Blog School: Lesson Two: When To Write, What To Write & How To Write
Welcome back to Blog School! Today’s lesson is all about writing great blog posts. Some people call this content. Some people call this writing. Some people call this blogging. You can call it Mavis if you want to, but I think we’re on the same page, yes?
In our Facebook group, we’ve had lots of questions about consistency, writing well, finding your voice and more. (If you haven’t joined the Facebook group, you should. It’s totally happening over there and it’s a great way to stay on track between lessons… and meet other neat people!) I thought we’d cover a few important content related subjects in this lesson. So let’s go!
People regularly ask me how I manage to be so consistent with my blogging. I think there are several answers to that question, for me. I thought I would share them with you:
Love your blog: I really do love my blog. It’s my happy place. It’s a place I can express myself. I make the rules. I choose the pace. If you want your blog to work for you, it needs to be a good fit for you, too. Be sure that you know why you are blogging (see Lesson One!) Be sure that you are blogging about the kinds things that are meaningful to you. And be sure that your blog is a good fit. If it’s not, it will be really hard to maintain and even harder to keep yourself motivated. Make your blog a place that you love to be.
Make friends: There is nothing better than having a cheer squad and your blog readers and the blogging community can be the ones shaking the pompoms and making those cool people-pyramids. I have a really great cheer squad and they are a big part of my life. Some of them have even become my best friends! If you reach out to other bloggers, they may also be interested in the things you do. Don’t be a crazy, schemey, networky blog pal, though. Make real, meaningful connections with other bloggers you admire, by commenting thoughtfully on their blogs, following the things they do and having a genuine interest in friendship or chatter with them. As you grow your community and readership, you’ll feel more excited about posting, because you’ll be gathering a lovely cheer squad who loves reading/seeing what you do.
Make time: I am lucky enough to be able to make lots of time for my blog. I am a full-time blogger. But perhaps you are NOT a full-time blogger. And you are super busy with the demands of modern life. I totally get that. You’ve probably heard the adage about making time for the things that are important to you. People apply it to exercise all the time, telling you that if you really WANTED to get on that treadmill, go for a walk, do yoga no excuse would get in your way. Blogging is a bit like that. It’s creative exercise. And it’s important. Slot some time in each day to at least think about writing or taking photos. If you don’t actually get to your blog, you can at least make notes and you’ll be forearmed when you do.
BE a blogger: I know that some (I’m looking at you Media Watch) think blogging can be a frivolous pursuit, but I’m not sure how you could ever call sitting down and writing, taking time to document and find your place in the world, frivolous. Jeepers. You need to give yourself permission to blog. Slot that time in and work on your blog proudly. Do NOT secretly sneak your blogging in. Declare your bloggy intentions and be loud and proud about it. It is not frivolous, self-indulgent NOR a waste of time to write a blog. It’s very important creative exercise, and your brain and heart will thank you for it.
Tweak it: If your blog is not working for you. Stop and have a think about WHY it’s not working. Is it not looking the way you want? Are you having trouble finding time? Are you not sure of your voice? Are you too tired? Diagnose the cause of your blog reluctance, then write it down on a sheet of blank paper and think of 5 things you might be able to do to cure the ailment. Maybe you need more technical advice? Maybe you need more sleep?! Maybe you need to spend half an hour less watching telly? Maybe you need to work out how to write blog posts on the train? Find out what’s getting between you and your blog. And then find a fix so you can tweak things and make it work. (Ask for help in the Blog School Facebook group if you need it!)
If your blog is a great fit, you won’t have trouble posting consistently. So make sure it’s a great reflection of you and the things you want it to be.
How often should you post?
Really, you should be the judge of that, but I would say a weekly blog post is a great idea if you want to attract a readership. More if you feel excited and want to. If your blog is just for you and your family to read, you really can do whatever you like, but if you want to gather readers, you need to have a consistent and committed blog presence.
2. What to write?
Are you often stuck for ideas in the blog post department? Or are you exploding with ideas and not sure what to post first? If you are the latter, oh-bountiful-idea’d- one, you need an editorial calendar* or a Blog Post Planner which I’ve so helpfully made for you! You can slot those clever ideas straight into a calendar and then write away to your heart’s content with a great plan in front of you. If you are the former and are not sure what to write, here’s some ideas for you too!
3. How to write a blog post
This is a big one. But I think it doesn’t need to be as tricky as you think! When I write, I write as myself. I write in my own voice, in just the way that I would talk to my pals, and I write with all the usual conversational nuances I use when I speak out loud. When I write I just get started. I don’t dither around. I form a brief idea and then I just hit the keyboard and pretend my fingers are talking to someone I really like. I just see where my fingers take me. Once I’ve got my initial chattery words on the page, I go back and clarify where needed, flesh bits out a little more, shuffle things around to make a tad more sense, spell check and publish.
I know that sounds easy, but procrastination and best manners are the enemy of your blog writing. Don’t pretend you are writing something perfect for an English exam. Or an application for an internship with some sort of beatnik writerly genius. Don’t have your perfect, best mannered, fancy-pants writing hat on. Oh no. Toss that stage left, like the silly sombero it is.
What you REALLY need to do is just be you. Be the you that’s chatting to a friend after a nice dinner, shoes off, daggy records on, far too much ice-cream in your bowl, that kinda you. Don’t be afraid to blog as yourself. Don’t feel that’s not enough, because the combination of authenticity and chatter about experiences and real life things lots of us share in is compelling, relatable and interesting.
You and your story are interesting enough. Your voice is just the right one for your blog. So let’s hear it!
Some great books about writing and blogging:
Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott
If You Want To Write by Barbara Ueland
Blogging For Creatives by Robin Houghton
Blog Inc by Joy Cho
This week’s homework (not at all compulsory!)
Brainstorm some post ideas for your own blog. You can write an idea on each line, or you can fill the lines with words which might trigger bright ideas. The choice is yours! You can use the ideas I’ve given in the printable above, or come up with your own.If you’d like to share your homework, you can do that on your own blog (leave a link in the comments here or over in the Blog School Facebook group!)
Buy yourself a notebook and use it JUST for blogging ideas. Write down those little sparks of inspiration that you get on the tram, in the car, on the bus, wherever. You can also write down websites, songs, books and other creative notes which might be good blog fodder.
Resources Update: We’re updating the resource list in the Facebook group pretty much daily. Join in over there for lots of great links and ideas!
Printables: Full size homework and printables from this Lesson will be uploaded to the Facebook group too. Find them in the FILES tab.
*Editorial Calendar > Nikki from Styling You taught me the value of an Editorial Calendar! Find a WordPress Ed Calendar plug-in here.
DO leave me a comment and tell me how you are going (and ask any questions, too!)