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Uh oh. Your scheduled blog post is due tomorrow and you have no idea what to write about! It’s come down to the wire and you thought your trusty, old procrastination would create the time constraint you needed to crank out something golden in the last minute. It almost always works, but this time it’s not working.

This time, you feel stuck. It’s time to podcast and you have no idea what to talk about. But you’re not going to do a disservice to your audience and just turn on the mic and ramble. You’re determined to provide value. You just need a topic!

In this episode, I share 62 topics you can write about (or use as fuel for your podcast, videos, etc.). There’s so much to talk about, it’s just hard to remember when you’ve hit a block. We’ll help you get unstuck.

Show Notes

For those of you skimmers, I’ve kindly starred the topic ideas in red for you. You’re welcome.

Bonus: I got a few requests for this: Download PDF of Topic List

    • 01:59 Sean: Today, we’re going to give you some topic ideas you can use when you run out of things to say.
    • 02:05 So you’ve been going and going, and you’re showing up regularly. Maybe you’ve got a blog, maybe you’ve got a podcast or a newsletter. You’re having to create content of some type. You’re coming up with topics that are relevant—maybe you’re asking questions of your audience and you’re answering their questions…
    • 02:24 But for some reason today, you just got to the point where you have no idea what you’re going to talk about. You have no idea what topic to go on. Well, we’re here to help get you unstuck. Some of these topic ideas you can just take and run with, others are things that you might need to start planning for but I’m hoping that it’ll plant the seed and give you some ideas for the future.
    • Preventing Topic Scarcity in the First Place
    • 03:09 Sean: Before we actually get to these topic ideas, I briefly want to talk about preventing topic scarcity in the first place. If you’ve arrived at a place where you feel like you don’t know what you want to talk about, or you feel like you don’t have anything to say, I think that’s indicative of a problem.
    • 03:41 I really, strongly encourage having an idea log or a list of topics, subjects, or concepts that you’re creating throughout your day and throughout your week. You’re storing up this this bank that you can reference when you’re in a place where you need to create.
    • 04:07 Ben: “I keep a stack of index cards as well as a digital list. One of the things that often happens to me when I try to write an article is I’ll flip through those cards and think to myself, ‘I don’t know if I feel like writing about any of these today.’
    • 04:36 “What has helped me prevent situations where my topics feel scarce is having a daily writing practice. When I don’t have the pressure of trying to produce something for that day, I can actually sit down and say, ‘Okay, what would I say about this?’ From there, I can just let the idea expand on its own.
    • 05:06 “This way, when I have something I need to post, I already have a fully-formed idea that I can expand on even more.”
    • 05:21 Sean: Another one for me is when you put down the topic, also write bullets. Just brain dump a rough outline. Created a structure or outline of the points you know you want to hit on, so whenever you have to write about it, you have the whole thing ready to go. All you have to do is flesh it out.
    • 05:43 Ben: “Yeah, sometimes I have a title written down and when I go back later to look at my list, I have no idea what it was supposed to be. I’m like ‘What was I even thinking about? I don’t even know where I was going with it.’”

Write down topics when you’re not in the place where you need to write.

