How to Brainstorm Ideas for Writing

Before I got into the habit of writing and publishing on a schedule I couldn’t figure out how to brainstorm ideas. It was pretty hard in fact, to the point where I felt regular terror when I sat down to write.

Brainstorm ideas

The blank page would stare at me, judging. Sometimes there would be so much pressure I would crumple under it, give up and watch television instead.

And after enough time of that happening I would skip the pretending to write part altogether and go straight to television.

But this didn’t make me feel good about myself so after allowing the self-pity to continue for an awkward amount of time I pulled up my socks and learned how to brainstorm ideas for writing. And I’m pleased to say it’s something you can do too.

How to Brainstorm Ideas for Writing

This is a little exercise I picked up over the years and since making it work for me I have never sat down wondering what to write.

Writing is no longer a terrifying experience but something I look forward to and find pleasure in. I hope my brainstorm ideas and/or method helps you.

First, you need to know who your ideal reader is. This may seem like a strange step for brainstorming ideas for writing but trust me, this is a key step. Even if it’s a loose definition, think about the person (real or fictional) who would most be interested in reading your work.

Brainstorm Ideas for Writing Worksheet

By the way, I’ve created a worksheet to help you with this. Just pop your email address into the form below and I’ll send you the password for my resource library. When you’re there, navigate to the Writing category and download the “How to Brainstorm Ideas for Writing Worksheet.”

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Answer these questions

  • What does your ideal reader tend to focus on?
  • On social media, what does your ideal reader like sharing about?
  • From what you can gather, what is your ideal reader most need/want/desire?

Once you know the answers to those initial questions answer this one: what problem are you solving for your ideal reader through your writing?

Through thinking about your ideal reader you should have a few words and phrases jotted down. Take a look and add a few more words to the page.

This time, write down everything you’d like to write about one day. It can be vague or specific, long or short. Just jot down as much as you can think of in a five-minute period.

Look at the list you came up with and compare it to your first one—are you seeing any good brainstorming ideas? Are you seeing some common threads?

Find four topics that match both what you want to write about and what your ideal reader is struggling with. Once you find four, write them down.

This last step is the most fun

Decide how much you’re going to write and break down your topics into sub-categories.

For example, if I have four main topics and I decide I want to write one blog post per week, then I need 52 sub-categories. That is around 13 ideas per topic. While this seems like a lot I don’t need more than a word or short phrase at this point.

I’ll list a few of my brainstorm ideas for the next few blog posts below as an example of what I mean.

But what if you can’t think of sub-categories? Or what if you have a few ideas but can’t get to 13? Here are a few suggestions for finding topic ideas.

This is a little exercise I picked up over the years and since making it work for me I have never sat down wondering what to write.

Writing is no longer a terrifying experience but something I look forward to and find pleasure in. I hope my brainstorm ideas and/or method helps you.

Brainstorm ideas for coming up with sub-categories

  • Pay attention to questions people ask you. If you hear a question you think your ideal reader would ask, write it down
  • If you’re in any online networking groups, take a look around and see the types of questions being asked and the conversations happening. Again, if you see something your ideal reader might be interested in, write it down
  • Go through your emails and see what types of topics the people you follow are addressing. Anything interesting in there? Is there a new angle or spin you can put on the topic and to help your ideal reader in some way?
  • Pick a topic from your list of “I’d like to write about this one day” ideas. Maybe it’s not a top four topic but it might make a perfect sub-category!

If you try these ideas and are still super stuck, here’s a helpful seven-step method to come up with brainstorm ideas fast from HubSpot.

This is the main way I come up with brainstorm ideas whenever I’m working on something new. I’ll condense the steps here for a quick reminder.

Steps for finding brainstorm ideas

  1. First, I put myself in the shoes of my ideal reader and think about what s/he would like to read
  2. Second, I write a quick list of everything I’m interested in writing about one day
  3. Third, I compare the first two lists and see where they intersect. I look for four main topics from this process
  4. Fourth, I brainstorm sub-categories to fit under the four main topics by looking at what people are already asking about, by watching what other people are talking about and by writing about things I think my ideal reader will resonate with

Have you tried this method before? I’d love to compare notes!

