I once said “I’m not good at coming up with recipes.”
Clearly, this came from a place of insecurity and inexperience. I had yet to start Minimalist Baker and was still fumbling around on another blog. And although I got better toward the end, I mostly just sucked.
But that’s OK. It’s hard starting out. In fact, you will probably struggle for a season too. But the important thing is to swallow that pill, get over it and move on. If you love your topic, the ideas will come.
I remember lamenting to John one day about how I would look around at all these other great blogs and feel so defeated. They had all the ideas and they were doing it better than I felt capable.
But instead of letting me sit and mope, he came up with another idea.
He suggested I sit down with a notebook and just see how many ideas I could come up with on my own.
What? OK, why didn’t I think of that?
Gone are the days that I can’t think of recipes. You know why? Because I live and breathe recipes.
I carefully savor bites of dishes at restaurants and try to figure out the ingredients. When I wake up, I check food blogs for daily inspiration. I read cookbooks like they’re magazines. I keep a notebook by my bed so I can write down ideas before I sputter out to sleep. And perhaps most important, I sit down with a notebook weekly – as someone smart once suggested – and just dream.
If you enjoy creating recipes, become immersed.
Challenge yourself to dream up ideas without outside influence.
This means sitting down with a notepad once a week, in the quiet, and just writing down as many ideas as you can.
The magic of developing stellar content isn’t just being inspired on a whim. Sure, sometimes that happens. However, most of my great ideas come from intentionally sitting down and trying to think of ideas.
I’m not saying that I sit down and just spill out great ideas. In fact, I think it works a bit more mysteriously. The weekly commitment to sit down and think about nothing but recipes is a quiet reminder to always be on alert for inspiration and possible recipe ideas. It’s like meditation for recipe creation.
Filter Your Ideas
Once you have your brainstorming sessions all planned out, you’re well on your way to dreaming up brilliant content. But, how do you actually know if that content is any good?
1. Create Something Amazing
Ask yourself “Is this truly stellar?” before you publish anything. Are there a million chocolate cake recipes out there and you’re just contributing one more? Is there some way to make it unique?
This will take time, practice and probably some fumbling before you truly know if your content is stellar. But be encouraged and let step 2 be a further guide…
2. The trick of time
Gauge your audience and know what they love. Over time as you publish content, you’ll be able to take the temperature, so to speak, of your readers and know what they love and what underwhelms them. This can be confusing as you can be completely wrong at times. For instance, sometimes I think a recipe will take off and no one takes a second glance at it. But other recipes that I thought would do just “OK” take off and become a viral, overnight sensations. Go figure.
This is a process and you’ll learn as you go, so don’t be discouraged if your audience is tough to gauge at first. You’ll know what type of content does best over time.
3. How do I even start coming up with ideas?
John has reminded me of this time and time again, and it’s probably the most valuable thing I’ve learned in the realm of content creation. At the end of the day, make things that you love and can’t wait to share with your readers. After all, if your blog becomes your career, you’ll be creating that type of content for a long time. It would be pretty miserable if you had to keep creating content that you didn’t love it, right? So let yourself be your first and last filter. Or at minimum, let the things you love be the place you come back to when you’re uninspired or feel you’ve lost your way.
Plan in Advance
I used to come up with recipes on the fly, and that’s great for some people. But now I plan at least a month in advance for three reasons.
1. I can forecast which recipes will do well at certain times. If it’s March, I can plan a few St. Patrick’s Day recipes the week before. This will automatically help my content go further because it’s all of the sudden more relevant and useful to my audience.
2. My content is inevitably higher quality. If I plan a month in advance and I shoot a recipe but don’t like the photos, I have time to reshoot. If I test a recipe but didn’t like it, I can test it eight more times to perfect it. This way my content it always up to my standards but I never miss publishing a post on time.
3. It’s less stressful! It’s amazing the weight that lifts off your shoulders when you look two-three months in advance and say, I have blog content that will at least last me ‘til spring! I can do this. Plan, plan, plan. It’s all I have to say.
Patience with the Process
Whatever your topic is, if you love it you will undoubtedly be able to come up with ideas, even if it takes a little time to find your groove.
And if your topic is one that you like but don’t yet love, give it some time. Like I said at the very beginning of this article: I didn’t think I could come up with recipe ideas at one point in time. Yes, I loved food but I didn’t know if food blogging was for me. Over time, you will know.
If the ideas you come up with are ones that other people find interesting and irresistible, you’re on to something. And in the meantime, just keep sitting down and dreaming.
Before you know it, you’ll be making content you love.