Want some fresh ideas for your next article? Would it be helpful to be able to start writing the moment you sit down at your desk? To make the ideation process easier for writing articles, it may help you to keep a repository of topic prompts for reference.

In a 2009 article written for the American Psychological Association, creativity researcher Jonathan Plucker, PhD says that having a book or voice memo repository of ideas results in both more creativity and better productivity. Rather than falling prey to a blank page and having nowhere to go, some gentle instructions on what to do next can actually provide direction and momentum.

I’m a business writer mostly, but acknowledge that it helps to have a variety of prompt types. Whenever I see writing prompts from around the internet or have an idea pop into my head, I grab it and throw it into my toolbox for future reference; I encourage you to do the same. So in the sections below, I’ve organized a mess of prompts into six subcategories:

  • Industry perspectives: Questions about or related to business and your career
  • Personal recommendations & curiosities: Items currently on your mind or that come to mind first
  • Social journalism prompts: Ideas for writing that researches an outside topic or person
  • Personal experiences: Personal anecdotes from past moments in your life
  • Tips and advice: Prompts designed to birth articles that are action-focused or insightful
  • Handy headline formulas: Prompts formatted as done-for-you headlines that can apply to any subject matter.

Writing is an ideas game. Comb through these prompts from time and time, and if an answer comes to you quickly or easily, run with it! Let’s do this.

Category #1: Industry Perspectives

Writing is a great way to connect to your professional aspirations and grow your personal brand. But sometimes it can be hard to read the label from inside the jar.

Take a moment to inventory how much you actually know about your industry! If you have experience in your field, valuable insights, or important commentary on trends, these can all become future articles. Here are a few prompts to get you started.

  1. What is something you disagree with in your industry?
  2. What is definitely broken in your industry?
  3. What is something you wish more people knew about your field?
  4. What surprising background or past experiences has helped you succeed in your industry?
  5. What is something you adore about your industry?
  6. What questions should people new to your industry be asking themselves to grow their career and fulfill their dreams?
  7. How did the leaders of your organization get started?
  8. What are some things everyone should avoid in your industry?
  9. What absolutely still works well in your industry?
  10. What positive, productive conversations are being held in your field?
  11. What negative, toxic conversations are being held in your field?
  12. How’d you find this career, anyway?
  13. What career advice has stuck with you for a long time? Who gave you that advice? Why has it stuck?
  14. What would you tell someone thinking about making a career change into your industry?
  15. What does [insert trending topic] mean for your industry?
  16. Why will [insert trending topic] fail?
  17. What are the top 10 things you learned from [industry event, popular online course, prestigious school]?
  18. What’s a term in your industry people often misunderstand or misinterpret?
  19. What advice would you give to people who are in their first year in your industry?
  20. What’s the misconception people have about your business, industry, or profession?
  21. What websites, authors, or thinkers in your industry should be following if they want to get better and stay in the know?
  22. What are the best tools to learn and master in your industry? In business?
  23. What’s your industry’s biggest controversy or hot topic at the moment? What’s your take on it?
  24. Any big epiphanies or realizations about your work or business recently?
  25. What breaks your heart about what you do?
  26. What lights you up about what you do?

Category #2: Personal Recommendations & Curiosities

Everyone loves a good online recommendation. In fact, research has shown that 84% of adults say online recommendations are as persuasive as a referral from a trusted friend. If you have a strong recommendation or insight, we want to hear about it. We can’t unless you sit down and write your recommendations in the first place! Try one of these prompts to get things moving.

  1. What are some of your favorite books, articles, videos, or podcasts? Why?
  2. How do you motivate yourself?
  3. Which products do you swear by?
  4. What are your go-to tips for productivity or work/life balance?
  5. What is the behind-the-scenes look at your day?
  6. When and where do you get your best ideas?
  7. If someone in your audience could only read one book in the next 30 days, which one would you recommend? Why?
  8. Why do you do what you do?
  9. What’s the most interesting piece of scientific research you’ve read recently?
  10. If someone wanted a career like yours, what would you tell them?
  11. Everyone has certain principles or laws they live by. What are yours?
  12. What is a bonkers statistic you’ve read about recently?
  13. What inspires you or motivates you to jump out of bed in the morning?
  14. What did you learn last week that surprised you?
  15. Who is a role model of yours, and why?
  16. What’s happening in the world right now and what is your opinion on it?
  17. What’s the best customer service experience you’ve had and what did you learn?

Category #3: Journalistic Prompts And Analyses

This is a social journalism platform. And as I’ve written about before, piggybacking on someone else’s authority, failures, or successes is an easy way to hone your writing craft without having to have a wildly fascinating life yourself.