Make sure to grab the worksheet for this training. Just pop your email address into the form below and I’ll send you the password for my resource library. When you’re there, navigate to the Writing category and download the “How to Brainstorm Ideas for Writing Worksheet.”

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Other articles on this subject

This is a little exercise I picked up over the years and since making it work for me I have never sat down wondering what to write. 

Writing is no longer a terrifying experience but something I look forward to and find pleasure in. I hope my brainstorm ideas and/or method helps you.

One more thing. You may be interested in my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

Get Access to My Free Resource Library

* indicates required
Before I got into the habit of writing and publishing on a schedule I couldn't figure out how to brainstorm ideas. Sitting down to write became terrifying.
Before I got into the habit of writing and publishing on a schedule I couldn't figure out how to brainstorm ideas. Sitting down to write became terrifying.

Platform Building: Smart and Strategic Tips for Writers

What are the most important things a writer can do to be smart and strategic about platform building (instead of being overwhelmed)?

No matter what kind of writer or author you are, this question is so important to ask.

Smart and strategic platform building tips for writers

What is a platform?

First I want to address this confusing term because it’s part jargon and part new word use. The way I’m using the phrase today is defining “platform” as it pertains to a writer. In many cases this is called an author platform. However, it can also apply to other types of writers.

At it’s most basic definition, a platform is the sum total of a writer’s ability to sell their work. It combines visibility with connections through established distribution channels.

The risk when pouring energy into platform building is you’ll either spend time focusing on areas that don’t pay off or you’ll put too much effort into one area and neglect other, equally important areas.

Here is an example of a well-rounded author platform:

  • Social media followers and existing contacts/fans/readers/email subscribers—30%
  • Knowledge and expertise on your topic—25%
  • Personality and follow through—25%
  • Previous work (articles, books, etc.)—20%

Extra reading: Learn more about author platforms

Extra credit: How to Set Up a Basic Author Platform from Kirsten Oliphant

So now we come back to our original question: how can a writer be smart and strategic about platform building, instead of being overwhelmed?

Tips for platform building

As you can gather from my example, your biggest ROI from platform-building activities comes from your circle of friends and followers.

But these people can’t just click “like” on your chosen online profile. They need to be fans—active, engaged, wallets-out fans.

Here are my top four suggestions for platform building (for growing and maintaining your following) without letting it take over your life

Platform building tips

Tip 1: Get clear on why you want a following

To some writers the “why” is obvious. And perhaps it makes sense through the lens of platform building. But still, think about WHY you’re trying to attract people to you and your writing.

There are no wrong answers here, but it’s important to know what your goal is so when things get hard or you get busy, you can stay laser-focused on your objective.

Think about why you want a following and write it down. Then figure out how to get this following. Do it! It’s worth 30% of your platform!

Extra reading with worksheets: Four Decisions Every Writer Needs to Make

(Or go direct to the worksheets in my resource library)

Tip 2: Make strong, authentic connections with your followers

Making connections with other human beings may seem like a big ask for writers who are introverted or shy.

But in today’s world, “if you write it they will come” isn’t a thing. We have to figure out how to build relationships with others. We need them in our tribe just like they need our writing. It’s a symbiotic relationship but it doesn’t happen without effort or by accident.

How you do this will look different for every person because you have to work with your strengths.

For some people, making connections means you publish high-quality articles in publications your ideal followers read.

For others, this means gaining a following through speaking at events or hosting workshops and showcasing your expertise on a topic.

Another example of how a writer can build relationships is by going all-in on a social media platform and building a huge following of loyal fans by showing up and doing the work.

This could mean:

  • Following your ideal readers
  • Engaging in discussions with your ideal readers and your existing followers
  • Leaving thoughtful comments on other people’s posts
  • Joining and becoming an active member of the community (or starting one)

While the “how” varies from writer to writer, the important piece to keep in mind is it must be true to who you are.

How do you best connect with people? Lean into that. It’s the only way these relationships will be authentic and genuine.

Extra reading: Make Stronger Connections with Your Ideal Clients

Tip 3: Optimize your online channels for your audience

Whether it’s a social media profile or your personal blog, it’s important to put due care and attention into your online presence.

