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If you’re a blogger, or if you’re a business owner who reaches out to your audience through a newsletter or podcast, consistently coming up with new topics can be challenging. Or rather (at least for me), coming up with the energy to deliver fun, engaging content week after week is challenging. I also write a newsletter geared toward speculative fiction readers, and I quickly learned that reviewing a new book/movie every week just wasn’t happening.
Here are some ideas for how to engage your audience on those days when you’re not feelin’ it. Interestingly, not only have these pieces taken the least amount of time and energy for me to create, but they’ve gotten the strongest response from my readers! This supports my theory that if something is fun to write, it’s going to be fun to read, too.
All of these ideas involve drawing from the raw material of your life experiences. You have them, so why not use them?
Deliver Fun, Engaging Content Your Audience Will Love With These Three Ideas
In one newsletter, I wrote about movies I saw as a child that had a huge impact on me. For instance, I saw Silence of the Lambs when I was 11. To be fair, my friend’s dad, who typically let us rent whatever we wanted, told me “no” when I pointed to that one. We quickly learned, though, that her parents owned the movie, and they were conveniently out for the evening.
At the end of my email, I asked a simple question: “What movies had a potent effect on you as a child?” I got the most responses I’ve ever had. In my second most popular newsletter, I discussed my scariest dreams and invited readers to talk about theirs, too.
In her article Non-Cookie Cutter Ideas for Book Bloggers, Mommy Jhy suggests writing about such evocative topics as the most shocking or controversial book you’ve ever read. For many of us, this is likely to be in childhood when we were still relatively innocent. We all have that memory of leafing through a book in the library or bookstore, nervously glancing over our shoulder.
Lesson: people love reminiscing about their childhood (myself included!).
Families. Major life changes (i.e. moving, leaving home). Relationships.
Good or bad, everyone has an opinion about these things. Why not get the conversation started? In her article that dissects how her LinkedIn video got 40,000 views in just a few days, Anna Sabino states that asking her viewers a simple question (“how would you describe in one word what makes a relationship successful?”) ignited their enthusiasm.
A “Getting to Know Me” Post
Offering your readers a peek behind the curtain is fun for both you and them alike! In her article Blogging For Fun, Christine (i.e. The Uncorked Librarian) shares five little known facts about herself. Currently on Medium, a trend has been floating around for members to share ten things about themselves. Check out these pieces by my friends and fellow Medium members Kris Loomis, Nicole Valentin, Frank McKinley, and Erika Sauter.
On that note, here’s my own list.
Ten Things You Don’t Know About Me
1. My hometown was featured in King of the Hill
Port Aransas, Texas, the town I grew up in, only has a population of 4,000, but it’s also a beach town, making it a popular tourist destination. Its wild Spring Break scene is the subject of this King of the Hill episode.
I also witnessed a historic White Christmas in Port A, one of the only times I’ve ever experienced snow. After the event, people were selling snowballs for $50 on Ebay!
2. I’m terrified of roaches
In South Texas, encounters with roaches were a regular occurrence. But three events cemented my fear.
- I opened a bag of cat food when I was 7, only to have multiple roaches leap out of the bag and onto me.
- Standing in the downstairs bathroom, I saw, reflected in the mirror, a roach on the shower wall. I kid you not, it was as big as something out of a freaking sci-fi movie. I slammed the door, raced upstairs, and never told anyone about that roach…until now.
- A roach crawled into my dad’s ear. Ok, it was a beetle, but still! I actually wrote a story inspired by this about alien roaches who invade a boy’s brain.
3. I have an assortment of part-time jobs
These include copywriter, high-school English teacher at an all girls’ Jewish Orthodox school, middle-school English teacher at an after-school program in a heavily Korean community (read all about my meltdown), and private test-prep tutor, among other things.
Sometimes it’s tough keeping track of everything, but I love the diversity and variety. I tried the whole 9-5 (or 8-4, to be precise) thing once, and I only lasted about a month.
4. As a kid, I told stories to myself, out loud, in the school playground
Understandably, this didn’t win me many friends.
5. The Shining is my favorite movie
Typically I don’t rewatch movies, as I’m usually disappointed on the second viewing, but I’ve seen The Shining at least ten times. Each time, my appreciation for it grows.
6. I met my soulmate in a grocery store
He was in front of me in the checkout line. The strangest part, though, is that we met in Los Angeles, but we found out that we both have family who live in the same tiny town in Texas — yes, Port A.
7. I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 10
I remember asking my mom why people become vegetarians, and she gave me the various reasons.
The next day, she asked me if I wanted ham-and-cream-cheese rolls for lunch. I told her, “No, Mom, I’m a vegetarian now.”
I wish I could be that decisive now.
8. I love magical realism in fiction
Some of my favorite writers in this genre are Aimee Bender, Kelly Link, Miranda July, and Haruki Murakami. I love how their stories take twists and turns into unfamiliar territory at every corner, defying the tropes you’ve come to expect with more conventional genre fiction.
Robert Coover’s dark fairy tales and the way he often takes a choose-your-own adventure approach, playing out the same scene through different scenarios and points-of-view as he does with The Babysitter, have greatly influenced my own fiction.
9. I’m very gullible
This amused my dad to no end. He’d tell me something, and I’d ask my mom, “Really?”
Her response was always the same: “If you have to ask…”
When it comes to the government, though, I’m the opposite. My skepticism is not limited to party lines or our current administration, either.
10. I’m a creature of habit
I eat the exact same things (including ingredients) for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. When it comes to outfits, rather than shuffle through my closet or drawers (or suitcases) looking for something I haven’t worn in a while, or ever, I rely on the tried and true.
Many successful people, from Mark Zuckerberg to Barack Obama, purposely choose a minimal wardrobe in order to free up their mental space. So when it comes to being predictable, I figure I’m in good company.
Still, as this article on retraining your brain points out, changing up routines can be beneficial for creating new neural pathways. Plus, I do get tired of eating the same stir fries every single night. So the other day, I bought a new type of squash (kabocha), pulled out some random spices (we have a LOT of odds and ends in the cabinets from my boyfriend’s former chef days), and made a whole new (i.e. slightly different tasting) dish!
I know, so bold of me. But hey, it’s all about the baby steps, right?
What engagement strategies have worked best for your audience? If you’ve written a “getting to know me” post, I’d love to read it! Or if you haven’t, but you have a secret you’re dying to tell the world, just drop it in the comments below! We’re all friends here, right?