If I had all the time in the world, I could easily fill up all 365 days of the year with a new post, every day, about gardening, cooking and traveling. I have too much to write about, and that’s a good sign I’m writing about the right things: my passions in life.
I constantly have ideas swirling in my head, inspired by the beauty that I see, the people that I meet or the things that I do. When I engage in conversations, watch a show or listen to the radio, I hear with a writer’s ear and often fill my mental filing cabinet just by listening to others discuss sometimes unrelated subjects. To get them organized and coherent and down on paper (by “paper,” that could mean the back of my junk mail or a jot in my Evernote) can be overwhelming. Often I find myself writing about something that I thought about last year.
Now, nearly 400 posts later, I might know a thing or two about blogging. I’m just as excited about blogging today as I was on the day I started blogging — and every year it just seems to get better.
It goes without saying that being your blogging best means being authentic. Writing in your own voice and your own style. That’s the easy part — getting there is the challenge. Here are a few ways to stay on top of it and get past the blogger’s block.
Organize your posts.
Many professional blogs use an editorial calendar. I don’t. I find it too restricting and prefer to use a running list of topics and drafts that I reference throughout the year. But whether you use one or not, it’s important to organize your posts in a way that makes sense to you.
From a blogging standpoint, an editorial calendar is a weekly or monthly guide of themes, topics, and/or posts that go up on a regular basis. This could mean daily or weekly “columns” incorporated into your blog (like my Five Things Friday series, which posts every other Friday) or a monthly focus the way magazines do it (like summer vacations in June or holiday entertaining in November).
Personally, I stick with a seasonal schedule that tends to change on the fly. Since most of my topics are seasonal (tomatoes in summer, snowboarding in winter), this isn’t hard to do. But I like the flexibility of being able to move my posts around if I want something up right away, or to put something on the back burner if it’s not quite polished yet.
In WordPress, I use the “Editorial Calendar” plugin (best. plugin. ever!) and that helps keep me on track. At a glance, I can see which posts I’ve drafted and how they’re spaced apart in the schedule. I can reorder posts with a simple drag-and-drop (something I do nearly every day, depending on their status), or edit them on the fly without leaving the calendar. It’s also immensely helpful to be able to scroll ahead (or back) a couple months to check out the tempo of my posting.
While you can use Google Calendar or your favorite calendar app to schedule topics and posts for your blog, none of them are integrated the way this plugin is. When I discovered it, I think it changed my blogging life!
The main reason for organizing your posts is to stay consistent in your posting. Whether you choose to blog every day of the week or just once a week, maintaining a schedule of some sort develops a loyal readership.
If your readers have come to expect something new twice a week, try to give them that. If they’re used to seeing you post every day and you suddenly skip a week without warning, you risk making your blog appear unprofessional — not only to readers, but to potential partners, sponsors or advertisers as well.
Keep a running list of ideas for possible topics.
They don’t have to be complete ideas… Sometimes just a few choice words or phrases will jolt your brain down the line when you see them again. I usually sort my ideas by season (spring and summer, fall and winter) or by genre (gardening, cooking, traveling), so when I need a spark for a new post or try to plan out my writing for the month, I have a list of timely subjects to refer to.
I keep this list in Evernote Premium but also love the Quick Drafts app on my iPad, which is a bare-bones note-taking app. (I use Quick Drafts most when I’m on the go, as the app opens to a blank page that automatically saves when you close it — no need for titles, dates or tags, or even opening a new document. Later, I can export my Quick Drafts note to Evernote if I need to.) At any given moment, I have enough ideas jotted down to fill up an entire year! Not all good ideas, but a good start.
The key is to write down your idea as soon as you think of it. It’s like trying to remember a dream… If you don’t write it down right away, the idea is lost forever in the nether regions of your brain. I can’t even count how many times I’ve thought of something brilliant, told myself I’d write it down when I got home, then spent the rest of the night stumped and frustrated.
Just about every week or every day, ideas and topics should be popping into your head like popcorn — quick, instantaneous, all over the place. Notice I said topics, not posts. Everyone struggles with writing now and then, but if you’re struggling just to come up with a topic, that’s a sure sign you’re burned out or not writing within your own interests.
Only (and always) write when you feel inspired.
I know, this seems like a no-brainer. But you’d be surprised at how many times you feel pressured to write, only to end up with blogger’s block that lasts for hours (even days) on end.
Inspiration often comes unexpectedly — whether from a conversation with a friend, a walk down the street, or a boring drive in traffic — and those fleeting thoughts can get lost if you don’t record them as they happen. Even if you can’t sit down at your computer to pull together a post, a note right at that lightbulb moment (I’ve been known to hand-write a whole paragraph in the margin of a newspaper) will help you remember the details so you can come back to them later.
For me, inspiration also comes in spurts. I try to write as soon as I feel that creative juice bubbling inside. At any given time, I have at least three dozen half-finished drafts in my WordPress, and I add to them whenever the mood strikes. Sometimes I even have ideas come to me in the middle of other, unrelated drafts, and I’ll have two posts going simultaneously on my screen while I frantically type it all out before I forget them. Research is incomplete, grammar is atrocious; it doesn’t matter, as I’ll eventually do an edit before I publish. With this particular post, I started it two months ago but finished it only two days ago, writing down one idea at a time as it came to me, and finally putting it all together into a cohesive post.
Sometimes, I’ll be inspired to write but not inspired to shoot the subject… and vice versa. I can’t tell you how helpful it is to look over all my drafts each month and have my pick of posts to put the finishing touches on; a few of them are always bound to catch my eye and I get excited all over again.
Only write what you feel impassioned about.
Another sometimes-overlooked but obviously understood no-brainer. Write what you feel passionate about, write about your life, write what you know. Do not write about the things you think others want to read — unless it meets one of the above criteria. Maybe it seems timely to write about a trending topic, but if you’re not really into it, it’ll just make the writing process slow and unfulfilling.
Not only do I write about what I know, but also what I’m interested in learning. That’s one of my favorite aspects of writing this blog — soaking in as much information as I can and presenting it in a way that other people can learn from it too.
The constant curiosity, the desire to learn, and the willingness to share… all of that forms the foundation for being your blogging best.
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