Blog Outside the Box: 18 Unconventional Ideas to Help You Bend the Rules

If you’re passionate about blogging odds are that you’ve read articles, guides, or enrolled in blogging courses. Now, most of the advice regarding content creation is rather lukewarm.

After all, quality is subjective.

But the road you have to take in order to produce quality content is not.

That’s why I am going to share a few ways to think about your posts that are going to revolutionize the way you create your content.

1. Start With Someone Else’s Words… Until You Find Your Own

Every once in a while take a few sentences from something that you enjoyed reading and punch the damn keys until you’ve got them all on a blank document.

You will find yourself suddenly aware of those words, as if they were your own.

Your own words and ideas will take a life of their own, adding, embellishing, improving what you’ve just written before.

You almost always find your own words by using someone else’s as a foundation.

2. Start in the Opposite Direction of Where You Want to Go

If you’re writing about self-confidence, you might start by asking your readers a few questions about self-doubt and uncertainty.

If you’re writing about bravely facing your fears, begin with a story or anecdote about the way fear changes you mentally and physically.

Doing this creates tension and guarantees that your post will be about a change in the narrator.

As with other types of writing, at the heart of many fantastic blog posts is the story of how someone changed under pressure.

3. Connect Two Seemingly Unrelated Dots

What does blogging and Zen Buddhism have in common?

You can read all about it here.

What about the movie Fight Club and storytelling?

Read about it here.

Connecting two seemingly unrelated dots (and doing your best to make a connection) will keep your readers tuned in because they want to understand what at first appears to be an unlikely comparison.

4. Bring In Opposing Viewpoints

Conflict and change are the foundation of every great blog post, and one way to highlight that conflict is to include an opposing point of view.

For instance, you might want to write about the importance of positive thinking — you can create conflict by quoting someone who considers positive thinking to be counter-productive.

5. Write Short Paragraphs

Your writing will be faster, livelier, and clearer if you write short paragraphs. You will be able to better organize your thoughts and ideas, and express them in a more concise manner. The readers will also be pleased by the amount of white space and how clear and tidy it all is.

6. Steal… Like an Artist… of Blogging

Enhance your blog post with a metaphor you read in a book you loved. Make a point with an anecdote or story you overheard while you were out to lunch.

The key to being great at this is to:

  • never be lazy — don’t just copy and paste. Add, embellish, improve upon what you’ve taken from others
  • steal small — one sentence or phrase.
  • apply it to a different niche.

Here’s an example:

My catchphrase “Punch the damn keys,” is taken from the movie “Finding Forrester.” I’ve become incredibly fond of it. Four short words that seem to define what I advise people should do most when it comes to blogging.

Take someone else’s words and make them your own. Improve upon them, adapt them to your needs, do your best to add to them your own thoughts and ideas.

After all, the only blogger who dreads the empty stare of a blank document is one who never quite gets it in their head that everything worth reading has been written far before they were even born.

7. Highlight Divisions or Categories

Creating unexpected groupings by dividing people into unusual categories can yield an angle that both lends humor and invites readers in as they think about which group they belong to.

When you use categories as your angle, you have the option of being either an observer or a participant, in which you add an additional twist by including yourself in one of the categories.

I took this approach in an article dividing creatives into those who think outside the box and those who think like there’s no box at all.

8. Contrast Your Writing Style and Subject

If an angle is always a kind of surprise (whether it’s an approach, a comparison or an idea), then it follows that a surprising writing style can be an angle in itself.

One surefire way to practice this angle is to write about something you hate as if you love it, or vice versa.

9. Stop Writing When You Get to the End

A novel ends when your hero has solved his problem.

An opinion piece ends when your opinion has been expressed.

An instructional blog post ends when all the information required by the reader has been presented.

When you have done what you came to do, stop. Do not linger at the door saying good-bye sixteen times.

How do you know when you have finished? Look at the last sentence and ask yourself, “What does the reader lose if I delete it?” If the answer is “nothing” or “I don’t know,” then delete it. Do the same thing with the next to last sentence, and so on.

When you get to the sentence that you must have, read it out loud. Is it a good closing sentence? Does it sound like a proper goodbye to a reader? Is it pleasant to the ear? Does it leave the reader in the mood you intended? If so, you are done. If not, rewrite it until it sounds like a proper goodbye. Then stop writing. There’s nothing more you can do but harm the damn thing.