    • Topic Ideas You Can Use When You Run Out of Things to Say
    • 06:37 Sean: Obviously, writing down topic ideas before you get to a point where you’re stuck is a good idea, but you’re here because you’re stuck right now. So we’re going to get into some ideas that you can run with immediately.
    • Stories
    • 06:47 Sean: The obvious place to source stories is from things that have happened to you.
      • What’s happened in your life recently?
      • What’s something in your past that happened a long time ago?
    • 07:09 There’s a few things you can do here:
      • Tell a story that’s relevant to a message you have to share.
      • Use any story you know and play “The Moral of The Story Is…” game where you find a way to creatively tie the narrative into the message you’re trying to communicate.
    • 07:35 Ben: “I think all kinds of stories, when you’re writing in this context, need that ‘Moral of The Story Is…’ turn at some point. The story itself might be an example of the point you’re making, but making that turn into the practical side is really important. Sometimes you can find that practical side of what you’re really trying to say in a story that seems unrelated. It might be a story about something that has absolutely nothing to do with the field you’re working in or the audience that you have, but that story holds in it some example or metaphor that you can translate into something actionable and something practical.”
    • 08:26 Sean: Stories can help:
      • Educate people.
      • Entertain people.
      • Inform people.
    • 08:34 Stories are really grazable things to write about. People are more easily able to hook into a story than they are just a list of facts.
    • 08:51 Ben: “I think there are some personality types who can grab hold of practical at face value without having to come through a story first, but for the most part the story is really what makes those things powerful. The story is what helps an individual connect with those ideas in a way that doesn’t just keep it in their head but also helps them make it a part of who they are. It’s the difference between knowing something and feeling like you have a shared experience with those ideas.”
    • 09:35 Sean: Another thing is don’t limit yourself just to stories that have happened to you:
      • Tell a story that happened to a friend.
    • 09:42 Maybe someone else told you a story. It could be fictional or non-fiction. Obviously the easy thing is to tell stories about real things that happened, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t tell a fictional story that really illustrates your point. You’re not trying to mislead people, this is for the purpose of illustrating.
    • Process
    • 10:29 How you work:
      • Talk about your Design Workflow.
        • Where do you start?
        • What do you do after you start?
        • How do you make it to the end?
        • Where do you involve the client?
        • Should you involve the client at all?
        • How do you send the deliverables?
    • 10:57 Sean: You could zoom in on any one of those. Write a blog post about it, write a whole series about it with different parts. You can give a zoomed-out, big picture of the whole design workflow. You can go about it any number of ways.
    • 11:13 Ben: “Yeah, I really like this idea of having the freedom to zoom in as far as you want or zoom out as far as you need to. Because there’s really a lot of minutia in every step. Sometimes we’re only unconsciously aware of the little steps we take. We take for granted that somebody is aware of all the little parts that go into making up a bigger step. Sharing these can be super valuable for somebody who is looking to create their own process but doesn’t really know where to start.
    • 11:59 “Bonus: if you don’t have a process written down or it’s incomplete, this is a great way for you to solidify your process and assign more meaning to the steps that you take. Maybe you do something but you don’t really know why you do it. Explain why you do it and assign a meaning.”
    • 12:29 Sean: That’s a great point. I really like the zoomed in part because as you get more advanced, you tend to watch a YouTube video on a particular subject or piece of software and 90% is going to be review. It will be stuff that you already know. You may be watching a long video and nodding your head, because it’s all things you already know…
    • 13:02 But then you come across that one little nugget. The one thing that is just gold to you. It changes everything. You’re going to save a few hours a week now that you know this. It was so worth it to find that one little thing. The more advanced you get in a field, the more common this is. Because you know most of the stuff, you have to wade through a lot to get the little nuggets.
    • 13:29 The more zoomed in you are, the more it helps the advanced people. The people who have been-there-done-that will only get something out of the little nuances. So the little tiny details of how you do one particular thing that might be different from them is where they’re going to get that value.
    • 14:08 This is the reason that consultants can get away with such high rates. When you’re more advanced, you have to really dig to find the answers to the pressing questions you have, because you’re so far beyond everyone. If you don’t want to have to scrub through a 20 minute video to find that one little gold nugget, you have to pay a lot. You have to pay the consultant to go right to that one question.
    • 15:23 Here’s a great one:
      • Write about your daily routine.
    • 15:31 People love that stuff. They love to know behind the scenes—not just that you put out a new article or a new podcast, but how you do it. How do you go about your day? From your bed to the desk, what happens in between? What’s your routine? What makes you tick? How do you approach your work?
    • 18:16 Sean: How do you find focus? Write about:
      • Getting into the mindset.
      • Finding inspiration.
        • Do you have a particular source?
        • Is there a place you go?
        • Do you have a certain routine you follow?
    • 18:56 Ben: “I’ve been surprised before by where some people gather their inspiration. It comes back to this idea that when we consume art or content, we often make assumptions about how they arrived at that. It’s not a fault of ours that we do this, it’s just that we want to give it some kind of explanation. When somebody reveals to us the reality of what inspired that, it’s exciting and encouraging because we might see similarities in the things that inspire us. We may also discover that they’re drawing their inspiration from something that’s completely different and really diverse. It could be something that challenges you to find inspiration outside of yourself.
