This weekend I packed my bags with fun food tools and headed ‘up north’ to Manchester for a blogging conference, Blog On MSI. Though I’ve been to several blogging conferences over the years, this was my first time attending a conference as a speaker. I thoroughly enjoyed running a fun festive food workshop and also talked through the creative process that I use for coming up with seasonal ideas all the year around for Eats Amazing, which you can read all about below.
Talking about blogging itself is off my usual subject matter, but I hope this post will be interesting to non-bloggers too, after all you don’t have to be a blogger to enjoy getting creative!
My number one tool for organising creative ideas is my trusty blogging notebook. I used to make notes all over the place – bits of paper, various random notebooks and spreadsheets, but since I made the decision to keep it all in one place, I’ve found keeping track of my ideas so much easier, and I now have a lovely long running list of potential fun food ideas and recipes on the go at all times. Finding time to actually make and test them is another thing, but at least I don’t suffer from writers block any more! I take my notebook everywhere with me – I throw it into my bag when I leave the house ready for jotting down ideas in as they pop into my head, and I’ll often pull it out for a quick brainstorm session when I’m stuck waiting for something or the kids are enjoying themselves at our local soft play centre.
Sometimes though, I’m faced with a blank piece of paper and a distinct lack of ideas, so these are my top ways to spark inspiration:
- Brainstorm and write notes
- Browse Pinterest
- Check daily theme days for the coming months
- Collaborate with other bloggers
Whilst I write down ideas as and when they randomly occur to me, there’s nothing like a good brainstorming session to help come up with lots of fresh ideas. I always use old fashioned pen and paper for brainstorming and usually create a spider diagram, it’s a great way to get your brain in creative mode! A good place to start is to think about what you might google in the run-up to the approaching season – are there any questions that you can answer with a blog post to help your readers? For example for Christmas, you might think about the following;
- Food – seasonal recipes, fun food ideas and themes, party food ideas
- Crafts – themed crafts e.g. snowmen, reindeer or santa, homemade presents children can make, presents you can make for children, present you can make for adults, homemade christmas cards and wrapping papper
- Parenting – gift lists for different age groups, homemade gift ideas, advent count-downs, ideas for entertaining children in the holidays, family traditions, parenting advice relating to the season
- Fashion – dresses, makeup, shoes, bags, looks for Christmas (you can probably tell fashion is not my area!)
- Events – party planning, party food recipes, secret Santa ideas, festive games
Here’s an example of a quick Christmas brainstorm I did recently, I wrote down anything and everything connected to Christmas that came to mind and I added ideas to my separate list of potential posts as I went along. It’s always worth noting down words and ideas that are outside your usual blog subject too – you never know what related ideas they might spark!
If I find that a brainstorming session is producing lots of similar ideas, for example several Santa themed foods or lots of party food ideas, I’ll consider planning a mini series with a round-up post at the end. This has several advantages. Firstly, you can create lots of posts on a similar theme and a bonus round-up post too, giving you lots of content for your blog. Round-ups can do very well on social media, especially seasonal round-ups. If you create a great pinnable collage image for your round-up post it can potentially do really well on Pinterest in particular.
Round-ups are also a great way to recycle old content, for example if you’ve got a couple of Santa themed foods from previous years to add to the round-up, you’ll get fresh eyes on those posts as well as on any new content. Round-ups can be made up of just your own content or a mixture of yours and other bloggers – most bloggers are happy to be featured in round-ups but be sure to ask permission first before using any images that aren’t your own.
Planning round-ups can be a great long-term strategy for helping you come up with blog post ideas – if you keep in mind that you would like to create a round-up on a particular theme at some point, it can keep you motivated and inspired to create plenty of posts that will fit the round-up theme. Examples of round-ups that have been particularly successful on the Eats Amazing blog recently include the following; 10 Healthy Rainbow Food Ideas, 10 Easy Summer Recipes for Kids, 10 Fun Watermelon Recipes for Kids and 15 Healthy Breakfast Ideas for Kids.
If I’m struggling to get started when brainstorming, my favourite place to visit is Pinterest. I set aside ½ hour or so to sit down and browse, notebook in hand. It’s a great idea to set up a secret board for blog inspiration too – as you’re browsing, save any inspiring pins to that board to come back to later, with a little note in the description to remind you of the ideas that it inspired.
The search function on Pinterest is always the first place I go when I’m thinking about seasonal content. Not only does it help you find the most fantastic seasonal ideas, but it also gives you a great idea of what people are searching for most when it comes to that season. In the screen shot below, you’ll see I searched for Christmas, which is obviously a huge topic with endless ideas. Below the search bar though, Pinterest offers a whole list of related topic buttons to help you find what you are looking for – these are the most popular categories that people are searching for and are perfect for helping you create useful content that people are going to want to find, as well as keywords for you to use in your blog posts. You can click on those topics to narrow down your search and find the pins that really fit with your blog niche too.
