A Glimpse Into A Blogger’s Idea Generation Process, Such As It Is

I’m a writer who writes a personal blog in which I talk about a variety of topics.

Make no mistake about that.

As such, I have a drawer in my desk where I toss pieces of paper on which I’ve written thoughts + scribblings + quotes that come to me when I’m not in a place to write about these thoughts + scribblings + quotes.

I do this randomly, both the thinking and the tossing.

This drawer, you see, is my idea generation process system based on one piece of wisdom in David Allen’s Getting Things Done.  He tells you to capture ideas.

Well, I’m capturing them.

In my own way.

Then a few times a year I sort through the pieces of paper with the aforementioned thoughts + scribblings + quotes on them, to see what I might write about here on these hallowed virtual pages.

 Yesterday I reacquainted myself with what I’ve carefully saved in this drawer.  

In reality, about 60% of what I saved I tossed out because I have no idea what I was thinking about when I saved the thought + scribbling + quote.

The brain, she be addled.

Another 30% of my thoughts + scribblings + quotes were good blog post fodder, but I wasn’t in the mood to do what it takes [research, personal reflection, finding an image] to write a coherent blog post about the topic.

So those thoughts + scribblings + quotes went back into the drawer, safely nestled among their own kind, until I’m ready to write about them sometime in the future.

Trust me, there are advantages of being a blogger whose blog leans more toward lifestyle newspaper column than daily diary. Plus, not to put too fine of a point on it, variety fights inertia, random is what keeps this blog going.

That left me with 10% of my thoughts + scribblings + quotes that I’ll turn them into exciting world-class blog posts such as this one.

All of which [finally] brings me to my actual reason for writing this post.

In my more anxious moments I wonder if there might be a better way for me to capture and generate ideas.  A way that doesn’t rely on my current idiosyncratic, neatniks-need-not-apply idea generation process, as seen in the photo below.

• • •

So tell me, gentle readers, how do you keep track of the ideas that you use to write your blog posts?

‘Tis possible that I could use some guidance.

 • • •

Published by

Ally Bean

Observant. Creative. Humorous. Adaptable. Happy enough. Looking for the crumb of truth in the cookie of life.

95 thoughts on “A Glimpse Into A Blogger’s Idea Generation Process, Such As It Is”

  1. I have a permanent draft post entitled: Thoughts to Consider.

    I use it as a repository for ideas. I type out a sentence or two to capture the thought and there it sits unless and until it’s called into duty. 😀

    Liked by 4 people

        1. I’m getting more and more that way, too. I used to plan my blog ideas weeks in advance. But now I just aim to show up here on Tuesdays, say something, then see where the rest of my week takes me. Not all that I do is blog-worthy. Shocking, isn’t it?

          Liked by 1 person

  2. If it’s a personal blog idea, I do what you do, or I use the Sticky Notes program on my computer and type out the idea briefly and “stick” it onto my screen. If it’s an idea based on an article I read, I save the article itself to a folder on my computer and every now and again, I go into that folder and rummage around. Often, I’m not nearly as enamored with that subject as I thought (again, like you), especially if it requires a lot of work on my part.

    It’s terrible–I am, by nature, a lazy writer. I need to be pushed, either by Inspiration or Necessity. It’s not often that I get the nudge from either. 😦

    Liked by 2 people

    1. nance, I like your idea about keeping a folder of articles, just in case I want to talk about them later. I’m forever thinking that I’ll remember where I read something, then spending 15 minutes online trying to find the article. Old brain here.

      I use my computer sticky notes to keep lists of fun words or quotes or links to YouTube videos or gifs. That’s where I keep my silly language/images that I slap on so many posts.

      Like

  3. I see something, or hear something, or think about something I encounter, (ie: containment booms lining a ditch that I passed on the side of the road going to work yesterday. Above the ditch–what appears to be some sort of (possible) toxic dump site full of who knows what) and if my mind begins to wander on the whys or hows of that “something” I say to myself, “Self, that might be an interesting blog topic.”
    I always also tell myself, “Self, make sure you write that down somewhere for later,” which I never do and which is why my blog is absolutely a work of spontaneity and randomness.
    I have such good intentions Ally… 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Deb, I understand your predicament. I see things, too, and think: “isn’t that interesting? must write about that.” Then I forget about whatever it was I saw. Totally gone from my brain.

