At the beginning of July, I challenged myself to write something new every day: 30 articles, 30 days in a row.
This was a writing exercise I started doing when I was 24 years old. I had just graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a degree in fiction writing, and I was determined to make writing my full-time career. I asked myself where I should begin writing on the internet to build my name and personal brand as a writer/author, and that’s when I stumbled onto a site called Quora.
I decided that I was going to write an answer per day, every single day, for a year straight. This was my way of “testing” both the platform and my own skills as a writer. If my volume-approach to writing led to any amount of success, great. And if it didn’t, well, at least all those hours spent writing could be chalked up as “practice.”
Here’s what happened when I challenged myself to write every day:
- Within 3 months (2014) I had my first Quora answer go viral, accumulating over 100,000 views.
- The next month, I had one of my Quora answers land on the front page of Reddit, accumulating over 1M views in a matter of days.
- By the 6-month mark, over a dozen of my Quora answers had been republished in Inc Magazine, TIME, Forbes, Fortune, Business Insider, and many more.
- By the 9-month mark, I had accumulated several million views on my work and become the fastest user ever to go from new account to Top Writer.
- After 1 year of writing online every single day, I had effectively become one of the most-read writers on all of Quora.
I firmly believe that in today’s day and age, “volume” is what wins on the internet when it comes to content creation—especially writing.
Obviously you want the work you do to uphold some level of quality, but the digital landscape today is so noisy that the only way to stand out is by writing and publishing something new on a regular basis. Not once per year. Not even once per month. I encourage everyone who uses the written form to think about publishing something new at least once per week—ideally multiple times per week.
For a lot of people, the thought of putting out this much content is overwhelming. In fact, it feels downright impossible.
To date, I’ve written over 3,000 articles on the internet (under my own name), and ghostwritten 1,000+ articles for other people.
Volume isn’t impossible. It’s a habit.
So, if you want to write something new every day, here are 30 writing prompts to spark your creativity.
Let’s touch on the general categories first:
What mistakes have you made—in your career, working on your craft, in your life, your relationship, in business, in your pursuit for success, the list goes on and on. Writing about your “mistakes” is a never-ending category, but more than that, it’s ripe for terrific stories.
Everyone loves a good “I made this mistake and here’s how I overcame it.”
Take a moment to reflect.
What lessons have you learned along your own journey? Which lessons do you come back to, time and time again? When in your day do you think about something you learned in the past? What do you think about? What is it about that particular lessons that stuck with you? Who taught you this lesson? And when (specific moments are great) have you forgotten it?
3. Principles / Laws
Everyone has certain principles or laws they live by. What are yours?
What are you non-negotiables? What are your unwavering “pillars” that help you make decisions? Who inspired these pillars within you? Where do they come from? Your family? Friends? Mentors?
4. How To
How do you do <insert anything in the entire world>?
Every single person on earth is looking for information on How To do SOMETHING. Maybe it’s tactical, like How To Bake A Cake. Maybe it’s philosophical, like How To Find Your Life’s Purpose. Take anything you know, and if you can explain it in detail while simultaneously telling the story of how you yourself learned how to do the very thing you’re explaining, you’ve got something compelling to write about.
We’re always looking for new ways to approach our everyday lives.
What are your habits? What are good habits? What are bad ones? How do habits impact your daily life? How do they impact the way you make decisions?
Habits are a terrific category to write about, because as long as we’re human, we’re going to have (and want to improve) our habits.
Why do things work the way they do?
What’s the reason? How come? Writing about “reasons” is like formulating a great debate. The more you explain why something happens, the deeper you’ll draw the reader into your world and point of view.
7. Measures For Success
Everyone wants to learn how to become successful.
It doesn’t matter what “thing” you’ve become successful at, so much as how you became successful at it in the first place. What was the process like? How did you get better and better at it? What was the story arc: goal, conflict, achievement, result? Paint the picture of how you started from ground zero and climbed to the first, second, third peak of success—and what actions, habits, and mindset shifts others can take away to replicate the same.
Quick tips. Small shifts. Little-known hacks.
