I’m writing this as I’m sat on a train down to Norwich to hang out with some of my writer friends. I’ve had a hectic two days because I learned on Sunday night that I’ve got to move out of my flat within, oh, three weeks. Naturally, I’ve gotten fuck all work done and have instead spent the past 48 hours frantically researching flats and arranging viewings, cramming them in before my trip — from which I won’t return until Monday. Which will leave me with two weeks to find somewhere… huh. (There’s a point to this, I promise.)
For the first year of this blog I struggled to write frequently. (Though my archives tell another tale. Cough.) I averaged two posts a month and tried to stick to the rule ‘publish something at least every seven days’, which, duh, didn’t work. Sometimes I published five times a week (at the beginning — I was inspired!) and eventually I stopped writing here altogether for about three months. Then I decided to start taking things seriously. This post marks the date that I actually started publishing something every Wednesday (which is a much better rule than ‘once every seven days’, by the by).
And when I made that decision to take blogging seriously, I made one change that has been endlessly useful. If I hadn’t done it, I swear I would still be posting sporadically, if at all. This is what I did: I started an ideas journal. This journal contains all my ideas for blog posts. Sometimes it’s just a headline, sometimes it’s a few bulletpoints or an overview, and sometimes I’ll pretty much write the entire thing out by hand. Like I did with this one:
But one thing remains constant: every idea gets its own page (or three). That means I can browse through the ideas easily when it’s time to blog, and it gives me room to expand on them.
My Failproof Blogging System
So almost all my blog posts now begin life on paper. This is my system:
- Any time I have an idea, I write the headline (which will always change when it comes time to publish) at the top of a fresh page.
- If I’m not at home when I get my idea, I just email myself on my phone, and write it in the notebook later.
- I pad the idea out if I’m in the mood and have a solid idea of what the blog post will be, or just leave it as it is.
- When it’s time to write, I leaf through the book and just go with the idea that grabs me most.
- Every now and then I will go through my notes and expand on the ideas that began life as but a lowly headline.
- I draw a line through the page after I’ve written its blog post (this makes to easier to scan through and find things I haven’t already written about).
- That’s pretty much it. Woop!
Where Do I Get Ideas From?
Before my notebook, I really struggled for ideas. (Which, you know, could explain why I didn’t write much.) I worried there were too many different people to cater to — should I blog for my clients or my students? I worried I didn’t have anything of value to say, that everything I had to say had already been said by somebody else. The same shit everyone else worries about when starting a blog.
But here’s what I realised:
Some people will want to hear what I have to say from me, regardless of the fact that they could get that info elsewhere. Voice is, well… not more important than what you’re saying, but it is JUST as important. So I decided to relax, not think too much about it, and write about whatever felt right. (Admittedly, this became a whole lot easier when I started interacting with my readers more. But in order to get readers, you need to blog in the first place. Yay Catch 22!)
Then I got really frickin’ excited at the prospect of building a collection of my ideas that could be useful to others.
Ideas started slamming into at me. I’d listen to a podcast or read a book, or sometimes I’d just be washing the dishes, and BOOM — an idea. And I wrote them all down. That’s the fascinating thing about blogging — you expect you’ll run out of ideas, but actually, ideas beget ideas. Weird how that works, but turns out — ideas are not exhaustible. Out of one idea spring five others.
Now, the more I write, the more I think, the more ideas I get.
I don’t buy that whole, ‘I only blog when I’m inspired’ bullshit. I feel inspired after I sit down and start writing, and after a little while the words just start clambering from my fingertips, desperate to get onto the screen. And come on — if you don’t have even one thing worth writing about every week, you seriously need some more shit going into your brain.
There are over 100 ideas in my notebook right now. (Yeah, I know, maybe I should start publishing more often. We’ll see, amigos.)
And that’s how I always manage to publish something every Wednesday, even when I’m sitting down at the last second to churn some words out because I’ve spent the past two days running around Edinburgh like a nutter trying to find somewhere to live. It’s a blessed relief that I had pretty much this entire blog post set down on paper before I sat down to write. I didn’t have to think too hard, which is good, because my brain is totally frazzled right now, yet still I’ve managed to retain my professionalism and do what I said I would do: publish a blog post every Wednesday.
It might not always be a masterpiece, but let’s face it — consistency is way more important than writing something absolutely fantastic every time. (Not to mention there’s a fuckload less pressure. ‘Oh god! I haven’t written for ages! Now I need to write something INCREDIBLE.’) Consistency is a much better tell of professionalism than a brilliant mind. (Hey, I just had another idea! Scribbling that sunnuva down.)
How to Become a Consistent Blogger Yourself
Blogging regularly is one of the best things you can do to bolster your online business. If you hate writing, you could hire somebody to do it for you. But if you want to write the blog yourself, because you like the idea of being the kind of person who does that, or because you want to grow a personality brand, or whatever, this is what you should do:
- Pick up a notebook to write in. Make it a nice one, so you enjoy writing in it. But not so nice that you don’t want to blemish it with scribbles. On second thoughts, make it a shitty one.
- Grab a pen. Now this should be nice, because who wants to write with a fucked up pen? NOBODY. And you want to make it as likely as possible that you will actually do this.
- Have an initial brainstorming session. Write down anything that comes to mind — just headlines/titles/single sentences to begin with — dedicating a new page to each idea. Don’t dwell on whether they’re good ideas or bad ideas, just write them down. A lot of my notes… eh, they’ll probably never get published. Just write the fuckers down. Try to get down at least ten ideas to start with.
- Now go back and pad out all those ideas, with overviews, intros, bulletpoints, hell — even the whole thing if it comes to you — but don’t force it. If you’re not sure where you’re going to take an idea right now, just leave it be. You can come back to it later. Or maybe never. It doesn’t matter. The point is just to get those juices flowing. (Ew.)
- Jot down new ideas as they arrive in your brain. Trust me, it’ll happen. Once you become the sort of person who writes ideas for blog posts down, you won’t be able to stop yourself. ‘Oh, I could write about that!’ will become a common thought. Don’t worry if this doesn’t happen straight away though. If you’re persistent, eventually it will — something will flick in your brain, and you will magically be more receptive to new ideas. (Not really magically. SCIENCEALLY.)
- Don’t have your notebook handy? Write your ideas somewhere else and transfer them over later. Your phone, the palm of your hand, the back of a receipt — wherever. Just capture those wriggly ideas and make sure you transfer them to your notebook later.
- Periodically — maybe once a week or month — go through your notebook and pad your new ideas out.
- Almost forgot the most important part: once a week sit down with your notebook, choose an idea, and go to town on it. Get that thing PUBLISHED.
And voila! You will never be short of blog post ideas again, not even when life throws you one of those pesky curveballs, so you’ll have no excuse not to publish something every god damn week.
(And eventually you’ll learn to write things in advance. Once I’ve figured that out, I’ll let you know.)