      That’s how I got started scribbling ideas onto scraps of paper, then tossing them into the drawer. It does help me feel like I’ve captured a good idea, but sadly my brain often has no clue as to what my scribbled message meant.

      Of course like you said, spontaneity and random are good, too. Perhaps I need to lean more on that approach to blogging. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Jill, all good people know and use the word “flapdoodle.” It’s a fact! I don’t keep a journal having found that I feel completely awkward when I face a blank page like those in journals. My scraps of paper in the drawer approach is working, but does seem more scattered [if you’ll excuse the pun] than it need be.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Unfortunately, my system isn’t better than yours. Scraps of paper that hopefully I’ll remember what they mean. I’ve gotten smarter as I age and added a bit more detail to help remind myself, but that’s not foolproof.

    And mind you, this is from a person who wrote something on her calendar a few weeks ago and when I read it two days ago, had no idea what it meant. I sure hope I didn’t miss some appt or something. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Tara, your approach to idea generation sounds about like mine. I pat myself on the back for writing something on a piece of paper, then saving it. But later, darned if I know what brilliant idea I was saving.

      Perhaps it just doesn’t matter. I seem to find things to babble about here on the blog, regardless of my idea generation process!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. LOL! We’re supposed to keep notes?

    Other than perpetually adding to my list of songs I plan on featuring at some point in my Monday series, I don’t jot anything interesting or poignant thoughts down so I remember them later. In fact, it would be an upset if I ever posted anything interesting and poignant, and I’d hate to have people think my blog got hijacked by spammers or something…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. evilsquirrel13, you have a blog unlike any other so I’d be shocked to find out that you were meticulously keeping track of your thoughts and ideas. Too much thinking on your part would never do. I hear what you’re saying about the spammers…

      Like

  6. I keep a Google Doc with a list of ideas, so I can add to it /check it anywhere. Many of these ideas I will never actually write about, but at least they’re there if I don’t feel inspired to blog.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Mei-Mei, I don’t use Google Docs for anything in my life. Never ever thought of it before. I’ll look into it because I like what you’re saying here. If nothing else, with Google Docs I’d waste less paper! 😉

      Like

  7. You’ll get no help from me here. I occasionally scribble notes, which may or may not mean something to me later, but they’re scattered about the House. No real organization here. Sometimes a thought comes to me when I’m in the middle of something else, and sometimes I compose a whole paragraph or theme for a blog. Sometimes it makes it to the screen, oftimes not. Sigh.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Carol, I get what you’re saying. I try to capture my ideas so that I’ll have something to write about when I sit down at my computer early each morning… but my process seems to have a few holes in it– courtesy of my addled brain.

      Obviously we both figure out something to talk about on our blogs, but I can’t help wondering if there might be a better way, a more reliable way, to keep track of what I want to write about here.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I doubt my blog will ever be really organized or have a real theme or purpose. It’s the one area of my life that allows the freedom to just be whatever it us today.

        Like

        1. Carol, I think of my blog as having both a mission statement and a vision statement. I write from those points of view. I realize that my approach to blogging might be a bit more businesslike than it need be, but that’s how my brain works. That being said, over the years I’ve loosened up quite a bit here, in the sense of talking about a variety of topics– not in the sense of being vulgar or rude.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Margaret, you are one of the most authentic old-school bloggers out there. I adore your blog, always have. I’ve never been able to focus on me very well, so I’m forever looking for ideas to talk about. And as I explained above, I’m also forever forgetting the ideas I thought that I wanted to talk about. Oh well… I try.

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      1. You are much too kind! I think what’s most important is if it works for us. I have loved your blog through all its incarnations. I consider you a keen observer, witty and thought-provoking. It doesn’t really matter what you write about; your personality shines through!

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  8. I have a planner for that. I call it my Creative Life planner and I use it to keep those ideas, quotes, challenges that I’m doing, creative classes I’m taking, etc. I use a planner to keep the “blank page” syndrome away. I totally get that too! I also have a junk journal where I dump all kinds of quotes and pictures and things. Doodle on the blank pages first. It helps. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Janet, that’s a brilliant idea! I’m good at doodling, an unintended consequence of many boring college classes.

