Sometimes it seems like all our ideas are old hat. Bloggers can fall into a rut just like any other writer, getting stuck in a routine of producing the same four or five topics over and over. This is particularly a danger for bloggers who focus on a very narrow specialization of subject. A blogger focusing on home design could be stuck for topics because no new projects are being done in their immediate area, for example.
There are all manner of options out there for the average blogger to combat writer’s block, of course. Getting writing buddies, doing an interview, writing a response to another blog; but what if you just feel like you’ve done everything already, and all your ideas seem like rehashes of old ones?
Well, my advice is don’t fight it, embrace it.
Look at the number of wild success stories out there that were little more than creative reboots of old content. The Lion King stands out as a particular example. Originally, it was a creative reinterpretation of the Hamlet story, and went on to be Disney’s highest grossing animated feature, spawning a still-running stage musical, spinoff movies and TV series, merchandise by the ton, and much more. Then, as if to drive the point home that revisiting old ideas is financial gold, Disney re-released the Lion King to theaters, a successful theatrical run that proved the show is still going strong more than a decade later.
Another example is the new My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic cartoon. MLP was a cartoon series that aired in the 80s, enjoying modest popularity among young girls to varying degrees. It never achieved critical success, but became a cultural touchstone all the same. In 2010, animator Lauren Faust (Powerpuff Girls and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends) was contracted to do a reboot of the MLP mythology, and Friendship is Magic was born. This reinterpretation of MLP, with a madcap story style and a fresh, clean and playful approach to animation, has enjoyed immense success, far exceeding the previous incarnations of the show. In fact, while the show was once again aimed at young girls, the clever in-jokes and creative storyline writing have drawn in a number of unintended male fans, ages 15-30.
Both of these may seem to be odd choices to talk about for blogging, but the key element that has engaged audiences in both cases is the new approach to rewriting old material. All of the basic plot points and elements from the earlier examples are present in each reboot, but very different approaches are taken and even the passage of time allows for an introduction to a new audience.
So, find some older material and rework it.
Go through your older writing efforts, either prior posts on your current blog, or stuff you never let see the light of day, and give the central concept a fresh update with new writing. You can do it as a conscious homage to previous work, by reposting an old piece in its entirety with an afterword explaining how your thoughts have evolved since then. Or you can take an older idea, link to it, and then write a new bit of content entirely, reinterpreting your old ideas and explaining where you stand now and why. Either way, you breathe new life into existing content, and don’t have to create your new thoughts entirely from scratch and research.
Alternatively, you can apply the same process to other blogs as well. Take an old piece and a new piece by a favorite blogger of yours, and write an article responding to both, pointing out the changes in thought, style and process that most interest you. Or take one of their long-running ideas and respond to it in a rebuttal, creating a discussion or even an argument to reawaken the spirit of debate. Who knows, they might even reply!
The best writers are not necessarily those who can come up with ideas out of their own heads without reference to the world around them. Rather, the most successful and talented writers are those who are most successful at referencing the world around them. Stephen King’s very successful Dark Tower series was a reinterpretation of the poem, Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came. Frankenstein came into being because Mary Shelley was watching a thunderstorm during the night at a vacation home with her husband and a friend. Referencing the world and stories around them gave these authors the ability to create new content: In one instance from re-imagining old material, in the other from an imagination sparked by something as common as a thunderstorm.
Above all, don’t trap yourself into thinking your older ideas are useless just because they are old. Much of the greatest writing throughout history has been authors revisiting older concepts. The Hero’s Journey, the Prodigal Son, the Underdog’s Triumph, the Coming-of-Age story; all of these memes have existed since the dawn of storytelling, and will continue throughout its future. Just because the idea is old, doesn’t mean your approach to it can’t be fresh and intriguing.
Ben Porter is a co-founder of Brandsplat. Brandsplat creates blogs, articles and social media in the “voice” of our client’s brand. For the free Brandsplat Report go to Brandsplat.com or visit our blog at http://www.ibrandcasting.com