Life’s “shortcuts” are easy ways to hook people’s attention and get them interested in whatever it is you have to say. Even if what you’re trying to explain or talk about is a deeper subject, framing it as an “easy” solution can help get people in the door. Then, once they’ve started reading, you can say what it is you really want to say.
After all, which would you rather read: a few quick tips on how to change your life for the better, or a headline that makes you feel like change is hard, long, and difficult?
When you run out of things to say (for the time being), curate wise words from other people who have mastered the same topic.
Quotes (and lists of quotes) can be incredibly effective at providing a fast-paced but all-inclusive perspective on a topic. And sometimes, that’s what a reader is looking for: they want to know what all the fish in the sea think about a given subject, rather than what one fish (you) has to say about the topic.
Quotes can also be a great way to bring credibility to the table. So, even if you’re writing about your own thoughts and opinions, a quote or two from a subject matter expert can add another layer of depth to your material.
People love strategy guides.
In life, we’re all looking for guidance, all the time. So if you can walk someone through the journey they’re currently on (or thinking about beginning), start to finish, they’ll see you as their guide—an “expert.”
Strategy guides can be applied to everything from workout routines to habit building, dating to video games. It’s just another form of writing.
The above are the 10 general categories I return to again and again when I think about how to write something new every day.
Now let’s look at some of the more specific forms you can use to inspire new ideas, usually executed within one of the above (or multiple) general categories.
Everyone loves a good opinion.
Whatever your passion is in life, a solid opinion article can attract a significant amount of attention (if executed well). Here’s the recipe:
- Popular/current topic (news, trending topics, upcoming world event, viral moment, etc.)
- Approach the topic using an easily recognizable form (usually one of the general topics listed above)
- Combine synopsis of the event, a couple outside sources/credible perspectives, and your own personal opinion.
- Takeaway from the opinion piece has to be attention-grabbing enough for someone to think to themselves, “I know exactly who would agree (or disagree) with this opinion).
Obviously, if you have expertise in the subject matter you’re writing about, that adds another layer of depth and trustworthiness. But the truth is, anyone can write an opinion piece, because you can always “borrow” credibility from other sources/people if you aren’t the expert yourself.
When in doubt, build off a recent statistic or study published by a journal to inspire your next piece.
The more unique, mind-blowing, unconventional, controversial, or just little-known the statistic(s), the better. People are inherently fascinated by the data behind the way the world worlds—and want to know that the perspective they’re hearing is validated by something.
There’s actually a whole “form” for these types of pieces published by major publications. Titles almost always look something like this: Why 87% Of Human Beings Can’t XYZ (According To Science)
There’s something thought-provoking about someone saying, “I know where things are going to head.”
Trends are a popular topic to write about because it’s a way of nodding toward the future. And this form is fairly easy to execute:
- Pick an industry (hopefully one you know a thing or two about).
- Research what’s happening in it.
- Draw a conclusion—and anticipate what could come next.
- Build your argument.
- Cite a few relevant sources.
That’s about it.
14. Case Studies
People love reading about “how things happened.”
Don’t think of case studies as boring documents you read in an MBA program, and see them more as in-depth, well-researched stories. You could write a case study on how a company went public, became a huge success story, and then fell into bankruptcy a few years later. You could write a case study about an Instagram influencer that rose to internet fame in record time. You could write a case study about how your favorite author became an self-published success story, or how your city became a hotbed for startups.
You can write a case study about literally anything—as long as it teaches the reader something, and (ideally) is entertaining.
Every industry is a “business.”
Which means there is competition—and where there is competition, there is ripe material to write about. You could either write about a competitor of your own (a competing business, artist, industry, genre, etc.), and what they’re doing well or not well. Or you could write, as a 3rd-party observer, what you see watching a handful of competitors go after each other from afar—like a columnist writing about Uber v.s. Lyft, for example.
Competition makes for terrific stories, and this is a form not very many people think about when they sit down to write.
16. The News
One of the most common “forms” of content.
When in doubt, you can always write about what’s happening in the world. News could be everything from what’s happening on a global scale, to a specific industry, all the way down to your local town. Now, will a story about an event at your local grocery store “go viral” and attract widespread attention? Maybe. Maybe not.
