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What’s your process for writing blog posts?

One of the hardest parts about blogging for me is actually sitting down and doing it. This has been a problem of mine throughout school. I’m really bad at starting things, but once I get some words on paper, the rest usually flows just fine (and then too long). When I get an idea for a blog post if I don’t write it exactly at that minute, it will probably never get written. (That’s why I’m typing this RIGHT NOW.) I have a list of “blog ideas” and after a while I just erase a line that I never got to. That’s not helping anyone.

Sometimes after I write a blog post I realize it is so unorganized or unfocused, I never publish it. My ideas are in the computer, but they end up going nowhere because I feel like I can’t bring it together as a relevant post. Another barrier that I have made for myself that seems ridiculous.

When I was at Iowa State University for a summer internship we were required to blog every day, and I loved it. I always had something to say about the days events, and usually a relevant link to share with my peers. I tried to continue this again when I was in Australia for my semester abroad, but as soon as I fell behind it was hard to go back and finish it. To this day I have a sticky note open on my computer with notes of almost every day that I was in Sydney. Maybe it’s about time to relive those memories and post them on my blog.

To me, blogging isn’t about getting a million readers or breaking the latest news. It has always been an exercise in writing, a place for me to put my thoughts at the moment and share what’s happening in my life. This is also what makes it hard for me to continue blogging. If no one is reading it, I don’t really care if I neglect it for a few weeks. One of my latest posts was about goals that I set for 2011, half of which I’ve already slacked on. What I really need to do is take my own advice (Thanks Lori) and follow up with what I say I’m going to do, regardless of who is watching.

The writing journey begins

At this point, my process for writing blog posts is this: The idea pops in my head, and I start writing. Simple as that.

I would love to have more of a method to my madness, and hopefully that will come with time. I’m a “fly by the seat of my pants” writer. As I revealed in a comment, I barely read over my posts before I publish. Writing is one of the most important skills I can improve on, I just need to give myself more practice.

I’ve got the commenting thing down, but I know I have a lot to learn about writing methods. What is your process for writing blog posts? How do you go from idea to publishing?

22 comments
Ricardo Bueno
Ricardo Bueno

My writing process involves: Pandora + Redbull + Skittles.

But seriously, I tend to start with the title first. I carry a moleskine notebook with me everywhere I go. I write it in when I'm hanging out at the cafe, hanging out at the bookstore, when I'm traveling and sitting around at the airport. It basically stays on me at all times. This way, the next time I'm at a computer, I can flip through notes and look at page titles and outlines I've written so I can just sit and write.

I don't always publish everything. Heck, I probably have around 50+ blog drafts just sitting there - half thought-out and half-finished.

hannush
hannush

@Ricardo Bueno My Olympus voice recorder comes in very handy for creative inspirations (which for me usually occur while I'm driving). Might have to consider the Redbull and Skittles though.

jennalanger
jennalanger moderator

@Ricardo Bueno I like to keep my Moleskine with me at all times too. It's fun going back and reading the notes I wrote several years ago. Some make no sense, and others could easily be turned into blog posts with some extra thought. My biggest challenge is the follow through - I start and never finish. You have quite the blog though, I should be taking tips from you!

The other day I was doing some wireframes for work, and I completely got in the zone after a cup of coffee and some tunes. I should try that for blog writing too.

hannush
hannush

@jennalanger Just realized you were a Cyclone for a while. I was in Ames about two weeks ago...oddly enough, I am a fan of Iowa State (even though I'm not from around there, nor did I go there)...got a shirt a few years ago with the cardinal on it...and its a favorite. I know, a t-shirt shouldn't make one a fan...but it did.

jennalanger
jennalanger moderator like.author.displayName 1 Like

@hannush I have 2 ISU t-shirts that I wear all the time! I spent a summer there as you can see, that's when I first started blogging. Ames is a great town and it was fun to get a taste of the midwest.

jasonshen
jasonshen like.author.displayName 1 Like

Sometimes I think getting readers and traffic is a good thing specifically because it puts more pressure on you to produce. I know that I certainly feel a certain obligation to my visitors.

Also, my friend @sebastian marshall has a great post on being prolific and recognizing that you are judged on your best work, not your mediocre stuff. You guys might find that valuable.

http://www.sebastianmarshall.com/how-do-i-write-so-much-you-ask-well-glad-you-asked

sebastmarsh
sebastmarsh

@jennalanger @jasonshen @sebastian marshall Hi Jenna, good entry here. This stood out to me:

> Sometimes after I write a blog post I realize it is so unorganized or unfocused, I never publish it.

