Since 2012 I’ve done a a few posts on the strategic aspects of blog writing itself. These have covered the reasons why I started
, the way that the blog grew out of the twitter feed and the strategic decisions
I’ve taken in terms of moving the format of the blog around.
Today’s post is about something that doesn’t turn up often but that a lot of people struggle with: sustained blogging. Having things to write about on a regular basis once the initial burst of enthusiasm wanes. I’m going to talk about how I handle it in the hope that my way works for other people too.
Step 1: Sow Crops
Generally I work about a week in advance. On the Friday of every week I try and have the posts for the following week scheduled. There only three posts a week so that’s a relatively small workload.
The thing that is surprising to people is the amount of prep behind that. Right now I have 65 posts in Evernote at various stages of drafting. Six are labelled ‘can be put up’, four more are labelled ‘pitch to another outlet’. There are also about half a dozen outstanding posts for people who have asked/agreed to write guest features, and about the same number of outstanding interviews (people have agreed to be interviewed and are currently looking at the questions). Also, there are three projects in my projects list that will produce something interesting for this blog or somewhere else as a guest post.
Written out like that, it’s actually a massive amount of ‘writing crops’ that can be harvested into posts. It built up slowly and it’s what I find I need to keep up the flow of good content. It turns out that this is the easy way of doing it. When I first started I used to sit down and write out a blog post from scratch a couple of times a week. I can still do that, but I recognise that it’s low quality, probably irrelevant to my audience and generally poorly written.
Step 2: having lots of options beats writer’s block
I’m unsure how long the average article takes between ‘idea’ and ‘appearance’. I would guess it is near three months. The important thing is that there is a place where it all goes. All of my post drafts are in Evernote – when I have an idea it goes in with a couple of sentences. Periodically I go through the set. I apply the same anti-writers block rule
that I have my TooManyCooks writers follow: start writing from the post title or rewriting an old draft. If I ever struggle to think what happens next, I skip to another post and start writing or rewriting immediately. We all know that 70% of the first draft is rubbish but it has to be written before you can work out which is the 30% that’s worth keeping.
If I’m low on posts and have a few minutes spare with an internet connection and no time to get into something major (40 minutes waiting for a meeting in a nearby Costa is standard) I’ll go through the drafts, add the links where they should be, rewrite sections, check for errors and schedule a half dozen posts. Having 40-60 drafts means that there is always something to write/rewrite.
Step 3: If you want to write about it, it’s worth writing about
Blogging is recording your opinions in text. If you’ve ever expressed an opinion, then you can write a blog post. Once you realise that, a lot of the problems people have with it go away. if you are the type of person who expresses different opinions to different people, then you are going to have problems, but if you are that sort of people you are going to have problems anyway.
I think everyone should have a place on the internet where they put the things that interest them and find useful. I think it’s a little sad that so much of today’s content is being placed into walled gardens like Facebook when it could be making the world better. For people just putting ideas up as they occur this is never going to be a useful post. But for people who are interested to know what needs to happen to maintain a content-based (rather than reactive) regular stream of articles, I like to think this post might have been useful.