How to Create Remarkable Content When There’s Nothing New Under the Sun

How to Create Remarkable Content When There’s Nothing New Under the Sun

Reader Comments (57)

  1. Don’t be afraid making a mistake!
    That’s another lesson I like at most.
    Still now.
    See as a graphics designer I amazed
    by how incidentally mistakes made my works
    look greater. Customers asked me “How did you do that?”
    By mistake! I replied. Even they didn’t believe what I said they comes again – this time by satisfied customer.

  2. Another suggestion:
    Rework existing content into new formats. Technology is always changing, so you could find a new way of delivering an old message: e.g. video, slideshows.

  3. This reminds me of quote by Billy Corgan, from Smashing Pumpkins.. it goes something like this…

    “All the notes and sounds that I use have always existed. They’ve all already sounded. I just take those sounds and rearrange them in a new different way. That is what art is about, that’s what music is about”

    There may be no new ideas… maybe. But there are always an infinite number of ways to re-arrange things and present things from a different, fresh perspective.

  4. “Beating a dead horse” takes on new meaning with over 17 million blogs.

    I think you’ll find the expression is “flogging a dead horse” and comes from the naval term to go to sea having already spent your pay.

    Sorry to geek-off but for a copyrighting website… you get my drift 🙂

  5. Personally I always get great results with the limitation method. Another angle on that one could be to find a great picture that you then have to base your story on (only works in some fields though)

  6. I think you’ll find the expression is “flogging a dead horse”

    Not doubting your origin, but in the States we say “beating a dead horse.” We’re not big on flogging, outside of some… ahem, perverse recreational activities. 🙂

  7. Ahhhh! Still considered acceptable capital punishment round these parts 🙂 Reminds me – Must varnish the ducking stool.

  8. I had something all logical & argumentative written out, but then I started giggling at Brian’s comment and now I just can’t.

    Anyway, thanks for the post James! This is a huge issue for bloggers, and I think too many of us a) shy away from important points because we feel like they’ve been done and we can’t add anything, or b) don’t work hard enough to make the old new again.

  9. More suggestion:
    make it paradoxical / contradictory / antithetical. Like:
    “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” (Neil Armstrong)
    “Man proposes – God disposes”.
    “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.” (Charles Dickens’s “A Tale of Two Cities”).
    Brutus: Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more. (Shakespeare, Julius Caesar)
    “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” (Martin Luther King, Jr., speech at St. Louis, 1964)

  10. This is such a edifying post, and a challenge that all bloggers face… eventually you glance at the screen and your mind goes blank. Thank you for this post!

    Maria Reyes-McDavis

  11. I love your blog. Great tip here with the writing excercise. I find myself to be an expert procrastinator, unless it’s a labor of love. If I really care about it, I either never get it done (I hung up your f’words post on the wall by my computer) or I keep working on it instead of the thing I should actually be working on. Either way, it ends up causing even more procrastination.
    Anyway, if you get a chance, please look at my new blog, I’d love to know what you think

  12. After eight years of blogging… I feel like I’ve said it all. But we all know better that it isn’t true. Yuwanda Black recently reminded me that I have plenty of experiences to share that might sound like old hand to me, but brand new to many others. So set aside any biases and think about your experiences.

  13. And remember as a writer you are giving YOUR opinion on an “old” take, therefore it will be different than others that have come before you. My creative writing prof used to tell us, “There is nothing new. Don’t try for a new idea. Try for YOUR idea.”

  14. In addition to Mark’s and Jacob’s great reminders, I find that “a new angle” can be had by finding a new perspective, literally.

    An art installation currently in NYC includes giant folding chairs and tables, which make you feel like a tiny child walking through, under, looking up — instantly bringing a wondrous POV.

    That literal change in POV may help you see your products, services, world, and relationships from underneath, from a shrunken proportion, from a visitor’s vantage, etc. Examining, marketing (and writing) from one of the many different POVs possible is a refreshing way to approach and reach readers, clients, etc.

  15. Limiting myself has definitely worked for me at times. Sometimes too many options just gets you stuck. For a while I only wrote two word headlines, not as a gimmick, just to see if I could hold myself to it. The results were great.

  16. @ Stephan – I find I write my best work when I *don’t* have creative freedom. Too much freedom can be as overwhelming as not enough. Finding the balance is a must.

    @ Girl – That’s an interesting one, and I do use that. I’m a consumer – how would a consumer react? I’m a buyer – how does the buyer react? I’m not interested; I’m searching for solutions; I’m busy; I’m tired… All of these perspectives make a huge difference in creating content that resonates with people just like you (for the moment you assume).

    @ Sonia – What’s old is new again 😉

    @ NGW – Your perspective is always unique. No one has ever been in your brain, after all!

    @ Meryl – I agree. On our own blog, we always blog about our experiences, because they’re unique and they’re new to other people, even if the situation is old.

    @ Jill – Procrastination can make for wonderful bursts of creativity. Works for me!

    @ Web Diva – The blank screen syndrome… augh…!

    @ Lawton – You’re welcome 🙂

    @ Michael – Finding the catchphrase often opens up all your thoughts and lets you hit the ground running. I agree.