      You’re the most organized person who I know. I like how you’ve named your files and have a specific purpose for each of them. That might be my problem, too many vaguely named files with overlapping information floating around in them.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m sort of like you, except less organized. I’ll have a flash of inspiration and if paper/pen are handy, I’ll scribble down the thought for later digestion; if not a lot of stuff gets lost in the ether that constitutes my mind most days. Chronic illness tends to make one lazy and tired and lacking the fortitude to do the work that goes into a good blog. Personally? I think your method sounds like it works for you and in the end isn’t that what matters? Because churning out words should be a joy and fulfilling, not a task to be dreaded. That makes it work. My blog is definitely not work, it’s a joy. Yours sounds the same I think. Just keep on dear, you’re doing wonderfully!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Embeecee, I understand about thoughts lost in the ether. I’m good at that sort of thing. I admit that my process is working, but it’s also kind of messy. From all the comments here I’m learning lots of good tidbits of organizational wisdom, but in the end you’re probably right. I need to keep doing things pretty much as I am now, perhaps tweaked in a few ways so that I feel like I’m more in control of my ideas. Like you said, this needs to be a joy, not a dreaded work project.

      Like

  10. I use Trello and, sometimes, Evernote. I’ve written about those in the past. I don’t like leaving a bunch of links on other people’s blogs. You can search my blog on both of those terms. If you want, I can point you to them.

    Both are cloud-based, which means you can access you thoughts from a laptop browser, a phone and or tablet browser or app. They offer many ways to categorize, organize, edit, attach and schedule if your so inclined. Neither forces you to be more organized than you want to be.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Dan, it’s funny that you mention Trello. Over the weekend my husband and I were talking about it in reference to projects around the house and shared information among family members.

      I never thought of it in the context of blogging! It’d work for me here on the blog as I have all of the above-mentioned electronic devices at my disposal. And I could adapt it for how my brain categorizes information. Just put a big *duh* by my name. Thanks for the idea.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Trello has become my favorite organization too. As soon as I started using it, I almost stopped using Evernote for my blog. If you look st my most recent post, it will show you how I use it. To each his/her own but…

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Lots of good suggestions here. I have nothing new to add. I make points of all the blog ideas I get in the book where I make the initial draft of my posts. Then I tick them off as and when Im done tackling some of them. I chuck the ones which don’t look appealing enough later. Sometimes I get brilliant ideas for two parallel posts simultaneously . That’s when I start to go mad!! 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Radhika, I like yours [and Nancy’s] idea about keeping a list of possible blog ideas in one place. Then work my way through the list, either using the idea or chucking it. As it is now I revisit ideas many times, instead of letting them go. If I’m meant to write on that topic, then the idea will come back to me at the proper time. Right?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don;t know about your last query. I had an excellent idea some months back – i even framed the opening lines of it. I was so caught up with it I thought it would come back when I completed the ongoing post. But it hasn’t and just trying to recall it gives me a headache !!! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  12. I use your system minus the drawer and with post-its (the real ones). It adds color to my monitor! I never put down enough information to remember the thought so it’s not foolproof by any means. The best blogs are the ones that I do RIGHT AWAY because I’m so annoyed, happy (fill in your own verb) at the moment. I love flapdoodle. My other fav is gobsmacked (I try to work that in periodically!).

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Kate, I used to go with the real post-it notes, but I found seeing my goofy notes all over the edge of the monitor made me anxious. With the drawer, my notes are out of sight, out of mind… sometimes too far out of mind!

      Gobsmacked is a good word. I don’t use it often enough. 🤔

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Most of the time, if I jot down an idea and then look at it later, it doesn’t seem so good to me. I have to actually get on the computer and start writing, otherwise the idea gets buried in the this and that of the day. Sorry, I know that’s not much help! I’m sure you’ll find a method that works!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. JT Twissel, I find that many of the “good” ideas that I save in the drawer turn out to be useless. At least I can take comfort in the fact that some of them turn out to be viable. It’s just that I want the idea creation part of blogging to be easier, and so far it isn’t!

      Like

    1. John, I tried Evernote and couldn’t get a feel for it. I write slowly, so I’m often working on 3 or 4 posts at the same time, grabbing ideas from my drawer– or what I did/read that day. I rarely just write something here and publish it immediately. Time, that’s what I need when I write.