  1. Who is an interesting public figure, artist, or writer that everyone should know about? Why?
  2. What are some fascinating stories from history that don’t get told enough?
  3. Who did you recently interview and find incredibly interesting?
  4. Who’s an athlete that overcame extraordinary circumstances to become a champion or medalist?
  5. Which circumstances and decisions most influence a person’s life, relationships, health, or career?
  6. What is a minute, interesting detail about a public figure’s daily routine worth sharing?
  7. What upcoming technologies or innovations will change the game? Why?
  8. What mainstream advice or assumption has actually been debunked by science?
  9. How is a certain aspect of life (Personal finance, friendships, travel) different for different generations of people?
  10. Where do people often begin to lie to themselves about a certain topic? Why?
  11. How does [Trend or complex framework] actually work?
  12. What happened on this day [#] years ago? What’s changed since then?
  13. How have current events shifted our perceptions and priorities regarding [Insert area of life here]?

Category #4: Personal Experiences

I separated this category from personal recommendations because these prompts focus specifically on stories or lessons learned from your past. Whether it’s the recent past or something that happened years or decades ago, most of us have a treasure trove of stories worth telling. The challenge is to get these moments out of our heads and onto a screen; these prompts will help.

  1. What teacher do you remember the most, and why? How did their tutelage impact your life?
  2. When was the first time you did [Insert experience here]?
  3. When was the last time you did [Insert experience here]?
  4. What are you afraid of? How do you manage or avoid this fear?
  5. What are you working on this coming week to better move toward your goals?
  6. What was the best thing that happened to you last week/month/year?
  7. What was an unexpected challenge you struggled with last week/month/year?
  8. What lie did you believe growing up that turned out to be completely untrue? What happened or changed as a result of that revelation?
  9. What insights did you learn at an early age that have helped me over the years?
  10. What’s the most difficult conversation you’ve ever had?
  11. What’s the best investment you’ve ever made in your life?
  12. Who are some of your mentors, and what lessons did they teach you?
  13. Who do you look up to in your industry and why?
  14. Was there ever a time you faked something?
  15. Was there ever a time you should have said “no”, but didn’t? What happened as a result?
  16. What’s something you’ve never talked about publicly before?
  17. What is the most expensive lesson you’ve ever learned?

Category #5: Tips & Advice

If you’re focused on writing more action-oriented posts or articles, it can be helpful to have prompts that specifically aim to improve your reader’s day or life. Tips and advice can draw from personal experiences or just be a collection of curated how-tos, but the end goal of the article is that the reader can start taking action now.

  1. How do you work behind-the-scenes? Why does this approach work well for you?
  2. What’s a change readers could make in 24 hours or less to improve their day?
  3. What do you do to improve your process and get better over time?
  4. What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made recently and what did you learn?
  5. What do you wish you knew [#] years ago that you know now?
  6. What are [#] ways to overcome [Challenge or obstacle]?
  7. What do you wish you’d known before [Event, setback, or success]?
  8. What’s an action that I could take now around [Area of life] to point me in the right direction?
  9. What ‘invisible obstacles’ often appear that hold people back when trying to achieve [Goal in area of life]?
  10. How can I still make progress even if I don’t have enough time? Enough money? Enough experience?
  11. What is a personal anecdote you come back to again and again? Why?
  12. What is a common enemy both you and your reader have? Why?
  13. What are some of your most reliable, compelling, or bizarre productivity tips?
  14. How do you approach your [Health/Personal Finance/Career/Relationship], and how can others determine an approach that would work well for their unique circumstances?

Category #6: Miscellaneous headline formulas

As a structure-oriented person, sometimes it’s actually more helpful for me to see a recipe first, then customize it with my own unique expertise or experiences. Headlines are massively important for any online writing pursuit, and having a variety of headline formulas in your back pocket can give you some direction on what to write about next.

  1. What trick or approach has helped you [Results or goals]?
  2. What is the dirty little secret about [Topic or industry]?
  3. What small tweaks make all the difference between [Group A] and [Group B]?
  4. Why should [Category of people] relax about [Common belief or concern]?
  5. Why should [Category of people] pay more attention to [Common belief or concern]?
  6. How can people conquer their fear of [Fear] using [Type of solution]?
  7. What is something [Person, group of people, or school] never told you the truth about?
  8. What is the heartbreaking reality of [Topic]?
  9. What are [#] warning signs of [Bad outcome]?
  10. Why did you fall in love with [Experience/person/place/industry]?

Final Takeaways

Writing is a glorious gift. But there are times when feeling dry on ideas can knock the wind out of your sails before you even start. Build a bank of prompts along the way and you’ll find it much easier to drum up inspiration on command.

Thanks for reading. 🙏🏼

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