As a writer, you’re the brand. How you present yourself online matters.

Make sure your profiles are consistent across the web and that your “about statement” reflects who you are as a writer. When you’re in platform-building mode, this isn’t the time to be cute or vague. State who you are in a clear way and write it for your ideal follower.

The same goes for your website. Ask yourself if your site or blog is an accurate reflection of the type of writer you want to be known as. If not, fix it. Get it up to snuff or make it private. Make sure it’s attractive and loads quickly and is easy to find.

Don’t assume people are aware of what you do or even understand it. Do you know the details of your entire network? Lay everything out for your followers like it’s the first time they’ve ever stumbled across your site or profile.

Optimize your website and social media channels for your audience. It’s time to put yourself out there by making yourself discoverable.

Remember, if you don’t take control of your brand story someone else will.

Extra reading: Five Tips for Optimizing your Social Media Profiles

Extra credit: How to Avoid Social Media Overwhelm

Tip 4: Have a strategy

You want to be consistent and smart about strengthening your platform, right? OK great. So you need a strategy. Even if you’re a pantser who doesn’t plan.

I’m serious!

Without the structure of a strategy (or at least the framework of a general direction) it will be too easy to let platform building go by the wayside when urgent things crop up.

Because this is a long game, which means it’s always important but rarely urgent. Which means you have to build these activities into your schedule and make it a part of your daily life.

Here are a few things to think about when creating a platform building strategy:

  • Who do you want to connect with?
  • Where are your potential friends and followers hanging out?
  • Which channels or networks will have the biggest payoff for you?
  • Where are you the most comfortable, the most yourself?
  • You can’t be everywhere so which networks will you focus on?
  • What can you do or post consistently to build your visibility, credibility and authority?
  • How can you serve your followers and build relationship with them?
  • What scheduling tools or services can you use to help you execute your strategy and stay on track?

Extra reading: Five Step Social Media Strategy for Writers

Platform building is a lot easier if you have a road map to follow

Yes, the plan has to change sometimes so it also needs to be a bit fluid. But it’s easier to adjust something in existence than it is to sit around wondering how on earth you’ll increase your influence so you can attract that agent or get a new client.


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What are the most important things a writer can do to be smart and strategic about platform building (instead of being overwhelmed)? Great question!

One more thing. You may be interested in my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

Get Access to My Free Resource Library

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Improve Your Blog Writing Skills

You know you need to improve your blog writing skills but you don’t know what to do next. I’m right, aren’t I.

Because you know content marketing is important for platform building, for visibility and for generating business.

So now what?

Improve Your Blog Writing Skills

Why you should write a blog

If you’re just starting out in freelance writing, your blog can be an excellent source of writing samples until you build your own portfolio. It can also give you a ton of useful resources to share on social media to help build your platform.

Extra reading: 10 Reasons to Start a Blog

If you’re running a business, a blog is a great way of adding new content to your site, stuff for search engines to index and present to Internet browsers. You know, stuff that gets people to your website who will then hopefully hire you or purchase something from you.

Extra reading: SEO Tips and Tricks for Freelance Writers

Blogging is also an excellent way of connecting with your ideal reader or target client. Writing regular updates or producing trainings on your website helps you build relationships.

Content, when used correctly, can help businesses to improve their reputation, to position themselves as thought leaders, to attract new customers and to improve their customer retention, making it something worth investing in.

Extra reading: Make Stronger Connections with Your Ideal Clients

Here are four tips to improve your blog writing skills. 

blog writing tips

4 ways to improve your blog writing skills

Pay attention to your craft

Maybe you weren’t trained as a writer but it’s a skill anyone can learn. Remember, the content displayed on your website is a reflection of you.

It’s your digital business card, your storefront and your first impression.

If you want to improve your blog writing here’s some free advice from Jericho, a website dedicated to helping aspiring content creators.

Find your voice

In the writing world, the most important discovery you can make is finding your writing voice. This is the style a writer uses to relay information and tell stories. If done right, your writing voice will be like your fingerprint. Unique, compelling and recognizeable.

