In may past life, I taught Freshman English Composition at Florida State University and then reading and writing to middle school students. When it came to writing, my students would get caught up in what to write about and how to get started. You are probably not much different from those students. When it comes to blogging, you are probably your own worst enemy. It’s not time or talent that is holding you back. It’s you.
As a chronic perfectionist, I can’t tell you the number of times I stand in my own way. The tendency to over-analyze, to over-think, to just not DO, because I spend so much time thinking about making whatever it is perfect…and that includes blogging You’ve most likely heard the acronym, K.I.S.S. – Keep it simple, silly! (okay, I changed the last word – I’m trying to be nice here!). It is more than appropriate for your blogging efforts, and those four little words can help you to get a grip and get a handle on your content creation.
If content is your biggest stumbling block (and I’m guessing it must be, since you clicked on this article and have made it this far), here are five simple tips to help you bust through those barriers to content creation and get you writing in no time.
1. Keep a running topic list. Maybe it’s in the notebook you always have at your side, perhaps it’s in your calendar, or if you’re not the pen-and-paper type, then it may be on your smartphone. Wherever it’s most convenient for you, start a list and add to it whenever an idea pops into your head, no matter how silly or undeveloped the idea seems at that moment. When you’re ready to sit down and start writing, refer to your list, pick the one that inspires you the most at that moment, and save the rest for another time. There are some that may produce more than one post – branching out into multiple topics form a single, scribbled idea; there are some that you may never write about. The point is this: the list is there to help you when your mind is completely blank and you just can’t squeeze out a topic. Think of it as a safety net and grab onto it when you need it.
2. Simplify a broad topic. If you’re having difficulty keeping a post short and sweet, consider breaking it down into multiple posts or a series of posts in multiple parts (remember: the average attention span these days is, well, short – if your blog posts generally resemble the length of the next Great American Novel, this one is for you). Broad topics can be easily broken down into multiple parts: for example, instead of writing one post about the home purchase process, you can break it into three parts: the prequalification process, the home search process, and then the closing and after-closing process. Publish each part a few days apart and link them to each other as they go live, creating an easy way for a reader who discovers part three to go back and read what they missed in parts one and two. Also, if they are moved to read on, they will spend more time on your site, and as a by-product, get to you know a little better.
3. Theme your days. If you’re a creature of habit, it may help you to have a set theme on the days that you write, for example, Home Improvement Thursdays or Real Estate Market Mondays. Having a general topic to blog about on a specific day will help to get your mind working in that general direction and will give your readers an idea of what to expect. (As another example, I’m a big fan of Wordless Wednesdays, for which you simply post a photo with a title and let your readers do the writing, either providing a caption for the photo, guessing where in your area it was taken or just giving general commentary – it’s a great way to engage your readers!) Remember, though, to use your themes as a guidepost for your blogging, not as a hard and fast rule. If you’re inspired to write about a home improvement topic on a Wednesday, don’t beat yourself up that it’s not “Home Improvement Thursday” – write the post, get it out there, and move on.
4. Write ahead. Know you have a busy week coming up when you won’t have a chance to write, or leaving town for that much-deserved vacation? Don’t stress! Most blogging platforms allow you to write posts in advance and schedule them to go live at a future date and time. Schedule a day to write three or four posts ahead, proof and edit them, and then schedule their publication at a future date – and voilà! I like to write ahead even when I’m not planning to be away from the office or completely overwhelmed – it gives me a chance to plan ahead for times when I might be absent or just plain uninspired.
5. Just get writing! Sometimes you just have to get it out. At FSU, we had journalism requirements – a certain number of pages per week that our students had to complete. They didn’t have to be coherent or cohesive, they could be doodles, notes, bullet points, stream of consciousness, whatever. Just time that they would take to write. So I urge you: write it down, type it out, get it out of your system! Your ideas may not seem cohesive or clear, but getting them down on paper or on the screen in front of you will help you to organize your thoughts. Just sit down and write – then walk away for a while and revisit what you’ve written at a later time. You’ll be able to edit with a clearer head and make more sense out of your words. You may end up with a complete post (or series of posts) or just a bunch of good ideas for future posts. Whatever you get from it, forcing yourself to sit down and write – even for just five or ten minutes – can really benefit your writing.
Remember, not everything you write will be perfect. Some of your posts will be masterpieces about which you will want to shout from the rooftops; others will be less masterful, but still worth posting. And remember, there will always be the rare few that are just not publishable, but don’t let yourself get in your own way and not post anything. You’ll know which ones are destined for the trash bin no matter how much work you put into them.
Speaking of perfect, however, here’s a bonus tip: Be sure to use your tools. And by tools, I mean spell check, grammar check, and a simple-re-read and proofing, especially if you don’t consider yourself a good writer. A blog post with poor spelling and grammar can be difficult to read and be frustrating to your audience. A simple click of a button and a quick proofread can make all the difference!