There's two general philosophies/"schools" of blogging - one is where you publish A LOT, without stressing too much about quality... you recognize that if you write a lot, your writing will improve, you'll hit a groove, and you only get judged on your best work. But it does mean sometimes you'll write a fuzzy/unorganized/unfocused piece. This is the philosophy of most popular blogs.

The other philosophy is only publishing your very best stuff, and polishing the hell out of it before you publish it. This means you write less frequently, but people get excited because your signal:noise ratio is really really high. That's what Paul Graham does with his essays, or Derek Sivers on his blog.

Both methods can work really well, but the second one is harder I think - it's a lot easier to fall off and totally stop blogging for a while, and it also requires more talent. The first method takes more hours probably, but you improve faster... anyways, I chose the first way, but I have tons of admiration for people like Paul Graham, Derek Sivers, Steve Blank who always have a really high signal:noise ratio.

jennalanger
jennalanger moderator

@jasonshen Thanks so much for sharing this post from @sebastian marshall . It's a great point. I've been taking photos forever now, and I take A LOT. Even in the days of film I would shoot several rolls in one outing, hoping to get a few good shots. While it's relatively easy for me to snap 100 photos, writing 5 blog posts is more of a chore. Nonetheless the same principles apply. The more I write, the better I'll get, and the more chances I'll have at really making an impact on someone. And I think you're right about your traffic - more visitors means more people to let down if you don't write, so it keeps you honest. Looks like I have something to strive for!

hannush
hannush

I have to be "feeling" whatever I'm writing. I've never been able to take a list of subjects and write anything good. For me, its 100% inspiration 0% persperation. If I write the other way around, it usually isn't very worth while.

So, sometimes I'm silent for a while. I actually prefer writing comments to blogging. You guys do such a good job of kicking up my emotions, that is easy to create.

Glad to know I'm not the only "fly by the seat of my pants" writer. We are wildly inconsistent...but hopefully worthy when we write.

jennalanger
jennalanger moderator like.author.displayName 1 Like

@hannush I actually wrote this blog post right after I left a comment on @Lori 's blog. I had the ideas and inspiration so I had to write it at that exact moment! I agree blogging shouldn't be forced. If it isn't ripe on the mind, I won't waste the time. (like my half rhyme? :)

sebastmarsh
sebastmarsh

@jennalanger @jasonshen sebastian marshall Hi Jenna, good entry here. This stood out to me:

> Sometimes after I write a blog post I realize it is so unorganized or unfocused, I never publish it.

There's two general philosophies/"schools" of blogging - one is where you publish A LOT, without stressing too much about quality... you recognize that if you write a lot, your writing will improve, you'll hit a groove, and you only get judged on your best work. But it does mean sometimes you'll write a fuzzy/unorganized/unfocused piece. This is the philosophy of most popular blogs.

The other philosophy is only publishing your very best stuff, and polishing the hell out of it before you publish it. This means you write less frequently, but people get excited because your signal:noise ratio is really really high. That's what Paul Graham does with his essays, or Derek Sivers on his blog.

Both methods can work really well, but the second one is harder I think - it's a lot easier to fall off and totally stop blogging for a while, and it also requires more talent. The first method takes more hours probably, but you improve faster... anyways, I chose the first way, but I have tons of admiration for people like Paul Graham, Derek Sivers, Steve Blank who always have a really high signal:noise ratio.

jennalanger
jennalanger

@jasonshen Thanks so much for sharing this post from sebastian marshall . It's a great point. I've been taking photos forever now, and I take A LOT. Even in the days of film I would shoot several rolls in one outing, hoping to get a few good shots. While it's relatively easy for me to snap 100 photos, writing 5 blog posts is more of a chore. Nonetheless the same principles apply. The more I write, the better I'll get, and the more chances I'll have at really making an impact on someone. And I think you're right about your traffic - more visitors means more people to let down if you don't write, so it keeps you honest. Looks like I have something to strive for!

chris
chris moderator

I think the number one reason I fail to blog (I've had a blog in the past, its not up any more) is because it just takes too damn long. In fact writing anything coherent and useful can be a real challenge, especially without ruthless daily practice. When I do write, I absolutely obsess over every word. I make multiple passes to ensure I haven't included too many filler words, and to re-arrange and re-assembe my ideas. Chunk of a sentence, a half a paragraph: copy-paste, rinse, repeat.