Voice is a huge piece of a strong brand, which is critical to a successful online presence.

Extra reading: Brand Your Blog A Step-by-Step Guide

Plan your content

While it’s fun to be spontaneous, platform building and business growth responds better to consistency. This is why planning ahead is so key.

Creating and maintaining an editorial calendar not only allows you to publish on a set schedule but keeps you focused and on message. Easy in theory, tough when life gets busy.

Extra reading: How to Create a Blog Content Calendar

Make your site mobile-friendly

There’s no way around it, your blog needs to be responsive. This means your site is optimized for mobile.

While this isn’t a writing tip, investing in a mobile-first template will both bring people to your site (Google won’t even show your site in results if it’s not responsive) and keep them there.


These are just four tips out of many, many more opportunities to improve your blog writing. If you need more help then consider contacting a freelance writer (a freelance writer like me!) who will be able to help you with your content strategy.

You know you need to improve your blog writing skills but you don't know what to do next. I'm right, right? Here are four tips for upgrading your content.

One more thing. I think you’ll enjoy my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

Freebies related to this post you’ll find helpful: how to write an outline, create a writing schedule and elements of a brand.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

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How to Choose Fonts for Your Website

Can we just agree fonts are important and move on to figuring out how to choose fonts when you know they matter but you can’t tell what works and what doesn’t?

How to Choose Fonts for Your Website When You're Not a Designer

How to choose fonts for your website when you’re not a designer

Why are fonts such a big deal? I know they are but I don’t “get” it. But I understand, at least, that it does matter. So I’m here to tell you fonts matter and I could try and tell you why but I’d only be plagiarizing because I don’t understand it.

OK so let’s just do this. When choosing fonts for your website choose it for readability over anything else.

Ugh, no fun right?

But think of it this way: website visitors are fickle. If they drop in and have to squint to read your words, they won’t bother. So choose function over form in this case.

But don’t think that means you can’t do something funky—it just needs to be legible.

There are four basic types to consider when you choose fonts.

Serif

These fonts have “feet” at the ends of their letters. These are known as more traditional fonts and it’s argued they’re easier to read in print.

These fonts have "feet" at the ends of their letters. These are known as more traditional fonts and it's argued they're easier to read in print.

Sans-Serif

These fonts don’t have “feet” at the ends of their letters and it’s argued they’re easier to read on pixel-based screens.

With no "feet" at the ends of their letters, it's argued they're easier to read on pixel-based screens.

Script

These fonts are easy to recognize: cursive. These are interesting but can be difficult to read on a screen.

These fonts are easy to recognize: cursive. These are interesting but can be difficult to read on a screen.

Decorative

These fonts are meant to grab attention and are not practical.

These fonts are meant to grab attention and are not practical.

What I recommend when you choose fonts

When choosing fonts for your website try and stay with serif or sans-serif. Wondering what your options are? Check out Google Fonts. There are tons of options and they’re all web friendly. Pick out something you like in the safe zone and then, if you want, let’s move to the next step.

IF you want a secondary font, then you need to do something called font pairing. I find this part mind boggling, but others seem to understand it. If you know what you’re doing then go for it! But if you’re like me, wondering how to choose fonts for your website when you’re not a designer, stick to the basics. Serifs with other serifs. Sans-serifs with other sans-serifs.

There is an argument for having more than one font—it adds contrast.

Kind of interesting, right?

I have looked all over the Internet for helpful articles on pairing fonts for non-designers. One is for the visual learner—The Art of Combining Fonts, and the other is for ones who want a more scientific approach—Four Techniques for Combining Fonts.

People who are passionate about fonts will tell you they make you feel something and help form your brand personality. So let’s circle back to my original point: fonts are important. They are, trust me. Well, take my word for it. Well, just go with it.

Want to go deeper on branding? Check out Brand Your Blog A Step-by-Step Guide.

Can we just agree fonts are important and move on to figuring out how to choose fonts when you know they matter but you can't tell what works and what doesn't?

One more thing. You may be interested in my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

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I'm here to tell you fonts matter and give you some quick tips on how to choose fonts for your website when you're not a designer.