Hopefully it goes without saying that copying exact ideas for blog posts is a big no no, the idea is to be inspired, not to harvest other peoples ideas for your own blog. So as an example, in the screenshot above I spotted fun reindeer gift ideas and Santa hat brownies, which simply gave me the fun theme ideas of reindeers and Santa/Santa hats to add to my Christmas spider diagram when I was brainstorming.
I was also inspired by the Christmas cookies pin – though I wouldn’t copy the recipe and create my own cranberry orange cookies for the blog, it did make me think that a Christmas cookie round-up would make a great post and then led me to start thinking about different Christmas cookie recipes that I could potentially work on and trial in the run up to the festive season too (watch this space for those!).
Other places I like to visit on Pinterest when I’m on an inspiration mission are the popular pins section, to see what is doing well for other people, the featured lists, to see Pinterest’s top pin picks for the current season and the topics tab. You can follow specific topics by clicking on the menu and picking the topic that most interests you from the list e.g. ‘Celebrations and Events’. You’ll then find some buttons with more detailed topics in that category. Click on one of those and you’ll be given the option to follow that topic. To quickly find the list of topics that you are already following, pop over to your profile, click on ‘Following’ and select ‘Topics’ to see them all. Following topics has the added bonus of getting more of the pins that you’re likely to be interested in appearing in the home page feed too.
Another favourite place I find inspiration is by looking at daily, weekly and monthly themes for the coming month or two. There is a special day (sometimes several!) for every day of the year, and these can be a great source of inspiration. This ‘micro seasonal’ content will be particularly relevant on one special day of the year but they are usually themes that can be enjoyed all the year around too, e.g. an elephant craft for Elephant Appreciation Day or a vegetarian recipe round-up for World Vegetarian Day (this one is coming up next week!). One of the advantages of staying clued up on upcoming themed days is that there’s often a hashtag trending for each day on Twitter, so using the hashtags when you share your posts can be a great way to boost your traffic and introduce your blog to potential new readers.
I use the following sites to find all the upcoming daily, weekly and monthly themes;
You might notice the Eats Amazing site is in the list too – after creating my own daily themes list to work from I thought that there might be others who would like to use them so I now publish a list of fun daily themes each month. I share a weekly list every week over on my Facebook page too, so be sure to follow along to see them each week!
I must briefly touch on collaborations with other bloggers. This can be a fantastic way to get fresh inspiration if you’re struggling with writers block. In the run up to Christmas last year I was well and truly stuck in a blogging rut. Meghan from Playground Parkbench came to my rescue with a great collaboration idea to create a series of Nutcracker themed ideas – she came up with six fun crafts and I created complimentary nutcracker food ideas to go with them. I had so much fun working on the project and it restored my blogging mojo in the process. Another fun collaborative project was the alphabet of cooking with kids put together by Becky from 3 Princesses and 1 Dude this summer. She somehow manage to organise an entire alphabet of recipes with contributions from over 20 different bloggers!
If you’re stuck in a rut, chat to your blogging friends, put a call out in blogging groups or approach other bloggers in your niche with collaborative ideas. It can be such a fun thing to do and a great way to build relationships with other bloggers as well as finding inspiration!
One thing that I’ve noticed regularly coming up in blogging groups is the question of the best time to post seasonal content. I often hear people saying that seasonal content should be published several months in advance of the season in question. My own opinion is that content should be published when it suits you, and more importantly your readers. If you’re the super organised type that likes to start on creating Christmas content in August, you might want to think about actually holding off posting it on your blog until nearer the festive season, or your readers will be well and truly fed up of Christmas posts by the time December arrives!
My view may be skewed by my own tendency to be disorganised and post at the very last minute (sometimes even after the event!) but I think that it doesn’t matter! Think about the long game – your festive content may feel out of date the minute Christmas is over, but Christmas comes every year, so unless it is something specific to this year like an event review, it will most likely be relevant and useful to your readers again next year, and in the years to come. As the years go by, you’ll be able to build up a bank of seasonal content to share across your social media pages every year, leaving you free to create new seasonal content at a time that suits you and your readers best.
One thing I would advise you to do in advance of each season is to go through all your blog posts for that season from previous years and update them if needed so that they are ready to start sharing on your social media pages as soon as the season arrives. My one exception to the ‘don’t start too early’ rule is Pinterest. You can start pinning and repinning seasonal content from previous years as soon as you start to see other people pinning similar content, which is often several months in advance.
This post ended up being a bit of a mammoth read, so well done for getting to the end! I hope it has helped give you some fresh inspiration for creating seasonal content. Do you have any techniques or tricks for overcoming writers block? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!
As well as my talk on seasonal inspiration, I also ran a fun festive food workshop in the second half of my session. I’ll be sharing what we made and how they all turned out in a second blog post. A big thank you to Laura Seaton for inviting me to speak at Blog On MSI, the whole conference was just a fantastic day and I loved being a part of it!