some questions. Isn’t cut-up technique like the potluck paper plagiarism? I mean, plagiarism is an offence to originality, and restricts development of ideas. So it should be bad morally. And I earlier believed that using the law of attraction from our subconcious mind we could get some good ideas, but if ideas can’t come by themselves, this is a clash between theories, both of which seem reasonable to me. If we ask ‘What would Jesus do?'(though I don’t know much about him, but from some bits of information I read I can make out something)(well, I’m an Indian and am going to change the entire system of religions), he would have faith in Lord for guiding him. So these were the only questions.
    I apologise if anything has offended anyone in any way or wherever I didn’t change lines while writing(that’s the only thing I’m not very good at). I believe that thoughts should not be guided by emotions, because they always make man regret his actions once they change.

  43. Glen Long
    Apr 02, 2015 @ 06:24:21

    Hi Jatin,

    Interesting point.

    I personally don’t think the cut-up idea is a form of plagiarism because almost every idea has its origins in other ideas. I actually think this technique is just a way of invoking a process that happens naturally – connecting unrelated ideas that are already floating around in your head. Plagiarism occurs when you don’t bother to combine an idea with another one, you simply make your own copy of the original idea.

    Thanks for raising such a philosophical question. 🙂

    Cheers,

    Glen.

  44. Tor Refsland
    Apr 03, 2015 @ 05:21:37

    Thanks for a great post about how we can improve our writing, Glen!

    You deliver the goods every time 😉

    I really liked what you said at the end of bullet point 5: “When you deliberately take the road less traveled, you can reinvigorate a popular topic and tap directly into interest from readers who are desperate for fresh ideas.”

    I will bookmark this post and use it for future reference.

    Thanks, Glen.

    Have a great weekend!

    Tor

  45. Casey
    Apr 07, 2015 @ 03:04:52

    Great post, Glen!
    It’s so true that ideas tend to be boring and ordinary when you first think of them, which is why so many people end up throwing them out the door before they have a chance of turning it into a good idea.
    I especially like the last time: Blow up a Single Detail. I unintentionally discovered this tactic by rambling in my writing.
    I would start of with my first idea and write what I thought was a decent post. Then, I would read back through it and usually end up pulling only 1-2 paragraphs out all of it and turn those paragraphs into my real post. It seemed like I had to write for a few pages before I found my real, specific topic. It takes a while, but I’ve found that the second post was always much better than the first. You just have to be patient and be willing to throw away or change your original ideas.
    Thanks again for the great post!
    Casey

  46. james
    Apr 09, 2015 @ 12:43:13

    Awesome Post, I just got plenty of new ideas to come up with interesting guest posts.

    • Sinea Pies
      Apr 16, 2015 @ 10:21:34

      Me too! So glad I found this blog!

  47. Sinea Pies
    Apr 16, 2015 @ 10:20:28

    Do you talk to yourself? When I am reading online, I do! As I was reading this post I said out loud “Now THIS is a GREAT post!” It is. Bears further study and taking notes. I will definitely implement some of these ideas forthwith.
    Blogging in Mommy Blog World is most definitely at risk of being redundant. We all like the same things so often our posts could be just interchanged with one on another blog and no one would be the wiser (Hmmm. sounds like a plan in the making? Post Swapping Day!)

    All that to say, I need to liven things up a bit… Thanks.

  48. Helle Dyrby Høy
    Apr 21, 2015 @ 07:45:06

    Hi Glenn,
    Very usefull blogpost – which has now reached Denmark as well 😉
    Thank you for sharing.
    Best Helle

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