When I started blogging I assumed ideas would pour from the heavens and my fingers would fly effortlessly across the keyboard pouring out publish-ready prose flocks of salivating followers would fall on.
As the reality of researching, writing, editing, image selection and publishing became clear my motivation started to slide.
Pretty soon, I was missing publishing deadlines.
Then there weren’t any deadline.
Then my blog routine became a random game of chance.
Enter the system
It took some time to realize that without a system blog writing was going to be painful. Later I learned the value of a system for that day when you want to outsource parts of the publishing process.
The system I’m going to share is simple – it has to be – it’s designed to be repeated for every blog.
And it starts with finding the ideas. With a steady supply of fresh ideas you are halfway there.
In my post “How to never run out of ideas ever again” I shared sources for blog ideas. I also explained our process for republishing older blog posts (like this one). This is a strategy we’re now using with most of our clients and having crazy-good results.
I’ll add you should be looking for micro ideas – not big, scary, all encompassing ones.
For example, this post is just about a writing system.
I could have also talked about researching, choosing the perfect topic, or how to use the WordPress editor. But, that’s too much width for a quick-to-read blog post.
When you tackle a micro topic it’s easier to complete the post and, I think, easier for the reader to quickly get value they can turn into action (without getting overwhelmed with advice).
Now that you have the ideas, it’s time to…find time.
The best way to find time for writing a blog is to not have to “find it” in the first place.
I recommend having one block of time for writing. For me, it’s the first thing I do every morning. For you, it might be 8:30-10:00, 3 days a week – whatever it is, make it a routine.
At first, you might want to post this time for a month on your calendar to help develop the routine. You might also need a reward for your efforts, like crossing the task off a list, or marking your calendar with minutes spent writing every day.
The less you have to work at finding the time, the more likely the work will get done.
Now that you’ve found the time, you need to get started.
I need to have a clear desk, a full cup of tea and a quiet room to write. I can edit on a moving train full of goats (still haven’t tried that), but writing requires complete concentration and no distractions (or goats).
Commit to a block of time. If you are writing at 8:30 in the morning, you might want to work for 90 minutes with quick breaks every 30 minutes – but commit to the time. That means Facebook and email are closed, papers are cleared away and your phone is put away or on airplane mode.
Whatever works best for you, create that situation every time.
Next, you need a template
I can hear it now “But, I’m an artist and artists never use paint-by-number formulas.”
Bullhooky. Even artists use a template of sorts to organize their thoughts – certainly authors do.
Every blog posts (with exceptions to recipe blogs or vacation journal blogs) needs to take the reader on a journey. Usually that journey is from problem to solution.
My template for writing a blog (hundreds of public speakers use this template) is very simple. I follow it for every post (like this one) and the reader never complains.
Here it is:
Like most books that follow a template for every chapter, we’re too busy enjoying the content to care much about the structure.
Template ready? Time to get the first draft done.
Your first draft will not be great – expect it. Anne Lamott famously calls it your “Shitty first draft” and for good reason.
When I’m writing an 800-1,000 word blog post, I like to crank out a first draft in about one hour. After that I let it simmer while I go for a run, do some other work, or read – but I don’t think about it.
When I sit down to finish the post, it’s amazing how obvious all the problems are. The run on sentence or weak arguments jump off the page and are much easier to fix.
Plan on two sittings and it takes the pressure off and allows you to write more freely for that essential first draft.
At some point you need to admit this is only a blog – not a novel – or, as Seth Godin says, ship it.
“Shipping is fraught with risk and danger. Every time you raise your hand, send an email, launch a product or make a suggestion, you’re exposing yourself to criticism. Not just criticism, but the negative consequences that come with wasting money, annoying someone in power or making a fool of yourself. It’s no wonder we’re afraid to ship.”
More time fussing over semi-colons won’t get you more readers or more social shares, it just burns up more time.
Your goals should be to help the reader reach their goal faster and better than they could on their own.
Once you’ve done that, your job is done.