6 Tips to Starting a Blog and Actually Writing It
When I tell people I'm a blogger I hear the same thing often, "Oh I wish I blogged more" or "I started a blog once...".
I know, you started it but for some reason you never got past the first post.
I've been there too.
I'm honestly not sure who hasn't been on the blogging struggle bus! Bless us all.
But let me tell you, I'm pumped to find I'm in a season of figuring out my best self and work method. I'm asking all the questions I asked half-heartedly before: How do I work most efficiently? How should I spend each day? What hours do I work best? How can I make my dreams practical every day? How can I make this blogging thing a THING?
I think the work ethic I've discovered and writing tips I've laid out below aren't just beneficial for me, I think you could benefit from them too. I think they could help you find your successful blog-writing vibe and get you back to the page you were excited about once!
Let's ask the biggest question first:
Why can't we create a blog and actually commit to writing it?
It's hard to come to terms with the fact that writing/blogging is often an art and a discipline.
It's hard work and most professional bloggers treat it like a job.
What I'm about to say could make you feel like the doodoo is about to hit/or is already hitting the fan, but I'm going to say it:
Successful blogging is more often than not, a well-planned shindig.
Even for people like me, who aren't natural planners.
Y'all, for realz.
My mom would be appalled to find out I finally figured out how to plan parts of my life.
And trust me, I've gone to the river to pray a bazillion times over this.
If you want to be serious about blogging, you need to plan out and commit to your posts.
But dear one, let me be gentle with you (like I try to be with myself)-- I think you need to write that blog.
I think there is something we all need in writing and letting our thoughts out, whether the world ever sees it or not. To me, writing leads to deeper living and deeper self -understanding. And those aren't hippy things--- those are good and needed things. Good, deep, sweet things I hope my generation has not lost.
When I started free-lance writing, I was sweetly reminded how life-giving it is for me to write about what I love and know, so I took a hard look at what I do on a weekly basis and carved out a WHOLE DAY for writing and blogging-- as a business owner who already wears lots of hats, that was a big decision for me.
I call the day I write, "Writing Day".
*AWE OF SILENCE FOR MOST CREATIVE TITLE*
Below are my Top 5 SUPER PRACTICAL tips for creating and cultivating consistent stellar blog content:
1. Patience with a post.
I get excited about what I write and want to hit "Publish" immediately. I want to forego any extra rich thoughts or necessary editing. I don't want to schedule a a prime time for my post to hit Facebook or Instagram. I don't want my husband (or writing group) to read it and critique it. I don't want to take the time to take awesome pictures to go along with it.
But I have learned those things are good and I need to be patient with the process. Writing freelance has shown me that I could write something in January but not even see it published until March. And I have to be okay with that.
Being patient with the process has actually helped me feel less pressure to turn around every essay I write. My posts have more editing time (I have a whole other day dedicated to taking pictures, editing posts, and scheduling posts and product launches) and I've given myself more time to collect the quality pictures I need for each post. Patience has helped me step back and realize all my writing should probably move more slowly and be published a week or two later than when I write it. It's hard to slow and not get that instant gratification, but it's beneficial for quality writing and, on a personal note, patience with outcome is a sweet discipline to walk through life with.
2. Plan Your Posts
Yeah, I'm not done talking about this. Before you rebellious non-planners are tempted to blow off what I'm about to say, I want you to know I'm not inviting you to a guilt-inducing rigid Type-A planner's party. I'm inviting you to brainstorm topics you would be interested in writing on, ready to go the morning of your writing day, then offer yourself that spontaneity and flexibility you love so much, with your writing.
I think, no matter how you function, it's important to remain flexible, but planned.
It's your blog. You're in control. For example, I might have five topics I plan to write on this week and I might only make it through two. I really love having 5-7 topics in my planner for writing day, so when I start writing I can have options and not feel tied down to only two topics. Feeling boxed in with not enough to do is the fastest way to procrastination for me. Feeling like I have too much to do also makes me feel boxed in. So I allow myself to write what I can then save the other topics for the next week.
For example, the other day I started writing about podcasting but then an Instagram idea that wasn't even on my planned list floated through my mind and I couldn't shake it. Because my natural thoughts and excitements were flowing with instagram ideas, I opened a new Evernote and started writing about Instagram, a post that I ended up splitting into two different posts because I discovered I had a lot more to say about it than I realized.
Elsie, from A Beautiful Mess, shared how she and her sister plan posts. Ideas are always bubbling or tucked away, bursting forth when we least expect it. Having something like a notebook, planner, or sticky note system to write all those ideas down on is SUPER important.
***For beginner bloggers--- when you create your blog, make sure whatever it's "about" leaves a vague enough window open for you to write about multiple topics-- or else you really will block yourself in and be one of those I-started-a-blog-once-ers. You don't want to be a once-er, do you?