    • 20:11 “An example of this is on Instagram, you can see what the people you’re following are liking and commenting on. I’ve been surprised when I go and look at your activity, Sean. I don’t really see much lettering stuff, or typography, or anything like that. A lot of what I see is really neat photography work. I was surprised. With how focused you are on curating your output to lettering, I thought surely he’s going to have some lettering stuff in there, but it just speaks to how the diversity of inspiration can really influence your craft.”
    • 21:04 Sean: That’s an interesting note. I think it also goes to show that what you consume doesn’t have to directly relate to what you project. So just because someone curates their output to one specific, niche thing, it doesn’t mean that they have to only consume that. It might even be better that they diversify what they consume.
    • 21:53 When you start a project, what’s the first thing you do? You’ve got a client, you’ve got the job, you’ve got the time set aside and it’s on the schedule. It’s time to begin the project, you sit down at the desk—what’s the first thing that you do?
    • 22:18 Process is an easy source to pull from. It’s an easy place to go to when you run out of topic ideas. It’s very simply: “How do you do things?” Imagine that a friend is asking you, “What’s the first thing that you do? How do you approach a project?” There you go. There’s a topic idea for you. Start writing on that.
    • 22:38 Client communication. “Sean, this is boring stuff.” I know. It’s not all glamorous, but we all do it. We all have to deal with it and we all have to talk to clients. There’s insight here that you have because you’ve done it before and that’s something that you can write about. Don’t get caught up in thinking you have to write about something that’s glamorous and cool that you can make a flashy headline for—sometimes it’s the boring stuff that can resonate with people. They’re probably thinking, ”I thought I was the only one! No one writes about this stuff!”
    • 23:15 Ben: “Something that also happens when you share that kind of stuff is every once in a while you’ll get some feedback that not only acknowledges how valuable that content was, but also offers some additional thoughts. They may share a piece of their process that ends up really helping you out. You can then incorporate constructive feedback into your own process.”
    • 24:02 Sean: If you design and sell products, talk about the product-creation process:
      • How do you go about designing a product?
      • How do you go about picking what product to work on?
      • How do you go about validating whether this product is going to resonate with your audience?
      • What physical mediums do you take into consideration?
      • What goes into your decision of one color over the other?
      • What manufacturers do you use?
      • How do you vet manufacturers?
      • How do you negotiate rates?
      • Should you negotiate rates at all?
    • 24:47 Sean: Ben, did you want to elaborate on the “list-style first” method you were sharing with me before we started recording?
    • 25:00 Ben: “Yeah, so when it comes to writing about your process, it can be difficult to try to immediately expand on every single part. Going in and just listing the headings helps you work through your entire process without feeling overwhelmed with the volume of information you might share. When you go back, you can find areas to zoom in on one piece. You may find that you have something really valuable that you can expand on that stands alone. That was the tip: let yourself be zoomed out first, write those headings, then go back later and fill them in.”
    • Tools
    • 26:43 Sean: I don’t even really think about tools, honestly. They’re almost invisible to me because they’re just so familiar—it’s like using my hands. But people really love to know what tools you’re using.
    • 27:04 The thing you have to be careful about is a lot of times people want to know what tools you’re using because they think that’s the magic bullet. They think, “If I just have the one tool that Sean has, I can make what he makes!” Well, that’s not really true. You don’t want to lead people in that direction. What I do is I put a disclaimer that says “Use what you have you!” With lettering, I started with just a regular 2B pencil—the kind you have all over your house. I used that for three years. You can start with what you have.
    • 27:38 Ben: “Maybe you can talk about your transition from tool to tool as you grew in your abilities. That could be valuable as well. When you go into detail about why you use a specific tool, it helps serve the purpose of getting rid of this false idea that the tools are what is important.”
    • 35:36 Sean: You can do:
      • An overview of all your tools.
      • In-depth look at just one tool.
      • Tool comparison.
      • New tool review.
    • 36:47 Compare one particular tool that you use with something that’s comparable—maybe an alternative that someone else uses. What do you find is better about one over the other? Which would you pick? Why do you pick it? What’s the criteria?
    • 38:29 We were talking about this one before we started recording:
      • What apps do you use?
    • 38:40 Ben: “Don’t just think in terms of apps that are specific to business that you do, but you can also talk about lifestyle apps that help you maintain a healthy lifestyle so that you can offer your best self to your business.”
    • 39:05 Sean: See Ben, even as I say this stuff I feel like it’s uninteresting. Would people really want to see a post from me about what apps I use? Either on the desktop or on my phone:
      • What productivity apps do I use?
      • What to-do apps do I use?
      • What soundboard apps do I use?
    • 39:25 Ben: “I really wish you would. Because what happens is every once in a while, I’ll say, ‘Sean, I have this problem.’ Whatever it is, you know, ‘Problem of the Week From Ben.’ And you’re like, ‘Oh, I have this app that would solve that problem for you.’ I wish that you would just make a post about the apps that you use so I can stop coming to you with my problems. “
    • 40:07 Sean: You know Ben, I find a problem—something that I need to solve—and I do a bunch of research and just dive in. I find the best one and I just use it and keep quiet.
    • 40:20 Ben: “Yeah, maybe you shouldn’t keep quiet.”
    • Teaching
    • 40:24 Sean: Share something you already know how to do. Assess your skills.
    • 40:36 Every aspect of what you do and have done can be taught.
      The great thing about this is you don’t have to do any extra work to learn something first. Teach what you know. What do you know how to do already?
    • 41:36 Ben: “There are people who come into your creative field every day who don’t know the things that you know. As limited as you feel those might be, this is the question you have to ask:”

