Make blog writing into a natural habit so you feel something missing when it’s not there.
@jeff_steinke serious request…can you write a blog post about how you write blog posts. When you do it each wk, how long it takes, etc
— Bryan Rosenbaum (@bryanrosenbaum) January 7, 2015
OK Bryan, great question. You’re right, it’s pretty easy to figure out how to create your first blog. Especially with sites like WordPress and Squarespace.
But adding content?
And doing it consistently?
It’s taken awhile but I’ve found a great routine to writing, enough so that it’s part of my weekly schedule. So here’s how I write a post each week.
Find Your Niche
Finding your niche is a key early step. As Stephen reminded me, the easiest way to start is to think about what you’d write about if you had to write something every single day.
Finding your niche –> new posts aren’t forced –> more natural writing –> writing becomes easier –> readers like your writing –> reader turns into readers –> readers give you positive feedback –> you write more.
And “niche” not only refers to the topics you write about but also your length & frequency. For example, David Cummings writes a daily post, but it’s typically around 250 words. Eric Reiss on the other hand writes much longer, often over 1,500 words, but only a few times a month.
Whatever works for you, don’t force it. Simply start writing. Just start, and see what sticks. See what habit is the most natural for you. For me, I found this to be about 500-1,000 words once a week.
Keep a Running List of Ideas
(that you won’t ever use)
I keep a Trello board full of running ideas to help me.
Whenever a thought comes to mind write in down. And who cares if you never write the post. The important thing is that you have ideas you can pull from when you need. Over time you’ll develop common themes and grow an idea list longer than an iPhone launch line. This is exactly what you want because then you can start picking & choosing the best ideas.
These days I mostly write what’s top of mind. These thoughts are the easiest to write out & complete, but again this came from time spent getting myself in the habit of turning random thoughts into 500 word essays.
And if you’re ever struggling, here are three standbys:
- Go to a meetup, conference or event? Tell us all what you learned (and yes, I promise you learned something).
- What’s the top post on Hacker News right now? Ok, now give us your take.
- What was the last thing you bought? Time for a review.
Listen to Mrs. Nelson – Write an Outline
Remember Mrs. Nelson? You know, your middle school English teacher who forced you to write an outline for all your papers? It went something like this:
- Intro paragraph – state your hypothesis
- Supporting point 1
- Supporting point 2
- Supporting point 3 (ok, my essays were rarely good enough for a third point but whatevs)
- Conclusion – restate your hypothesis
If you’re planning to write more than a couple paragraphs spend some time planning out your post. Of course this makes your post better. However, it also makes the effort seem much less daunting. Instead of going from random thought to published post (that’s a huge jump), you can add some baby steps in between.
Me? Part of my habit includes outlining in Evernote, just as I did for this post:
Speaking of outlines, that’s just one step…
Plan Out the Baby Steps (an outline is only one step)
Spread your tasks out over a few days to let your ideas bake, give you a chance to tidy things up and revisit your writing so you approach it with a fresh set of eyes. In other words, don’t go from soup to nuts in a single sitting.
Side note, I don’t get that idiom at all. Or rather, I get it but am not a fan. And while we’re here, who says “coming down the pike” instead of “pipe”? Can we all agree to make that switch?
As I was saying, divide up your post so you have actionable sub-tasks that Mr. GTD himself, David Allen, would approve of. Here’s an average week for me:
- Previous Week – Pick a topic
- Sunday – Write an outline
- Monday – Turn the outline into a draft
- Midweek – Wait for ~24 hours while your idea marinates
- Thursday – Press Publish!
All told this takes about 1-2 hours at most.
But Wait!, There’s More…
While writing this post my outline has ballooned.
Enough so that I’m nearing my 1,000 word limit and have a half-dozen more super helpful tips to add.
Of course this is a perfect opportunity to store these items for later when I need a new topic, so stay tuned!
UPDATE: Continue on to part 2 here.