3. Writing days are only for writing.
Once my posts are written, I schedule a different day to edit them, arrange them in a post, and take pictures for them.
I find that most of my really great writing ideas come to mind while I'm writing or working on a different project, so I always at least try to write out a blurb of it. I NEVER write down just a title, I write down an excerpt and finish it later. I went to Donald Miller's Storyline writing seminar and one of the keynote authors mentioned how helpful it can be for your writing flow to to begin a sentence and leave it to be finished later. << That's magic right there.
I think the most important part though, is not trying to write and edit. I wish I would have written every college paper with that mindset, but I was out of college before it was introduced to me. Write out all the thoughts, whims, side notes, and tangents. Trust yourself to go in and edit them later.
4. Keep Multiple Posts open at one time.
Literally, right now, I have about 3-4 posts I'm writing at once. THIS IS NOT MULTI-TASKING. It all goes back to keeping my natural thoughts flowing. I was writing a post about ten minutes ago that lead me to think about how important it is to share about blog writing, so I began writing out this post. Hence, what you're reading now.
I want to help you get out of the box you feel stuck in when it comes to writing consistent and content-rich blogs. I think part of unboxing ourselves is about untraining ourselves to be rigid writers. Two lies I've had to unlearn as I write blog posts: I have to focus on one thing at a time, I need this to sound perfect as I'm writing it, or I need to finish one post before I start another. Can you resonate with those? Maybe you need to think for awhile what SAT textbook writing lies you are believing. Writing in a box was what you needed to pass high school, it's not what you need to write a successful blog.
I think the way to be super productive (especially for those of you whose minds are always all over the place), is to let your writing take you where your thoughts are going.
Once you've written everything you can on one or two of your planned topics, go back to a different topic and start where you stopped. See if fresh thoughts are ready to flow out.
***A side note for you perfectionists who are discouraged you didn't write five amazing essays at the end of your writing day: First, breath. Offer yourself some needed grace. And applaud yourself for writing. Writers have happy and crappy days too. Elisabeth Gilbert would tell you in her book, Big Magic, that you have to get through the crappy words, at times, to even make it to the happy words.
5. Guilt. Less.
I don't guilt myself when my unrealistic expectations creep in on writing days.
Writing days have made me SO MUCH MORE productive. I write WAY more posts in one day than I did when I was trying to anchor writing to "just a morning thing". Have you ever done that? Have you ever tried to split up your days with one activity in the morning and a different activity in the afternoon? While I think that's a great method for some, I don't love that method when it comes to writing.
Having a whole day to write allows me to guilt myself less. Maybe I didn't sleep well the night before and my morning with the page wasn't super productive, but I left time in the afternoon and evening to write and it was SUPER productive. THAT'S why I love writing days. I'm not limiting myself or my time. Writing days I especially love to treat myself to a coffee or treat because all I'm doing is writing. I'm treating myself to be in a good mood (a concept I learned from Julia Cameron's The Right to Write-- LOVE that book)
Trying to seclude writing to one part of the day wasn't working for me. For me, writing needs space and time. Knowing that I can write later in the afternoon or evening is SO freeing and far from guilt-inducing. I'd encourage you to try having a day or two a week solely dedicated o writing.
6. Rushing the day leads your process astray
As a semi-perfectionist performist I've had to let myself off the hook if I'm distracted on writing days. Sometimes it takes an hour or two hours to sit down to write. Sometimes, if I wake up in the morning, take some time to make breakfast or coffee with my hands, then sit down to the computer, I can write for an hour or two because I've noticed my thoughts come freely the first two hours of the morning. It's sad actually, I've noticed I'm pretty funny early in the morning-- which is a major bummer since no one else is up or around to hear my awesome* jokes.
The point is, rushing myself doesn't help my writing process. I'm part of a society and culture who values efficiency, so this one's a really hard pill for me to swallow.
I have to not feel guilty about a 3 hour break in between two solid hours of good writing. That's normal and it's a poor performance issue. It's good for me to break for lunch, for crafting, for blah time. In the afternoon I make another drink (I think preparing drinks for myself mentally helps me understand that I'm about to sit down and take the page to town--- like tricking myself that i'm in a coffee shop and I paid to be there so I better get some work done) and sit down to write some more.
So for example, now that I've written this post, I'm going to take a step back from it, eat some lunch (avocado, brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes, and mushrooms cooked!), make a drink, go back to the post I was writing before this one, and finish the thoughts I'd started earlier.
*My jokes are awesome in real life. I can just hear everyone I know agreeing with me about that- "Yeah Stacie, you should straight up find a mic". No worries, I am dreaming of the day I start a morning coffee comedy club for those of us whose sharp wit comes alive in the wee hours of the morning. My Coffee Comedy Clubs will probably put the night ones to shame. You just watch and see.