What should I write about on my programming blog?
I’m answering a reader’s question on how to choose topics to write about on your programming website.
Newsletter member Khchine is a freelance Python developer with a programming blog. He’s struggling with picking topics to write about, and he asks:
“I am a freelance python software engineer and I had already setup my own domain and my own personal website. How can I choose the topics to write about?”
That’s a really common questions for software developers running their own programming blog and I’ve struggled with it for a long time, too. Personally I’m using two strategies to make it easier for me to decide what to write about.
#1 – Have “go-to formats” for the posts you write
First, I try to limit myself with the kinds of posts that I write. If I don’t know how to start with a new post then I’ll usually decide on the kind of post I want to write first before I think about anything else.
For example here on dbader.org, there’s
- the “intro to a tiny part of the Python standard library”; then there’s
- the “tutorial style walk-through”;
- the “the classic list post”;
- the “the review post”; and so on.
These are tried and true ways to structure posts that worked for me in the past. I found that limiting myself to a few kinds of posts takes away some of the anxiety and writer’s block.
Of course you don’t need to do that all the time. But it absolutely helps when I’m staring at a blank page and it’s tough for me to get started.
#2 – Find inspiration when you need it
Next, I pick a topic to combine with the kind of post I decided on. And again, there are a couple of go-to ways for me to find inspiration for post topics.
One way to pick a topic is to just come up with something random that I found interesting, like a programming problem I ran into. However, the downside is that there’s a high chance that nobody except me will be interested in that topic…
Therefore I usually do some research first what people in the Python space might be interested in. A great way to do that is by asking readers like you on my email list or chatting with people on Twitter.
(Both are excellent reasons to start an email list and a Twitter account, by the way!)
Another great way to come up with ideas for posts is to spend some time reading Python forums and newsletters. It shows what other developers found interesting and shared with their peers.
For example, I like to check out the highest-ranking discussions on Reddit’s /r/python or /r/learnpython. That gives me a rough idea what Python developers are interested in and talking about right now. Then I can make up my own thoughts on a particular topic of discussion and write about that.
Easy as 1-2-3 (I’m kidding, it’s still hard
#3 – Bonus Technique: Keep a “content ideas” file
One more technique I found helpful is keeping a “content ideas” file on my phone. Whenever a random idea pops into my head when I’m at the gym or about to go to bed, I go and add it to the file. That way I always have a backlog of topics I can come back to if I can’t come up with anything else.
This technique frequently saves me when I know I have to publish something in order to reach the quota I set for myself. I find it difficult to come up with ideas on the spot. Having a backlog of canned inspiration puts me at ease because I always know I have something to fall back on in a pinch.