I also find that when I'm truly inspired or otherwise motivated by a topic, eloquence sort of comes naturally. This is a big part of successful writing - giving a damn!

hannush
hannush

@chris Join the club. Perfectionists do not make timely writers. I once thought of going to journalism school...but I actually find it painful to write on command...then my editing gets out of control and I'm never happy.

jennalanger
jennalanger moderator

@chris This is good to know Chris, now I can use these tidbits about you to get you blogging on the Livefyre blog every now and then :) How about you give us a really rough draft about something you're passionate about, and we'll do the editing? I think we can get a pretty awesome team blog if we all work together. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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JonHearty
JonHearty like.author.displayName 1 Like

I think it is so interesting how when you were required to blog everyday you not only enjoyed it, but felt like you had plenty to blog about. Usually my excuse for not blogging is that I don't have something worth writing about, but I know it's just an excuse because there are countless times throughout the day that I have some sort of a-ha moment, regardless of how seemingly miniscule. These moments are all very worth of blogging about, but usually slip through the cracks into an abyss of ideas that may never be recorded.

An editorial calendar is something I've been talking about for a long time, but in light of these amazing conversations about following our own advice and cranking out some regular posts, I think it's time for me to start. @Lori you have an amazing way of motivating people and I'm not sure if you know it yet - but I think @jennalanger could agree based on her response below :) Thanks for putting the effort and energy into your blog posts and comments. The momentum that you have created will snowball into an avalanche of quality writing and to-do-list-conquering by a lot of people!

jennalanger
jennalanger moderator

@JonHearty So maybe the real key is getting myself to blog everyday? Then it won't seem like I have to do these monumental posts. It can be a few paragraphs about something I found intereseting during the day. Ok, I'm sold. Think I can keep up? :)

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Lori
Lori like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

Hey Jenna! yay - another blog I'll enjoy following (no pressure!)

What you said here: " It has always been an exercise in writing, a place for me to put my thoughts at the moment and share what’s happening in my life. " captures for me the reason I read blogs. My neice @melanieathomp blogs about her daily decorating delimas (hey - like that Melanie?) and a LOT more and it is a delight to visit her blog. Your adventures in Australia would be cool to read about, or the ones you're having at @livefyre !

I haven't really developed a process yet. Well, maybe a tiny bit of one. I try to come up with five new topics a week (try) and usually at least 2-3 of them don't work so I scrap them. I find inspiration, oddly enough, by what I want to write in comments to other blogs. Maybe that's not odd, I don't know. I find I'm often inspired by @dannybrown 's blog. What he writes about nearly always gets me thinking.

My journey from idea to publishing is a long one. I don't want to deal with the pressure of having to publish and not having something ready. It's the whole reason I didn't go into journalism! I work on them, polish them for weeks and load them up a day or two prior to publishing. Then on the morning I publish them, I give them one more once-over.....which can and has taken up to, well never mind how long! Suffice it to say that sometimes it is only on the morning of publishing that I really fall in love with a post.

I'll be watching Jenna! How many times a week will you be publishing, now that you're in the groove!?

Lori
Lori like.author.displayName 1 Like

@jennalanger "Fresh and frozen" bring it on. I'll be among those who will be holding you to it!

jennalanger
jennalanger moderator

@MelanieAThomp I really appreciate your blogging style, it seems much like mine and I enjoy reading it. I think the really fun thing will be going back 10 years from now and looking at what we're writing. Imagine the next place you move to, and the new photos you'll be putting on the walls! I can't wait until we have a blogger plugin for Livefyre so we can get your comments flowing there too :)

MelanieAThomp
MelanieAThomp

@Lori Thanks for the mention! I've been having lots of fun blogging this year. If you look at my archives you can see I went through a huge funk of not posting very often, but it's fun being back at it. I don't really have an intricate process, just type about something from the day before.

I'm with you @jennalanger I don't read them over too much, and I have a bunch of unpublished posts! I'm happy that you are getting back into it though and looking forward to some of those 'blast from the past' posts along with the new ones! =)

jennalanger
jennalanger moderator like.author.displayName 1 Like

@Lori I find that a lot of the comments I leave are starts to blog posts, so what I really need to do is go back through my Livefyre profile and reflect and add to what I've already written. I will be publishing at least twice a week, hold me to it! :)

I'm going to continue to post blogs from my past as well, I think it will be fun to review where I was a few years ago compared to where I am now. So get ready for some fresh and frozen content, coming to a blog near you soon! Thanks for the feedback, I really appreciating you helping me get out of my funk and back to blogging!

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