All depends on how you choose to execute it. (Aka: are you just sharing the facts? Boring. Or are you writing it so vividly that someone at Netflix thinks to themselves, “This could absolutely be a TV series…”.)
A little-known topic area, but considering the entire world is made up of “jobs,” there is a lot of potential to be an educational voice here.
Write about different jobs in your industry. Take writing, for example. What jobs are available to someone who loves to write? What do they pay? How do you go about landing the good ones? What are the most lucrative ones? Which jobs give you the most freedom to travel? What are some unique ways to stand out when applying for a job? What advice would you give to someone who hates their job and wants to find a new one?
See, once you start to think through all the potential questions someone might have, you start to realize how much material there is to write about.
18. Trends/Trending Topics
There’s something thought-provoking about someone saying, “I know where things are going to head.”
People forget though how powerful “trends” and “trending topics” can be in terms of attracting attention. It’s human nature to want to pay attention to what currently has other people’s attention too. So by latching on to conversations already circling, you’re one step ahead and moving with momentum.
One of the most common, yet poorly executed, writing forms in the world is the staple “interview” format.
A lot of writers rely on the person their interviewing to be the main attraction. They think name recognition is enough to warrant someone else paying attention—and sometimes it is. But finding new and unique ways to make “interviews” compelling, asking more original (and depth-oriented) questions, and drawing unlikely takeaways from the guest is how you ultimately stand out from the crowd.
What are you reading?
More importantly, what should you be reading if you want to… and then fill in the blank. For example:
- Books that will make you more creative
- Must-reads for maximum summer relaxation
- Timeless tales
- Quick page-turners with unforgettable plots
- Books that will change the way you think about life
There’s a reason book lists are so popular, and it’s because readers see them as a starting place when searching for new material. The secret is to drill your book list down to a hyper-specific point or takeaway, and then curate the best of the best.
Now let’s look at some of the most thought-provoking questions you can ask yourself, as a writer, that will prompt stories, topics, memories, moments, and actionable takeaways for your readers.
21. When was the first time?
Pick anything in the world: when was the first time it happened?
What was it like? What did you feel? What were you thinking about? What scared you about it? What part of that memory has stuck with you the longest? How did that experience shape you?
The “first time” anything happens is a story.
22. When was the last time?
Same as the above, except think of this as the other book end.
When was the last time, the very last time? What did you feel? Did you know this was the end? How did you know? What did you think about after the fact? What was the final result? Did it end the way you wanted? Why or why not?
23. What is your favorite?
Your favorite ice cream. Your favorite movie.
Your favorite place to vacation. Your favorite childhood memory. Your favorite dessert. Your favorite birthday card of all time. Your favorite car, house, restaurant, or college story.
And most importantly, how come?
24. What do you hate?
Opposite of your favorite, what bothers you to no end?
What gets you riled up? What makes your blood boil? What drives you crazy, keeps you awake at night, makes it hard to breathe? What causes more conflict in your life than anything else? What do you despise?
And, the real question is, where does that come from?
25. What inspires you?
Where does your motivation come from?
Who did you look up to as a child? What was your childhood dream? When was the first time you thought to yourself, “This is what I want to aspire to?” What gets you more excited than anything else on the planet?
Who was your first role model?
26. What are you afraid of?
Where does all your fear come from?
Growing up, who else around you had these same fears? What moments made this fear worse? In order to overcome it, what do you have to do? What would your life be like if you did overcome your greatest fear? What is hiding on the other side?
27. Why do you believe you’re on earth?
What is your purpose?
Or, more importantly, what is everyone’s purpose? Why are we all here—and where do you fit into the puzzle?
28. What are you working on in yourself?
What do you want to change?
What are you currently doing to spark that change? What habits are you trying to change in your own life? What inspired you to create this change? Who are you really doing it for?
And, what can others take away from your own journey?
29. What kind of relationships do you value?
What do you value in a partner?
In a friend? In a family member? In a co-worker? In a boss? In a mentor?
Every relationship in life has significance—if look close enough.
30. What are you feeling?
And of course, when in absolute doubt of what to write about, just ask yourself, “What am I feeling right now?”
That’s never a bad place to start.