Good Ideas Take Time or How to Brainstorm – Part 1

Andy Warren, 2008-10-22

Occasionally I’m asked how I come up with ideas for my blog to maintain the just about one a day tempo. The answer isn’t complicated, I come across an idea or two every day, then I just add that idea to my todo list and revisit when I need material. Not a very helpful answer though, because it doesn’t explain how I find the ideas!  As far as the blog, it’s two parts; one is becoming sensitized to things that happen that might be the base of a good blog post, the other is being comfortable with being able to take a sentence as a source and add value to it – my thoughts.

So let’s start with the idea of being open to ideas. Possible sources for me:

  • Magazines – often some good stuff especially if you read a diverse mix
  • Blogs – not as often, but only because I’m trying to generate original material, but there are times when I want to post about someone elses blog post
  • Questions that come up in class (or in forums)
  • Announcements of any type
  • Conversations with colleagues/peers
  • Problems I solve or try to solve
  • Community Events

On my list of possible blog posts I have right now:

  • Discuss budgeting for businesses at the department/team level (based on a conversation with Steve Jones)
  • Discuss the acquisition of Reflector by Red Gate (announcement)
  • This post! (conversation)
  • Trying to find a good HTML editor to replace Frontpage (and why) (a problem)
  • Acrobat can screw up label printing if you have the wrong option set (a problem)
  • Discuss advertising SQLSat on Craigslist and others (community)
  • More on todo management (problem, sort of)

Most of those will wind up as posts here in the next few weeks and as you can see from the titles, they definitely need to be expanded to be useful. Many of those ideas will sit for weeks. I’ll go through my list and some will pop out as ‘I’m ready to write about that’, while others need more research (HTML editors) and some just need more thought (Reflector). So I guess my process is to find something interesting, and then give it time to grow as needed. Sometimes the ideas require active thinking, or a discussion to fully shape my views. Other times I need to not think about it, let my subconscious work on it until the idea is ready.

In the case of my blog it’s not that I’m an incredibly gifted writer (I’m not, maybe some day) or that I have a secret source of ideas, it’s just that I’m always open to ideas/events that might be good posts. The process of taking those ideas and writing about them forces me to think about them, then you get to see the results – good or bad. When I talk to other people about blogging their biggest fear is lack of ideas, but as I talk with them they are often full of ideas. They just aren’t recognizing them, or making the leap that they can take a very simple idea and convert it into a few paragraphs of thoughts.

Coming up, how this applies to business.

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