Laura Petrolino

Six Things to Write About When You Don’t Know What to Write About

By: Laura Petrolino | July 24, 2017 | 
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Six Things to Write About When You Don't Know What to Write AboutWhat to write about?

Every week this summer I’ve typed that into my Google search while debating what to write about for my weekly article.

There is something weird about summer that provides many with incurable writer’s block.

I have an entire list of things to write about, and yet often feel uninspired to write any of them.

Or, I want to write something on the list, but I need to do this interview and that research prior to writing.

Or else produce something that is just me waxing lyrically about some topic with no actual substance to back it up (and you all know how I love to wax lyrically).

So today as I typed into Google “what to write about” and saw a SERP page full of great suggestions, I figured…”hey, why don’t I write about what to write about.”

Not only is it incredibly meta, but it allows me talk about myself.

A particularly good subject, and one of my favorites.

Obviously a win/win.

So here goes!

Write About Yourself

This is my default.

The moment I lack for a topic, I turn to my favorite one: ME!

I’ll think about:

  • Experiences
  • Struggles
  • Victories
  • Learnings
  • Interpersonal situations
  • Client situations
  • Mistakes
  • Failures
  • Confusions
  • Background and family
  • Hobbies (for example, I write about bodybuilding a lot)
  • Things I might have a different or unique perspective on.

And then create a blog post around one or two interesting circumstances.

Heck, sometimes I even write about, or from the perspective of my cat or dog.

I find these to be the most well-received blog posts I do.

Why?

Because, although we might all be very different, most experiences, fears, worries, concerns, are universal.

And it’s just nice to hear other people struggle, experience, and work through similar things to you.

To this day, I probably get the biggest response both privately and publicly when I write about failure, self-doubt, and my frequent struggles to get out of my own way and deal with my Type A-ness.

We all have these doubts and struggles, as well as victories and learnings, and often it’s just nice to know others experience the same.

Say Hello to Dr. Analogy

You know what the cure for the common writer’s block?

Analogies.

If you’ve read….well, pretty much anything I’ve ever written, you know I love analogies.

Analogies are just how I think and process things internally, which makes them an easy way for me to write about pretty much anything.

And even for those of you who don’t naturally think in analogies, they are a great starting point to dig into topics that other’s might not relate well too, or could benefit the displaced perspectives analogies often provide.

Study a Case to Case a Study

What to write about?

How about a case study that shows a real life example of how to, or not to, do something.

The biggest pushback we get from clients about this one is:

All of the work we do with our customers is under NDA. We can’t do case studies.

Create Case Study Stories

And sure, that means you can’t name brands, exact circumstances, and any identifying information, but it doesn’t mean you can’t build a case study story around the circumstance, solution, and results.

Look at the point you want to prove from the event and then change needed names, industry, and details, but maintain a story that retains that point.

If data is used, change actual numbers, but maintain context.

So if their database grew by 80 percent in real life, then it grew by 80 percent in the case study story.

The numbers can change, but the rate of growth stays consistent.

Just Ask

In other circumstances, and when the case study focuses on successes, we’ve just asked clients if they’d be OK with a case study.

We let them approve it before it is seen by anyone publicly and tell them exactly how it will be used.

To date, almost all of the clients we’ve asked to feature in a case study have been thrilled to be part of it.

Casual Case Studies Work, Too

Finally don’t feel like this has to be big and formal.

You’ll see in reviewing any several of the blogs written by our team that often we just leverage a conversation or casual day-to-day client service situation as a launching pad for a blog on a certain issue.

The take away here is nothing is more powerful than to leverage the stories you are creating with your clients or organization to write content that educates and engages your community.

This Day in History

This is one of my favorites, and not just because I’m a history buff, but because it really provides some timely content tie-ins when I’m not sure what to write about.

I’ll search all the events or important birthdays/anniversaries that occurred on the day (or around the day) my blog post will publish.

The History Channel has a great daily round-up.

Is there a tie-in?

