How’s the challenge going?
If you’ve just discovered the podcast and haven’t listened to Episode 50, “Stop Waiting for Last-Minute Writing Inspiration,” you might want to go back and listen. At the end, I issued a 50-Headline Challenge in honor of the 50th episode: write 50 headlines in the week ahead. About a week has passed, and I’ve been hearing from people who took it on.
Two days after episode 50 went live, Kate Motaung tweeted that she already had 23 of her 50 written.
— Kate Motaung (@k8motaung) May 17, 2016
Jessica Van Roekel left a comment at the show notes saying she wrote 50 headlines in an hour.
People are doing the work and finding it fruitful.
When I started, I thought 50 headlines or titles sounded like a lot, but once I got going, the ideas flowed and suddenly 50 seemed well within reach. I’d take a break and come back to it, and then boom! Another batch would come to me.
I counted and realized I’d hit 50 headlines easily. It didn’t feel overwhelming at all. And I feel like I’m learning to make them stronger, clearer, and more specific.
Are all 50 headlines usable? No. But some are.
And I generated ideas I might never have arrived at, had I not taken the challenge.
Like so many things in the writing life—or life in general—the more you create, the more you learn and the better you get. I really enjoyed the process, so I’m going to make this a regular challenge for myself: 50 headlines per week.
Make the Most of Your Headlines
But how do we make the most of our 50 headlines?
Consider some ideas that have come from the challenge:
- Organize into categories that reflect your writing life. Maybe you’ll want a category of headlines or titles that you would use for books, another for articles, another for blog posts.
- Organize based on topics you want to write about, picking from your Five Fat Files, a concept I introduced in Episode 36.
- Zero in on a headline that shows promise and improve on it. Experiment with different ways to phrase it until you land on one that has a great hook.
- Dive deep into topics by grabbing a headline or title that is pretty broad and generate some specific subtitles that naturally connect with, support, or flow from the broad headline. This can begin to narrow your topic and help you generate a lot more content from one idea. It might lead to a book, with the broad headline serving as the book title, and all the narrowed, specific variations forming the chapters; or they could be turned into a blog series or article series; or you might even see the opportunity to pitch yourself as a columnist because of the flow of ideas.
- Use the list as a set of unique prompts made just for you. When you sit down to write, you pull up the list, pick a headline, and start writing.
In fact, that’s a natural follow-up to the 50-Headline Challenge I want to throw out to you. Now that you’ve got all those wonderful ideas, the next thing you can do is write something based on one of those headlines.
Pick a Headline and Write
Don’t hesitate to write a story, blog post, article, essay or poem based on a headline or title you generated. It’s up to you if you decide to continue writing 50 headlines per week, but I urge you to take time this week to open a new document and get to work on one of those great ideas you captured as a headline.
The ideas all came to you for a reason; I mean, something in you must want to write these or they wouldn’t have come to mind.
You could just read through the list and randomly pick one.
Or you could read through your list and pick one that seems to have some energy to it—you might have typed out a headline and added some notes to the side of ideas you could use to develop that story or article. The fact that ideas came to you suggests a certain energy and the writing will probably go a lot faster.
Or maybe you’ll pick a headline that represents a topic or idea you feel passionate about. Maybe that’s the one, because writing with passion engages us as writers—and usually engages the readers, as well.
Or maybe the headline itself is so clever, so memorable, so irresistible, it begs to have something written to give it a purpose. And so you take on the creative writing challenge.
Those filters might point toward one headline or title on your list, but it doesn’t matter that much. There’s no right choice here. Don’t overthink it.
Pick one headline.
Open a document in whatever program you use.
Type your best version of that headline at the top of the page, and then…
Write the thing. Let that headline have a reason for being. Give it purpose. Give it meaning. Give it a form. Give it life.
If you took the 50-Headline Challenge, pick at least one headline from your list, and write. And that is how you make the most of your 50 headlines.
If you didn’t take the 50-Headline Challenge, that’s okay. Write a headline today, right now, and then give that headline a reason for being. Give it a form, give it life.
Click on the podcast player above or use subscription options below to listen to the full episode.
- #50: Stop Waiting for Last-Minute Writing Inspiration (home of the 50-Headline Challenge)
- #19: Find an Follow the Energy
- #36: Why Writers Need Five Fat Files
- #46: What’s the Big Idea?
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Sure, you can poke around the Internet collecting writing prompts and creative writing exercises.
Or you could buy an ebook that collects them for you in one place.