Coming up with article ideas or interesting angles is one of the challenges of being a freelance writer. Throw out the thoughts of being in competition with other writers, your main competition is yourself. Can you continually come up with ideas and angles? Are those angles fresh and interesting or the stale standard? Do you have the determination to mine resources for new ideas?
I know, it gets tough out there. It seems there are a million “writers” and actual writers covering every topic under the sun. The internet has spawned a deluge of information and the average writer may get lost in a sea of evergreen articles. But, you’re not the average writer are you? The information tidal wave may seem like a negative, but in reality it’s a positive. A large amount of average allows for the different and extraordinary to stand out. So, that article you’re working on right now…does the angle suck?
1. Does it… Show up on Google?
If it does, can you switch out the sources with yours and pretty much have the same piece? Google is a great source of ideas, it’s also a great source of ideas that have been done to death. My favorite freelance writing dead horse is the editorial calendar. We’ve covered it at length here, will likely still cover it again in the future. It doesn’t make that horse any less dead.
2. Does it…Give you writer deja vu?
Like you’ve have the feeling you’ve written it before? Muuuaaaahh! Don’t just shrug this one off. Go back and find the article. It will help you avoid repeating yourself and if you’re like me, rereading your work you’ll find an angle you could have conquered differently, other sources you could have contacted. Learn from your past.
3. Does it…Take longer than a few moments to explain to a lay person?
Unless it’s a heavy tech or specialized niche article you should be able to spit out the basic premise. It may be interesting and definitely different, but if it’s too conceptual and you have trouble explaining it, readers may have trouble with the point of it.
4. Does it…Make you sleepy just thinking about it?
I’ve written about this before, if you’re bored writing it, I’m going to be bored reading it. Not every topic is going to have the passion and excitement that gives writers and readers goosebumps. That’s still not an excuse to go auto-pilot. Find a way to get interested in the piece. Talk to a kooky source. Talk to a stranger about your topic and take note of the questions they may ask. This is how you get to the heart of the audience.
5. Is it…The result of low self-esteem?
There are times a writer, for whatever reason, doesn’t feel quite worthy of their position or craft. I know of writers who spend the first 10 seconds looking at their latest published piece with glee then the next 20 minutes pouring over it with a magnifying glass, gasping in horror at this turn of phrase or that choice of word. Low writing self-esteem may lead a writer to take a tried and true, or tried and through, angle on a piece. They don’t want to rock the boat, they are unsure of how the angle will be received, they don’t want to blow it with this editor, that publication, etc.
When I think of these folks I’m reminded of on my favorite moments from the movie The Incredibles, a woman is sobbing saying she doesn’t know what she’s going to do and her helpful friend smacks her about the head a couple of times and tells her to pull herself together and reminds her that she’s a superhero. On those low-esteem days when you begin to wonder what to do, I want you to remind yourself of who you are: You are a writer! Pull yourself together!
People can get information from a variety of sources, any day or night. Give them a reason to read your piece. If it’s an evergreen topic, give readers fresh pine aroma not dried stick with shedding needles.