    @ Jacob – Pros and cons are always fun to explore, and you can’t go wrong with that. Similar angle to yours. Good one!

    @ Sonia – I think people like you and I try to find new stuff that’s exciting to please the old hands around the web – and then we forget that every day, there are brand new people wandering this world for the first time. Sometimes going back to the beginning is a good thing.

  17. James,

    The quote from Ecclesiastes is superb. I love it–really sets the context for your post.

    As well, I think your point about explaining how an “Info 101” concept has impacted your own life can be a great way of infusing originality into your writing.

    As noted, pretty much everything has already been said, in one form or another. In fact, I also agree with C.S. Lewis on this point. He said:

    “Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.”

    Being honest and transparent can make one an original.

  18. I was just having a converstation with a fellow marketing professional yesterday about the lack of anything new to say. Both of our days start with reading about 40 marketing and business blogs and we both felt that it’s been a while since we’ve seen anything new (on our own blogs, too!).

    I started to feel like Charles H. Duell
    Director of U.S. Patent Office, 1899, who has been dubiously credited with saying,
    “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”

    Your post helped get me out of that funk and to find ways to keep our content fresh. So, thank you!

    We also realize that there is a whole group out there to whom marketing and web 2.0 are not old hat. That’s who we’d like to try to reach.

  19. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this blog post! I received a very rude comment this morning on a post I wrote on a writing forum I am involved in. Long story short, this lady commented that she sets deadlines as a way of motivating herself to write. I commented back that I thought her techniques were dead-on and I was going to use her advice in a blog post I was working on. She then turned around and accused me of stealing her ideas and saying that I shouldn’t be writing advice on my blog if I didn’t originate it.

    And this (your) blog post has helped me to know for certain that I was correct when I tried explaining to her that there are no original ideas or advice anymore, just stuff that’s been reused and repackaged.

    So thank you for making my day!

  20. I whole heartedly agree that boundaries actually allow greater freedom – a concept which can be applied to many aspects of life.

    The random words exercise is excellent. Check out Edward de Bono’s “How to have creative ideas” which contains 62 exercises based on random words. And provides a random words table at the back.

    The mind is an amazing instrument and once given a puzzle will work away to find a solution – even when you are not aware of it.

    I find it helpful to articulate and write down any problem I am having and then put it aside for a couple of days – I am surprised by the ideas that just pop into my head!

  21. These are great tips — recycling content can often become frustrating but perhaps infusing some interactive content and commentaries can help when a writer’s block takes place. Good article!

  22. I’m going to give the ‘three random words’ a try for my next article. We will see if the editor will publish it. lol

  23. I forgot what I was going to say when I started laughing about the beating/flogging..but the essence was thanks James for yet more great advice. I actually torture myself with this pretty regularly.

  24. Hi James,
    Thanks for the wonderful post! I started my blog and wondered for days on what to say: because everything has been said and there’s nothing left.
    Then, suddenly, I thought no matter what others said about it. I need to share my experience about it. That broadens the spectrum to some other and others’ to me.
    Your view that each principal though old must have given one a new surprise when attempted individually-It means so much to me.
    Keep inspiring the world
    Then I suddenly thought

  25. The “limit your creativity” is the perfect example of how thinking in an opposite direction can be good. To be creative, most people work on expanding their creative ideas, not limiting them.

    It is in itself a creative means to get what you want done.

    Hmm, if part of creating something “creative” means you have to expand your creative thought process, but part of creating something “creative” means you have to limit your creative thought process, is that a rip in the space-time continuum?

  26. other two tips:
    1) write a post about other posts of yours. in this way you will refresh your older posts and you will let your readers see what they missed.
    2) make some linkbait. this is a little risky because you have to know what to write. write an article with some link to other interesting posts belonging to other blogs. dont just make a list but try to review the articles themselves. in this way you will have the chance to create a post with very little efforts and at the same time you will get noticed by other bloggers

  27. @Frank — very good one to look at older posts. Been trying to do that. It’s a lot of digging for someone with 8 years of blog content, but I know my audience today is nothing like it was 5 years ago. So it never hurts to reuse old content and only takes 30 minutes or so to change it up, refresh it.

  28. WOW! 8 years! that’s a very long period! in this case i advise you to try some plugin which makes the work for you. if you uuse wordpress try simple tags. among its features there is one that lets you show older posts in different ways:random, oldest, newer etc. you could even hire sombody to make a plugin like that(it doesnt cost a lot) personally speaking i will use the refresh thing in the summertime when i will go to vacation or during those periods where there is not a lot to write

  29. @Frank, I do use plug-ins including one that lists “related posts” and the home page shows the newest posts from the blog as well as random posts from the blog’s 8 years. I also have a tagging plug-in. Thanks for the tip.

  30. When you press too hard, it leads to fear. The fear will rob you of your creativity. Writing is hard work, but it should also be joyous. I think when the author is in a state of flow, the joy translates, and the best writing occurs on the page.

  31. Hey James, just came across this post and you know… it’s still awesome.

    One thing I’d like to add is the fact that Google loves fresh ideas, topics, and anything close to “new under the sun”.

    Even more reason to implement the suggestions you listed here.

This article's comments are closed.