Do you have a blog gathering dust? Is it on life support, barely getting by? Was your last post four months ago? If you answered with a sheepish “Yes!” then this post is for you.
Many who start a blog may not anticipate the challenges that come along with blogging. It’s easy to look at Seth Godin (who cranks out a post a day) and think, “How hard can it be?” Well, as it turns out, it can be hard and before you know it, a month has passed since your last update.
We all are leading crazy-busy lives. The pace of our daily activities can often take us from one task to the other with barely time to think. And that, dear blogger, is what you need. Time to think. However, you may ask the journalist’s key questions — how, what, where, and when?
How to Get Time to Think
You need two things: a timer and a calendar.
I know some of you may balk at using a timer, but trust me, it works. First, however, you need to look at your calendar and determine when the best time would be for you to sit down and write. It may be Sunday evening. Or early Tuesday morning. Just pick one day to start with and you can expand later. I once wrote an 39-page eBook by waking up an hour early during the work week and writing for thirty minutes straight. It can be done and not nearly as tough as you may think.
So look at this exercise with the perspective of taking bite-sized pieces and build upon it. Choose your day. Choose your time. Put it on your calendar. Even give yourself an alarm that can be heard through your mobile phone. Once it’s time to write, take that nifty little timer and set it to 30 minutes. Now, my blogging friend, you are ready to begin.
Your first dip in the writing pool can be an overall overhaul of your mission. Why do you want to keep a blog? Who is your audience? How will your blog posts help them? Start with reminding yourself why you started this in the first place. Is it to share your passion for gardening? Comment on the current developments for SEO? Help families create new traditions? Whatever your purpose, rediscover it. Redefine it. And rework it. Use a mind map to jot down possible topics and sub-topics.
What Do I Write About? That Big Blank White Space Is Scary!
Every writer has writer’s block. And that’s what you are. A writer. So don’t be intimidated by that big, blank, white space. In fact, use a text editor first to write your post. Sometimes it can be distracting to write in your blog’s editor page, so give yourself a break and start first with a text editor. This also can be helpful with saving your posts just in case your blogging site freezes up on you and crashes. (Believe me, I know. Nothing is more frustrating than cranking out a masterpiece only to see it flushed out into cyberspace because of a glitch.)
As soon as you’re finished typing the first sentence (no matter if it will appear in the final version or not), pause — and save it. Now if your computer crashes, you’ll at least have an idea of what you were trying to express with the post.
Now this is the part when your re-defined mission document comes in handy. You should have a collection of ideas for content, but may not be sure what to do next. Here are some ideas:
- Read. When I learned that my little niece wanted to become a writer, I gave her one piece of advice: read. Read as many books as you can, for when you read, you learn how to write. For the blogger, reading is also very important. Let’s say you’re writing about SEO and how to leverage it for small businesses. Read about it. Become so knowledgeable that SEO goodness is falling out of your ears and you can’t stop thinking about it.
- Create a Google Reader list of your favorite blogs that contribute to your own content creation. If gardening is your game, then fill your Google Reader with blogs from gardening stores, seed companies, farming tips, landscape services, The Weather Channel — anything and everything that could affect gardening. If you want to keep up on current events, consistently reading other blogs will help. Having one spot to skim the titles of other blog entries is a great time-saver.
- Create a Google Alert. Choose a word that could summarize your topic and sign up for Google Alerts to let you know when news in that area occurs. Let’s say you’re a huge Buckeye’s fan and you’re writing a blog about it. Set your Google Alert to “Buckeye’s” and “OSU” so whenever a news item blasts into the cyber world, it will appear in your inbox. It’s like having your very own smart and intuitive assistant.
Now that you have some interesting information to sift through, you can:
- Create a commentary on a current event
- Ask a question regarding a current event
- Offer another perspective regarding a current event
- Gather up what others are talking about regarding an event or topic and summarize it
- Create content that explains what to do with the information of a current event
- Create a list of how this information will help your target reader
Those are just a few thoughts. As you read and write, I’m sure you’ll discover more.
Help – I Live In a Zoo!
When you write, you need a place that is quiet and has few distractions. For some, this means leaving their home environment because it’s too tempting to work on another task such as picking lint off a blanket. (Don’t laugh. I’ve done it.) If this sounds familiar, then happy days are here again — we have libraries! Remember them? They’re still relatively quiet and you can bring your laptop with you. Most offer WiFi access but I’d actually avoid it if possible. You don’t want to spend time surfing the Internet. You want to write. The fewer temptations, the better.
Another possibility is a local coffee house. Or a MacDonald’s. As long as you patronize the place by buying a beverage and maybe a snack, you should be good while avoiding getting the stink-eye from the guy behind the counter. If you can write from home, do. Just make sure you have distracting noises at least muffled a bit. It’s tough to focus on your writing when you have CNET blaring in the background.
Another area that can distract is the state of your work area. Is it cluttered with bills and memorabilia? File what you want to keep and discard what you don’t need. If you don’t have time for that, get a nice cardboard box and put everything on your desk in it. Then put the lid on. At least visually, you won’t be distracted. You may be amazed how relieved you feel when you do this.
Okay. Maybe Posting Once Every Three Months Isn’t Enough.
The question of “how often” one should post has been debated frequently.
If you want to rocket your blog into your industry’s “Top Ten,” you’ll need to post more often. Daily posting is usually the norm and some who are especially productive (or have a group of members posting), will post between 3-5 entries per day. The question of “how often” can also be influenced by how much time you have to devote to the blog. Chris Guillebeau, author of the book The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World, stuck with a 3-posts-a-week schedule for awhile and then switched to twice a week. His excellent eBook, 279 Days to Overnight Success, maps out his journey toward full-time writing and how he built his blog from the ground up. I highly recommend reading it. It will give you some great tips and motivate you.
Another blogging expert to watch is Darren Rouse, creator of the wildly successful site ProBlogger and author of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog. It’s well worth the $19.95 investment and is endorsed by heavy-hitters Christ Brogan and Brian Clark from Copyblogger.
The key is to be consistent with whatever schedule you choose. Once your blog is updated on, say, Tuesdays and Thursdays, then your readers will have a better understanding of when to check in. There is one blog I follow that does this and believe me, I’m trained. “It’s Thursday! Time to check out Suzy Q’s blog!”
Building content takes time and perseverance. If you want to receive the rewards, you’ve got to put in the hours. No one cranks out successful posts one after the other at first. But in time, with practice, you’ll get better and better and before you know it, you’ll have hundreds and even thousands of followers who now have your blog in their Google Reader. And your blog will be a lively, thriving body of work on the Internet, with no life support necessary. Write on!