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The Secret To Creating New Content Every Day, According To TC’s Senior Staff Writer
'Remember that you’re writing because it’s what you love to do. Even when it’s work, you can still have a little fun, too.'
Welcome to the Collective World Careers Newsletter. Collective World is a one-of-a-kind creative network powered by the minds and voices behind The Thought & Expression Company. We’re so glad you’re here.
Today, we’re talking to Thought Catalog senior staff writer and author Holly Riordan about how she stays inspired and motivated to create every single day.
Is there a specific creative process or routine you follow in order to both ideate new article ideas as well as actually write the pieces?
I always focus on one piece at a time without jumping around. I work 9 to 5 Monday through Friday, and I no longer allow myself to think about work outside of those hours to avoid burning out. However, it always helps to keep a notebook (or use your Notes app) to keep track of any ideas that happen to pop into your head throughout the day. It doesn’t even need to be a full, concrete idea. I suggest writing down any word or concept that speaks to you: introvert, almost relationship, manipulation, toxicity. When you need to come up with article ideas, you can check that list and try to develop an article around one of the concepts. You can also insert that concept into a headline you’ve seen work well in the past. For instance, I wrote If You Want The Perfect Relationship, Fall In Love With An Introvert. But you can replace the word introvert with something new.
How do you stay inspired? Are there books, websites, music, movies, etc. you always turn to when you need extra creative juice?
When it comes to writing fiction, I’m inspired by twisty, suspenseful books and TV dramas. If I have a creative block, I’ll re-watch clips of my favorite Breaking Bad and Gone Girl scenes and it’ll motivate me to write. However, when it comes to creating articles, most of my content is inspired by everyday life. I’ll think about what types of problems I’m facing, what my friends have been dealing with lately, or what some stranger mentioned on Twitter. (Try it! Scroll through social media and see what people are talking about today. Whether it’s a certain show or a modern dating problem, it could be a great basis for an article).
You’re one of Thought Catalog’s most prolific and diverse writers when it comes to the topics you cover. You’ve written everything from horror stories to zodiac rankings to relationship advice. How are you able to pull inspiration for so many different genres while still keeping on-brand?
Honestly, I try not to worry too much about my brand because different people enjoy different types of content. For instance, CW has been loving zodiac articles, but I’ve gotten complaints when I post zodiac content on my own author page because my readers would rather see personal essays. Different types of content perform better (or worse) on different platforms.
What is your advice to writers who are interested in stepping out of their comfort zone and trying a new genre?
I would encourage writers to try writing about any topic that interests them, whether or not they believe their audience will respond well to it. You never know until you try! Plus, when you’re passionate about a topic, it usually shines through in the piece. If you’re writing about something that your heart isn’t really in, your readers might be able to tell – and you’re not going to have a good time. Remember that you’re writing because it’s what you love to do. Even when it’s work, you can still have a little fun, too.
If you’re writing a bunch of different articles that all deal with different topics (i.e. astrology and horror) do you stick to one topic at a time (i.e. astrology articles first then horror) or do you write whatever you feel like?
I try to vary my content as much as possible to keep things interesting for myself. I’m writing dozens of articles per week, so I don’t want my readers to feel like my work is too repetitive. And I don’t want to be writing about the same topic all day every single day, either. However, if a topic is doing particularly well, I’ll definitely create multiple articles on the subject to take advantage of the trend.
Throughout the years, you’ve been able to explore many variations of the same subject. What are your best tips for finding new angles for topics you’ve already written about?
I look at headlines that have worked well in the past (for myself and other writers) and ask myself whether there’s any way to merge two topics together. For instance, I’ve written a lot about anxiety and have written a lot about toxic relationships, so I could write an article about how difficult toxic relationships are when you have anxiety. Merging topics that you already love writing about is a great way to find fresh, new angles.
Do you ever feel blocked creatively? If so, how do you combat that?
It’s wonderful when inspiration strikes, but since my career involves creating content every single day, not writing isn’t an option. Even when I feel blocked, I have to get my work done. When that happens, I usually end up writing about whatever is on my mind that day. If I feel burnt out, I’ll write about burnout. If I feel anxious, I’ll write about anxiety. Some of my articles are just me giving pep talks to myself, saying the things I need to hear, and hoping others will need to hear it, too.
You write approximately 25 articles a week. If someone were to ask, “How do you do that?” how would you respond?
I want to start with a reminder that you shouldn’t compare your productivity to anyone else. For me, writing articles comes easily, but when I’m writing fiction, it can take me hours to get a paragraph right. Don’t push yourself to finish too quickly. Value quality over quantity. However, if you have deadlines and need your work completed in a certain amount of time, my best advice is to write without worrying about how it sounds. I'll literally close my eyes and type sometimes to prevent myself from editing as I go haha. You can always edit later. Get the words on the page now, so you have something to work with. Then you’re already halfway done!
If you could give a young writer your top five tips for coming up with new ideas, what would you say?
When you’re scrolling through Twitter or CW, pay attention to the types of headlines that cause you to click on them. Ask yourself why you clicked, what drew you to the article.
Don’t be afraid to write about concepts you’ve already written about in the past. There are plenty of different ways to cover the same type of content while still making it fresh.
Keep a list of words/concepts/themes that speak to you so you can look through them when you’re trying to come up with a headline.
Pay attention to what’s trending and keep up with pop culture. If you’ve learned anything from a new show or movie, or have noticed some easter eggs, you can craft an article around it.
Try freewriting when you feel like you have nothing to say. Ideas can come from anywhere, so if you start typing without overthinking it, you could come up with something great.
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