Tuesday, October 07, 2014

I don't write blog posts till I'm ready to write. Here's what I do instead.

I blog a lot--on this blog and on The Eloquent Woman, my public speaking blog. Between the two blogs, I publish five posts a week, and occasionally more. Yet I don't spend all my time writing, because I don't write blog posts until I'm ready to do so.

That may sound obvious, but I work with many clients who spend all their time on the writing, whether that's thinking about the post, staring at the blog interface, or rewriting again and again. You might be sitting down "to write," but quickly get distracted by the need to find photos, copyright info, a link you remember but can't find right away. And it's distractions that lower the quality of your writing, new research shows. More important to me, as a business owner, I don't have time for all that. Here's what I do instead, while I'm waiting to write:
  • Collect string: I save anything that might be useful for the blogs in specific notebooks created for each blog in Evernote, which lets me clip from web pages, my email, or my RSS feed (currently Feedly Pro). Anywhere I'm reading, pretty much, can be saved there. I tag some saved items as "story idea" to make them easier to find, and I make specific notebooks for weekly features on each blog, such as the DGC blog weekend read or The Eloquent Woman's Famous Speech Friday feature. Because I use Evernote Premium, there's a strong search function I can use to find all the notes about, say, online video when I'm ready to write a post on that topic. (Use the Evernote link to get a free month of Premium when you sign up for a free Evernote account.)
  • Set up shell posts: I set up a shell post before I ever sit down to write. For most posts, that shell includes a title, perhaps an intro, links I want to include, quotes, photos or other illustrations--everything but the writing. That way, I'm not distracted by looking for those things when I'm ready to write.
  • Write a tweetable headline: My feed pushes out a tweet with the blog name and post title when it first publishes, so I've learned to make the headlines fit within 120 characters and, if appropriate, to include @ symbols and Twitter handles.
  • Get credits in: If I need hat tips or photo credits, those go right into the shell post--a huge timesaver.
  • Reading what else is out there: A subset of string-gathering, I read widely and listen to audiobooks and podcasts like they're going out of style. Mobile devices and tablets mean I can be collecting string while doing many other things, and if I have several shell posts set up or story ideas tagged, I'm ready to save what I'm reading or listening to and know where it belongs.
  • Wait: If nothing comes to me on a topic, even though I know it has potential, I wait. It might be my best quality control measure on the blog. To balance any anxiety over not having enough material--which might prompt me to post even when I'm not ready--I just make sure I have plenty in the queue. Waiting then lets me pull disparate pieces together in unusual ways that work better for me and my readers. 
  • Split burgeoning piles in half: The process of saving many draft posts in "shell" form also lets me quickly see when a post has many links and threads, before I start writing. Sometimes that prompts me to turn that into more than one post, a bonus for my blogging--and something I might not realize until I'd put in too much effort, without this system.
Those of you with interns and assistants can train them to do the same before you start writing, but this system makes it much easier even if you're flying solo. On Not Writing takes a deep look at putting your writing down for a long time, and is worth considering if and when you need a longer break. I'd like to think that my system builds in shorter breaks with purpose, keeping it all fresh.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Thiophene_Guy)

No comments: