What Should I Write About?

The age-old question for all new writers

Fernando Doglio

4 months ago|7 min read

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Photo by Jeff Stapleton from Pexels

I’ve read that question so many times already, be it on Quora, Facebook groups or even direct messages to me, asking me for writing advice.

What should I write about?

That’s it, no context given, no background nor motivations. How can I — or anybody for that matter — help out if that’s all you ask about?

Granted, there is always the generic answer given: “write about what you like”.

Yeah, no, I honestly think there is a better way to answer that question, but we have to work on that answer together.

Why are you writing in the first place?

Ask yourself that question first. The answer to it will dictate everything else you do from now on.

“Just to write, because I love writing”

If you’re only looking to get your words out into the world and “see what happens”, then you don’t really need to overthink it. Write what you feel like writing that day. Writers publishing on their own blogs have no real limitations when it comes to picking a topic, you can write about last night’s game, today’s weather, or that penny you found yesterday on your daily walk. Who cares? You’re writing for yourself.

“I love X, so I want to write about it, but I don’t know where to start”

That’s a very common answer, you’re essentially writing about a topic you feel passionate about, or perhaps you’re an expert on the field. However, there is so much to cover that you’re suffering from analysis paralysis. So many options have ended up blocking your creativity and you’re stuck on the start line.

Fear not, there is an easy solution: Write!

Nobody cares if your first blog post about X is an advanced topic, or if it’s so basic everyone knows about it already. Just write.

You can go back and cover over areas around X later, there is no unspoken blogging rule that says once you’ve covered advanced topics you can’t go back and cover basic ones. In fact, you can cover the same topic from different points of view. Get creative, go nuts, nobody cares!

No really, nobody cares, you’re just starting out, you don’t have an audience, chances are once people start finding your written work, you’ve covered X quite a bit by then.

The key here is that you start writing, get used to the feeling, the excitement about a new topic idea, or how much you think your next article will help people. Once you incorporate that into your daily routine, then it’s hard to stop.

“I want to make a side-income through my writing”

Well then, that’s a whole different thing. If you’re hoping to earn money from your writing, then it’s time to get a strategy around your writing.

First things first: you have to write every day. Maybe not 1000 words every day like, not at the start, but write for 15 to 20 minutes daily. I’m sure 99.9% of people wanting to earn money from a craft are willing to put in that time doing it. So write for 15 minutes. Then increase it to 20 or 30. I personally try to write for 2 hours a day, early in the morning.

That’s step 1. It’ll help you create a routine, because if you want money, you need lots of words. In other words, you need to write quite a lot.

Step 2 would be deciding how you’re going to make the money. Are you going to host your own blog and earn through traffic and ads? Maybe you want to get sponsorships? Or perhaps you’re thinking about a scheme such as Medium’s of pay per performance? Either way, pick your strategy and your platform.

With that you can start thinking about the key question: what to write about. Here the “write about what you feel like” idea is not going to cut it. You need at least one topic and you need to stick with it. This is because you’ll need an audience and the only way to build one over time, is to consistently write about it so they can find your work. A single article about dogs will not make you an expert in the eyes of the readers looking for information about dogs.

So pick a topic, write down everything there is about it (keep it simple, bullet points) and then come up with at least one article for each item on that list. Once you’re done there, you’ll have enough material to go at it for a second round with more details.

“I want to make a living out of my writing”

And we’ve hit the jackpot. I’m with you buddy, that’s the dream for many of us. How can we do it?

A strategy around your writing is not going to be enough, you’ll need:

  • Consistency. This is after all a business to you now, you can’t skip days and hope to make money, not at first anyway.

  • A growth strategy. It’s perfect to know what you’re going to write about today, but what about tomorrow? And what about in 10 months? Or 2 years? Sit down and plan ahead. There is no need to plan 2 years’ worth of articles, but consider where you want to be, what others who write about the same thing are doing and plan accordingly.

  • A marketing plan. If you want money you need traffic and if you want traffic you need marketing. It’s a lot easier said than done, I know. But it’s also the truth. No matter where you’re publishing, you need to grow an audience and for that you’ll need a way to market your work, either through ads, or through SEO or friends and family, I don’t care, just do it.

  • Pick the right topics to write about. And we’ve landed on the key question of this article. This is your business now, so you can’t just pick random article ideas and hope they work. It’s time to get serious about it. Learn about SEO, you’ll it to make sure your articles appear first when readers search for what they need. Learn to analyze traffic and how to pick the best keywords to cover (you can use tools such as SemRush, AnswerThePublic, AHref and others). And you’ll have to grow that your list of topics with a strategy around it, I personally like to use what I call Horizontal Niching, you can use whatever you like, but make sure the topics around your blog make sense to your readers.

And the final ingredient to the list would be patience. Rome wasn’t built in a day, or so they say (I tend to believe them).

If you’re hoping to make this your life, you’ll need an audience to support it, and that means time to grow it. Some people have been lucky enough to reach a point where they can quit their 9–5 in 6 to 10 months, but being realistic and cautious, I’d aim for 12 to 18 months of hard and constant work. You’ll learn a lot through that time, including what works and what doesn’t. If you’re quick to adapt and focus on the working strategies, you’ll get there.

Is anyone else writing about that?

This is another great question to ask yourself when picking the topic for your blog. I mean, really the answer will be the same, but it’s important to understand who else is doing it and how are they doing it.

Internet is filled with people writing about everything, I challenge you to find a topic that nobody is covering in any way, shape or form.

So what’s the catch? If you know who’s writing about your topic and how they’re doing it, you can provide a different point of view about it. It’s not about competing for the exact same titles, but rather complementing each other and providing actual value to your readers. That is the end goal, because after all, readers will go to where they can get the most value from.

If there are 10 blogs about dogs covering exactly the same topics, you might want to maybe focus yours on shepherd dogs specifically. That way you’re providing a lot more value for a subset of readers. Anything else about other breeds can be found within those 10 blogs, but if a person has a shepherd dog, they’ll know to come to you. Essentially, find the missing gaps and fill them.

Research the current ecosystem around your topic, and don’t get discouraged if plenty of other people are covering it. They might be tackling the same topic, but they don’t have your unique voice. Keep that in mind.

You can do this manually by googling the most common keywords readers might use around your topic or you can use SemRush or AHref. They can provide you with information about the best blogging sites around your topics, their best ranking keywords as well as their worst. Find out what they’re doing and what they’re not, and plan accordingly.

So what should you write about then?

Beats me! Only you can answer that question.

However, whatever you decide to write about, make sure you’ve set the right expectations about the writing experience and that you go about it with the right mindset. Do not say you want to make money and then write once a month. Nor burn yourself writing every day, even when you don’t feel like it if all you want is for it to be your outlet.

Are you still having doubts about the best topic to write about? Feel free to reach out to me and I’ll try to help!

Otherwise, happy writing

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Fernando Doglio

Hi, I'm Fernando Doglio. I write about technology, lifestyle, personal business and more. If you're into Technical Writing or Programming, Subscribe to my FREE newsletter https://fernandodoglio.substack.com/

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