I spend a lot of time talking to my students about the virtues of blogging. Not only can it make you a better writer (I’ve improved a LOT in the 4 years since I started writing here), but in my opinion, it’s one of the best ways to build a devoted audience that will follow you no matter where this wacky online world takes you.
I’m trying to get serious about taking my own advice here, so I’m working hard to come up with some ways to be more consistent on this blog. My goal is to write here every day, but I realize that simply having a goal is one thing – doing what it takes to meet that goal is entirely another. Here are a few things I’m experimenting with in order to be a better blogger. Maybe it will help you too, and maybe you have your own tips you can post in the comments.
Let’s do this together, shall we?
Read, Watch, Write
The number one thing I hear from my students and clients when it comes to blogging is, “I don’t know what to write about”. It’s true, there’s nothing more daunting than having a blank page in front of you and not knowing what to say. Everything I’ve ever learned about blogging I’ve learned from watching, reading and experiencing things. All the ideas I’ve ever gotten have been sparked, even in a small way, by things I’ve read, seen or done. My blog is simply my take on things, as yours should be too. It’s a sandbox where I can play with words and ideas, and where I can share things that I hope are of value to you.
If you want to be overflowing with ideas for your blog, you need to get out and see things. You need to read voraciously. You need to meet people, and have experiences. Read every single day (and not just Twitter and Facebook updates, either). Be infinitely curious. And you’ll never be at a loss for things to blog about.
Keep an Idea List
We all know that inspiration is all around us, but how many times have you been inspired and then forgotten to write it down? Then when you get back to your computer, the idea is gone. Find a way to keep an idea list with you all the time. You can go old school and use a notebook and pen, but I prefer to use the device that is on my person 99% of the time – my phone. You don’t need any fancy apps, but it has to be an app that only takes you one or two clicks to get to where you can write out the idea. Use a simple note app (the default one that comes with your phone is great), or a simple to-do list app (I love Wunderlist for this). Click, type, save, repeat.
The point is, you need an easy way to write out ideas when they come to you. Sometimes I have mini idea generation sessions – where I’ll just sit for a few minutes and brainstorm ideas. I can easily come up with 6 or 7 good ones in a few minutes (because I’ve read, watched and done, as in Step 1). Having a running list serves two purposes; first, it allows me to incubate on ideas…once I’ve got the basic concept, I can think about it while I’m walking the dog or cooking dinner, and the post practically writes itself in my head. Second, it gives me plenty of fodder, so when I sit down to blog, I can scan the list and write about whatever tweaks my interest at that moment.
The list is critical – so get yourself going by taking 5 minutes today to sit quietly and write down 6 or 7 things you’re interested in writing about.
Consistency is Key
This is the one I have the hardest time with. But I’m learning that the secret to blogging consistently is to find the time to do it every single day. It has to be in your schedule, part of your routine, and eventually it will be a habit. When you blog doesn’t matter, what matters is that you do it every day. You don’t have to publish every single day, but write something – a partial post, a post you can bank for later, that’s fine. But write. Something. There’s no rule except you just need to write some every day. Then you’ll never be at a loss for the next step.
Just Hit Publish
This one gets a lot of folks. How many partially written blog posts do you have sitting around right now? Are they partially done because you’re a bit nervous to put them out there? That’s perfectly natural. I get nervous every time I hit the “Publish” button. But I do it anyway, because if I don’t put my stuff out here for the world to see I’m not respecting myself and the time I’ve spent thinking and writing. If I don’t make myself a bit vulnerable to whatever the reaction to my thoughts might be, then I’ll never grow as a writer or a professional.
So just write something. Read it through for grammar and spelling and clarity. Then just hit the darn publish button, already. (Or I’ll come over there and push it for you.)
Hey, I’m a teacher, I can’t help myself. Here’s what I want you to do. Go open a new document right now, or turn on your web cam. Spend a few minutes reflecting on the things you’ve read, seen, or done in the past few days. Pick something. Start writing (or talking, if you’re a video blogger). Then, just hit Publish. Finally, post the link in the comments below, so we can all have a look.
Happy blogging. Let’s work on this together, shall we?
UPDATE: My pal Jennifer Navarette (@epodcaster) came up with a great idea! If you are going to participate in this blogging challenge, then be sure to tag your posts (and your tweets about your blogging efforts) with the hashtag #jbi (stands for Just Blog It). That way we can keep track of everything!
[photo credit: notionscapital on Flickr]