      Like

  14. For me it always starts with self-torment, low-self-esteem, and a dash of sophomoric humor. Then I somehow graduate to an idea which quickly gets forgotten because I’m on an elliptical and I can’t remember anything after I leave the gym. This is followed by my remembering a piece of it in the middle of the night, although it also includes my being naked in the grocery store checkout line. So in the morning I do have to cleave that part out, so to speak. I’ll scribble it down with my morning coffee, and then something I read from another blogger later in the day usually gives me an idea of how to formulate the rest of it. So, basically, it’s all about theft. 🙂 – Marty

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Marty, your process is one that I can understand, but feel might be too convoluted for me to follow. I applaud you on knowing your own strengths and weaknesses. Obviously you carry on with your blog despite them, never letting anything like sleep or desperation get the better of you. Thank you so much for sharing here. You inspire us all with your determination to write blog posts no matter what.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. sticky notes on the computer? What a brilliant idea … but I like paper even though there are zillions of scraps which sometimes get transcribed into a notebook. Or several – whatever is at hand. I guess I mostly wing it; if I have nothing to say which is often, I say nothing but I miss the connection. I need time too to write a post; I envy those who write with apparent facility. Green is my middle name. I’d love to be more regular in my blogging. You ask for suggestions – every now and then transcribe those bits of paper or interesting things you see on the computer into a notebook of the paper kind and check them out every now and them… great post Ally Bean thank you …

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Susan, I like your idea. A real notebook would be good for me. Then I could refer to it whenever I needed an idea. It’d get me to consider my ideas more closely before I committed them to the notebook while giving me something tangible to reference when I’m looking for an idea. Smart thinking, my dear.

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  16. I use the sticky-note-everywhere method too, which is ridiculous considering most everything I do is on my laptop. But ideas and Word documents don’t seem to go hand and hand well. Sticky notes seem to capture the idea so much better. Until we promptly forget about them…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Carrie, I like sticky notes for specific tasks, but when it comes to Big Ideas I tend to save them on paper. I couldn’t give you a reasonable explanation as to why, but that’s what I do. My trouble here, I believe, is that I need to be decisive about saying YES I’ll write on this or NO this idea is toast. No keeping scraps of paper around for years. 🙁

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  17. Hi, Ally – The ‘blogging side’ of my brain seems to be most active in the middle of the night….thankfully when I am still asleep. Thus the majority of my posts I madly type out as soon as I wake up. When that system fails, I use the ‘sticky note system’ that Nance described above.
    P.S. Love your office photo!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Donna, I write early in the morning, too. My brain is at its clearest then. But I seem to think of my best ideas during the day when I can’t sit down to write. My current process is working, but I think I could refine it a bit so that I can get to the writing part of blogging faster, and have fewer crumpled paper scraps strewn on the office floor.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Joanne, that’s the way of the blogger, I think. I try to keep little sparks of my ideas, but seem to find myself bogged down in scraps of paper and indecision– instead of inspired. Such is life, indeed.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. I can SOOOOOOO relate to this. I have scraps of paper as well as blog drafts, 18 drafts currently, to be exact. Some of them are just a word or two, and most I don’t recall the context either. Just a little bit ago, however, I finally posted a draft from last August. Pathetic. But it feels great to finally make use of one of those old stories. The ones that hit the dust bin I figure weren’t worth it anyway. I’ll keep telling myself that. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Betsy, 18 drafts! I have to give you credit for being optimistic about your ability to remember what you want to write about. I’m impressed that you used something you started last August. Never give up, eh? Well, at least until you throw it out!

      Liked by 1 person

  19. My process is similar to yours, maybe just a touch more organized: I have a notebook where I jot down every idea that seems brilliant at a particular moment, or in which I tuck away pieces of paper of random things I might want to blog about. When I go back, if something still pops at me, I will write about it (although I get my best ideas when running).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. camparigirl, I like your notebook idea. You’re the second commenter to suggest it as an alternative to my drawer. In many ways it doesn’t matter what I write about here because I’m not part of a niche blogging community– but I like to pretend that I’m organized. I think this drawer proves otherwise! 😉

      Like

  20. I use the small pieces of paper – sticky or otherwise – stuffed in random places system. I probably have five small notebooks – and one small whiteboard – that I thought would be great to use to keep my blogging thoughts organized… but there they sit… all with a few pages of scribble in them.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Janis, I used to have a whiteboard, too! I never found it to be as useful as I thought it’d be when I bought it. My drawer system is working, but I have to figure there’s some smoother way of keeping track of my ideas. If only because I want to spend less time fussing around thinking up ideas, more time writing about the ideas.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. My first thought on seeing the photo of your idea generation area — your floor is clean! That’s amazing that so many people jot down ideas. I’m retired, and I don’t do that. My brain latches onto the one thing I want to write about, and I mull it over until I can sit at the computer. That’s the best way I know to bury tons of boring posts before they are written. My one crutch is my camera, which is usually in my pocket. Posts almost write themselves when you have the documentation in front of you. When writing about a trip, pictures keep everything in order for me. I know this wouldn’t work with ideas and brilliant essays, so I avoid them and look forward to reading the wonderful things my blogging friends write.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Anne, I seem to have a swirling mess of ideas in me, but find that when I sit down to write about these ideas many times they aren’t as swell as I thought they might be. I agree about the photos [or links even] being a good way to start + write a post. Each time I post here I try to have some concept that anchors my writing, but some days it’s not so easy.

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        1. Anne, I never thought about that before, but you’re right. When I started this blog I wanted to share what I was thinking about, so I went the idea route. Although sometimes I do talk about events in my life… I guess the trick is to be authentic to your own way of writing.

          Like

  22. I have 62 drafts. I just write. I pants and pants, and then sometimes I wait til I don’t have feelings about something anymore and then I edit a draft. Sometimes I gotta write them in my lil Moleskine before I lose them. Like dialogue.
    I like the drawer though. It’s good. Whatever works is good. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. joey, 62 drafts! My mind would implode with that many drafts lurking around. I work on a few posts at a time, shifting my attention around them until, like you said, I don’t have feelings about what I wrote anymore so I become a ruthless editor. Then I revisit my drawer of ideas, hoping that something in there will generate another post.

      When it comes to writing I’m not much of a pantser, I guess. For me it’s all planning and process.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I appreciate this fine planning and process you provide the blogosphere. I particularly enjoyed your recent mention of editorial … I no longer remember the phrase you used in your post, but I nodded to it. Spot on.

        Liked by 1 person

  23. I jot down my blog post ideas in a Word document. I usually type out a few sentences so that I can remember the subject matter, theme, and purpose of the overall post, then I date it and mark it with a keyword or something.

    The problem with using a Word doc is that all my ideas get jumbled together; there is no rhyme or reason. The keyword or special character is helpful because I can use the search/find feature to track down a post on POV, for example, if POV happens to be what I want to write about!

    Basically, my method is similar to your drawer method, but digitized. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Kate, I like the idea of digitized drawer, but have been reluctant to try anything like that. I tried Evernote once upon a time and didn’t like it. You raise a good point about the Word doc jumbling up your thoughts, despite what you do.

      My current process works, but I’m forever stumbling over myself when I look for ideas to write about. I want the idea generation process to be incidental to my writing, not the focus of what I do each morning when I sit down at my computer to write. However my current approach is working so maybe I don’t know what I need. 🙄

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “my current approach is working so maybe I don’t know what I need” … This! Too easy to be diverted either by shiny new ideas, or just the thought that there must be a better way somewhere out there. Us Life Coaches are probably to blame 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  24. I’m still at that point where I kid myself that I’ll remember 😉

    But I have tried the system of creating a draft with a link or a few words in it. Also the frantic one-fingered pecking onto the notes portion of my phone. The first lot nag away at me whenever I sit down to produce a draft, the second just sit there till I remember to look. If I’m honest, I can’t say either one has been a huge success. I’ve started using a bullet journal for planning & stuff. That’s worked well, so I’ve no idea why I haven’t used it for blog ideas yet. Other than, you know, the usual …

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Deb, I am a lady of the list, so I no longer try to con myself into believing I’ll remember things. That’s why I started this drawer as a place to toss what I hope will be inspiration for future blog posts.

      I’ve tried using Remember The Milk on my phone, but I’m not inclined to go there… because it’s on my phone which means I have to find my phone, enter a password to get into the phone, find the app, find the list, then try to type something on a tiny little keyboard.

      In that amount of time I can scribble a note on paper with a pen AND get a cup of coffee. For me using anything that is techie/digitized/computerish tends to slow me down to a point where I forget what I wanted to save.

      Like

  25. I typically write about whatever shiny thing captures my eye at a given moment, but I do also enjoy taking the occasional vacation while my blog does not. Under those pesky circumstances, I usually try to have a couple of post ideas waiting in the hopper so I can write in bulk. I do like the drawer idea though as that could definitely serve on days I draw a blank.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Allie P, I write about so many different things that I’ve found the drawer to be a good way to just have a place to capture my ideas. No judgement, no refinement. Just a spot.

      I hear you about not always wanting to write something for the blog. There are days when it seems like too much effort, but I persevere… often pulling something out that drawer.

      Liked by 1 person

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