10. Give Some Thought to Style

Style is the “how” of blogging. It’s the way you express an idea or thought. It’s the words you use, and h0w you place them, and the way you arrange your sentences into paragraphs.

A reader will start reading your blog post because of the topic, but will often give up half-way through because of style.

The truth is that there’s no topic or idea that cannot be made fascinating by a competent blogger. It’s all in the way you write.

11. Punch Those Damn Keys As if You’re Creating Music

To write is to create music. The words you write make sounds, and when those sounds are in harmony, the writing will work.

So think of your writing as music.

Read aloud what you write and listen to its music. Listen for dissonance. Listen for the beat. Listen for gaps where the music leaps from sound to sound instead of flowing as it should.

12. Write the Way You Talk

Writing should be conversational. That does not mean that your writing should be an exact duplicate of speech; it should not. Your writing should provide the immediacy and the warmth of a personal conversation.

So mimic spoken language in the variety of its music, in the simplicity of its words, in the directness of its expression.

13. Don’t Use a Long Word When a Short One Is Better. And a Short Word Is Almost Always Better.

Short words tend to be more powerful and less pretentious than longer words. Rape is a powerful term; sexual assault isn’t. Stop is stronger than discontinue.

The fastest way to learn why you should use short words is to read anything by Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway, the Nobel Prize winner who lands on almost everybody’s list of great American writers, was the absolute master of brevity in writing.

14. Use Statistics, Quotes, Infographics

A few well-placed statistics will establish your credibility. If they are accurate and comprehensible, they will show the reader that you know what you are talking about. Keep in mind, however, that too many statistics will numb your reader’s ability to derive meaning from them.

Quotes are the words of someone with more authority about the topic of your article. Quotes in your story will attract readers. The white space surrounding the quotes makes the typed or printed page less intimidating. And, more important, quotes create credibility, because they add social value to your content; it shows your readers that someone else also agrees with you.

15. You’ve Got to Think of the Reader

In order to be a successful blogger, you don’t have to become a great writer. But you do have to make yourself likable.

If you are asking people to invest their time and attention, you first want them to care about you. Present yourself to readers as someone they would want to be friends with.

Write clearly and conversationally, and strive always to present in your writing some honest picture of who you are, vulnerabilities, flaws, and failures included.

Readers will like you if you edit from your work obscure pop culture allusions and archaic words that are known to only six people in the world.

Readers will like you if you seem to understand who they are and what their world is like.

Readers will like you if you show that you are human. In a how-to piece, for example, you might write, “This third step is a little hard to master. It took me quite a while to be good at it.”

16. Never, Ever, Ever Forget About the Human Aspect of Blogging

People are why TVs get turned on. People are why books get opened. People are why magazines are purchased. And people are why the well-told tale has been listened to for centuries.

What do other people think? How do they act? What makes them angry, happy, enthusiastic? How can I get them to fall in love with me, my content, and support my blog? These are the questions readers ask.

Granted, there are times when you cannot dress your words with a story, but those times are rare. Even a how-to post is about a person named “you.”

Always ask yourself this question, “how is the topic I am blogging about affecting people?”

If you are writing about an economic recession, open your post with your own story of financial struggle.

If you are writing about the benefits of fitness, write about the people who regularly work out, the people who go to the gym five times a week, and how it affects their well-being, mood, and mental acuity.

17. Write Your Truth, Even if Your Fingers Shake Against the Keyboard

If you stand for nothing, you will fall for everything.

The only thing worse than sharing an opinion almost everyone disagrees with is sharing no opinion at all.

In fact, it is those opinions that color your writing with your own personality and ideas, and it is those opinions which make your blogging unique.

18. Start Your Posts With an Anecdote

An anecdote is a little story or incident that makes a point about your subject. Anecdotes are great reader pleasers. They are written like fiction, often contain dialogue, and make an often complex issue relatable by turning it into a short story.

Writing a short, colorful anecdote is one of the most compelling ways to open an article, while a couple of well-placed anecdotes in your longer posts will keep your readers eyes glued to the screen.

There you have it. 18 unconventional tips and strategies to help you think outside the box.

Remember, most rules are meant to be broken, and even those you can’t break… you can always bend them a bit.

This article is an excerpt from The Art of Blogging e-book.

7 thoughts on “Blog Outside the Box: 18 Unconventional Ideas to Help You Bend the Rules

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