Is what I know more than what I knew when I first came into this field?

If the answer is yes, then you’ve got something to teach.

  • 42:01 “But Sean, what if people steal my precious process??”
  • 42:20 Sean: You don’t have to worry about people stealing your process. Teaching is what’s going to establish you as an expert. People are going to see you as an authority because you teach. If they take what you teach and apply it—that is the whole point of teaching! You want that. If all you have is your secret process and if other people knowing that ruins you, then that’s really sad…
  • 42:59 Ben: “Okay, so the process you have is important, the knowledge you have is important, but it’s not the process or the knowledge itself but the consistent execution of that process and the consistent execution of that knowledge the makes you valuable.
  • 43:59 “I think the kind of people that are out to steal something might have a short-term gain from that, but in the long term it’s not going to pan out for them.”
  • 44:10 Sean: If all you have is your secret process and when everything else is stripped away you have nothing left, that’s something you need to reflect on.
  • 44:54 What you need to have left is your drive to create. Your drive to show up. Your drive to execute. No one can copy. No one can steal your waking up at 5:30 AM and hustling. If you’re putting in the effort, no one else can steal that. They can’t steal that unless they’re matching your effort and the kind of people that have what it takes to match your effort aren’t the kind of people that are stealing from you.
  • 45:25 Ben: “You can steal my flow, but you can’t steal my hustle.”
  • 45:28 Sean (Laughing): Ok, Ben.
  • 45:31 Sean: Teach your skills:
    • What’s the first thing someone needs to know before they get into X (piano, drawing, investing in the stock market, etc.)
    • Business administration
    • Email marketing
    • Social media
    • Blogging
    • WordPress development
    • Client relations (you can break down any one of these…)
      • Acquisition (getting clients)
      • Pricing
        • How do you price?
        • How do you ask for a budget?
        • Do you ask for a budget at all?
        • Do you negotiate rates?
        • Do you say your rate?
        • What is your rate?
        • Is your rate hourly?
        • Is it flat-based?
        • Is it value-based?
      • Communication
      • Project management software setup
      • Contracts
      • Invoicing
  • 46:04 Sean: Have you sent out email newsletters at all? Ever? Then you can teach someone. Because there’s way more people in the world that have not sent out an email newsletter ever.
  • 46:16 Ben: “We’re not just talking about specific, specialized tactics for where you place links and how many you put in there, we’re talking about something as simple as answering ‘How do I set up my first MailChimp account?’”
  • 46:37 Sean: This goes back to the Magic of 7: maybe they’ve heard before, maybe they haven’t. But maybe you introducing it to them is that magic 7th time for them and it happens to resonate (Related: e053 The Magic of 7). When you brought up something they could have Googled, they attribute the value of that thing to you. That’s something you’re missing out on when you don’t write about it.
  • Journal
  • 50:14 Sean: Chronicle your journey.
    • Share your experience with the steps you’re taking toward a goal.
    • Write about your recent break, vacation, or sabbatical.
    • Do a case study on a progress log you’ve been keeping in a personal diary.
  • News
  • 54:31 Sean: Current events. What’s going on in the world?
    • Give your take on something recent and tie it in to your values.
    • How does it influence the way you do business?
    • How does it makes things easier or more difficult?
    • Write on events in a different industry, but highlight how one particular aspect relates to your industry.
  • 55:16 Most people are within their own little bubble and just consuming things within their own circle. Everyone’s writing about the same stuff. What if you were writing about things happening in a different industry but relating and showing how it plays in to your work? What that requires is keeping your eyes open and consuming different types of media.
  • Interview
  • 56:00 Sean: Talk to someone interesting.
    • Interview people in your industry.
    • Interview people in a different industry that share a similar characteristic.