Is there something unique or substantially I can extract?

Does an event make me think about a topic that would be valuable to my audience?

History repeats itself, so might as well use it to help you figure out what to write about.

Phone a Friend

Ask our team, my parents, friends, and even clients and they’ll tell you I often turn to them when I need to figure out what to write about.

Asking someone else gets you out of your own head.

AND, even if the topics aren’t perfect, the people pleaser in you (or at least in me) feels obligated to write something really great based on their suggestions, because they went out of their way to provide them.

This helps when you are feeling like a lazy content producer and your writing brain is sluggish.

That extra push to make someone else proud is a huge help.

Let Someone Else Write it: Go UGC!

What better what to figure out what to write about then to let someone else do it.

At least once a quarter I’ll turn to Facebook, Instagram, and or Spin Sucks Slack Community and ask my communities there a specific question.

Then my blog post just compiles their awesome, hilarious, and insightful answers.

I long ago accepted the fact that other people are much more insightful for me, so why not let them do the heavy lifting?

They always create articles much better than I could ever do on my own.

What to Write About

And there you have it.

That’s my list of go-tos when I just don’t know what to write about.

How about you?

About Laura Petrolino


Laura Petrolino is the chief client officer at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She also is a weekly contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks.

  • The summer doldrums! Ug! This is a super helpful list. I may even use it for some of my content this week. 🙂

    • Don’t worry, you can write about me anytime you’d like.

      • Howie Goldfarb

        After she finishes her work on the Edelman-Russia investigation and whether they colluded on the failed Clean Coal campaign she can write about you.

      • LOL!

  • This –> “I have an entire list of things to write about, and yet often feel uninspired to write any of them.” We have run into the dreaded NDA too and have turned them into stories instead.

    • It’s so painful, I have so many great content ideas….and yet. Someday…..someday!

  • paulakiger

    I simply love this topic. Yay! This weekend, I was searching for something a little different. I found ThinkWritten’s list of 365 prompts and chose “go to Wikipedia and click ‘random article’.” Since it “gave” me a PR professional, I’m a little skeptical that it’s all that random but was still SUCH a fun/educational blogging experience! (I mean, of COURSE “writing about yourself” is a primo option, especially when you’re a ninja.) Here are the ThinkWritten options: http://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

    • I love that! I actually meant to add that often I’ll just pick up a book and open a bag and then try to find something to write about inspired by that page. But Wiki is genius. I might do that next week.

      • paulakiger

        Oh that would be cool!

        • I do the same thing if I have a tough decision in life I need to make. It’s sort of like flipping a coin, sometimes you just need an outside stimulus to help you figure out what you really want to do.

  • Howie Goldfarb

    I am curious why you wrote this @laura_petrolino:disqus under case studies ‘And sure, that means you can’t name brands, exact circumstances, and any identifying information’ because if you don’t use a real case how can it be a case study?

    I have been told by some that clients prevent them from using private data like sales results…though I mostly suspect these people are in social media vs the brand side and are afraid to share that because it would hurt their businesses.

    But I have written many case studies using publicly available data for non-client brands and people. I’ve never felt the need to change names for the case study. Isn’t real with names and real data important and required for any level of credibility? Am I missing a potential legal issue?

    BTW great post when I used to blog I often was stuck with what to write about.

    • In general doing exactly what you say is best. Many organizations are either under NDA or deal with clients whose information needs to be private for a variety of reasons. It’s impossible to do case studies using the actual names, brands, and identifying info. So they face the choice of either not doing a case study or doing what I like to call a “case study story,” and changing identifying information, but keeping the basic story consistent that shows success or proves a point. So yes, a true, formal case study needs the actual data, but there is a happy medium between simply not ever using client stories as content because you can’t provide that data and doing a formal case study.

    • paulakiger

      (I miss your blog, Howie!)

  • Great list, Laura.

    I think it’s a mindset thing. If you’re focused on finding blog post topics around you, you’ll see almost anything as a potential article.

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