Four Decisions Every Writer Needs to Make

There are four decisions every writer needs to make before they get started marketing themselves online. They’re foundational to your writing life.

Four Decisions Every Writer Needs to Make

Want the worksheet for this training? Download the Four Decisions Every Writer Needs to Make worksheets from my resource library.

Pop your email address in the form below, confirm your subscription to my email list and I’ll send you the password to my free resource library. Once you’re in look for the worksheet titled “Four Decisions Every Writer Needs to Make.”

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Four decisions every writer needs to make

In the writing life, it’s easy to get swept up in tactics and strategies other people recommend. When you’re just getting started it makes sense! You don’t know what to do so why not try something that seems like it’s working?

Making decisions about who you are as a writer may seem overwhelming and restrictive, I get it. But in thinking this through, it will provide you with an important foundation. These decisions will help keep you focused when the writing gets hard and the rejections pile up.

The four questions

Consider these four questions and try and come up with answers that reflect your personal writing goals. What you come up with will help you stay focused in the wild west of online marketing. And yes, you can change your answers over time. Definitely!

Who is your target reader?

  • Try and form a mental picture of your ideal reader, your biggest fan
  • Where does this person spend time online?
  • What does this person care about?
  • Why does this person love reading your work?

For more on discovering your ideal reader, here’s a longer walkthrough.

Why do you want an online following?

  • This may feel like a selfish/self-serving question but it’s important to know what your goal is and why you want followers
  • There are no wrong answers so be honest with yourself!
  • It’s important to know your end goal so you don’t get swept up in every trend and fad
  • Understanding why you want an online following will help you hang in there when you don’t feel like being online or you encounter bad Internet people

Writers who want to be traditionally published should be working towards growing a platform. For more on author platforms, here’s a definition and an explanation.

What is your focus/niche?

  • What do you write about?
  • In a perfect world, what would you be known for?
  • What type of writing do you do?
  • While you may have diverse interests and write in several genres, decide on a primary topic or focus

Often, writers are resistant to choosing a narrow focus or niche. I’ve written about my journey and expand on why branding yourself is so important in the online world.

What problem do you solve for your readers?

  • What is something you offer your ideal readers that they both need and want?
  • Be as specific as possible
  • Think about what your reader is hoping you’ll help them with
  • The problems and solutions you offer can be big or small

Understanding why what you write is important to your readers is a fabulous opportunity to help people take the next step on their journey. It also helps you build your brand, which I expand on in this article.

Why do you write?

Bonus question: Why do you write?

No matter the reason, you should know why you write. If you can get clear about your why it will act as a beacon when your path isn’t clear. You know, when things like self-doubt and insecurity knock at your door. Or when success doesn’t come in the timeline you daydreamed about.

Your why will help you see past the discouragement of the day and keep moving ahead. Because you have a larger purpose! Your why is bigger than a momentary setback.

Ready to create your writer’s statement? Download the worksheet from my free resource library.

Enter your email address in the form below, confirm your subscription to my email list and then I’ll send you the password to my free resource library. Once you’re in look for the worksheet titled “Writer’s Statement Worksheet.”

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And for the sake of an example and accountability, here is my recently-updated writer’s statement.

I write stories and articles to help others create vulnerable connections—with others, with themselves, with the world—so they can move towards the person they’re meant to be.

My goal in sharing is to help someone else discover they’re not alone and give them hope for the future.

Writer’s Statement, Robyn Roste (February 2020)

By the way, I worked through this at Laura Munson’s Haven 1 Writing Retreat earlier this year. Ask me about that incredible experience!

There are four decisions every writer needs to make before they get started marketing themselves online. They're foundational to your writing life.

This is an excerpt from my workshop Blogging and Social Media for Writers.

You’ve heard that, as a writer, you need to build an online platform, but what does that mean? While building a presence through blogging and social media is both a science and an art, there are consistent elements writers need to think about and commit to. This workshop reviews the top elements to consider and the four decisions every writer needs to know before they get started.

There are four decisions every writer needs to make before they get started marketing themselves online. They're foundational to your writing life.

One more thing. You may be interested in my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

Get Access to My Free Resource Library

* indicates required