Blogging, Bundling, and Brainstorming

Awhile ago you all witnessed me mitigate my disagreement with the "everyone must blog" feeling that seems to percolate around the internet, especially in the career-sphere.  I admit that I still think not everyone needs to blog, but agree that blog involvement done right IS a good idea – it gets your name outs there, teaches discipline, builds connections, and informs people.

The problem is that a blog requires content otherwise it's really just a placeholder with an index attached to it.  I've been doing this blog with Bonnie for over a year, and as our early readers noticed, we began adding more and more content over the last few months.  So I'd thought I'd share just how I do non-news content.

First and foremost, let me reiterate what I've said before – don't blog about something if you dont have a reason to.  In fact, these techniques won't help much if you don't have any real reason to write.

Now, assuming you do (which I do, you read this blog, I trust you), let's get into how I do this:

STEP 1:  Establish how many articles a week you want to write.
The answer may be as simple as "at least one" to "daily".  I'd set a reasonable goal depending on your previous experience and ramp it up as needed.  It'd better to start small.

Please note your blog may be very "project-oriented" such as discussing a con, cosplay, etc.  In that case you may have to accept that if you want regular posting, you may want to establish a minimum and just see where it goes.  In the case of a cosplay blog, when you've got nothing to discuss you may point out neat cosplays you've seen or discuss past ones, etc.

STEP 2: The Brainstorm book.
Yep, here we go again – the Brainstorm Book, my favorite tool.  If you want to read up on it, you can check out previous writings, but the basic technique is to keep a notebook with you and write down any cool ideas you have you'd like to implement for life/career/etc.

In the case of your blog, keep writing down any neat column ideas in your Brainstorm book.  I usually write down a few-word or one-sentance summary to trigger my memory.

If you're having trouble coming up with ideas, but feel your goals aren't too high, brainstorm deliberately.  You can just write down freeform ideas for a few minutes, ask friends, etc.  Over time you'll get into the habit of brainstorming almost automatically – and of catching bright ideas better.

STEP 3: The Column List
I keep a big list of blog entry ideas – often as I get more ideas a week than I write, but also I have a backlog of ideas that I can go to in order to write.

I also review this list reguarly and may remove irrelevant ideas or change them – or remove ones I've lost my passion for.  Usually I review it when I Bundle (below)

STEP 4: Bundle your writing time
Having a list of subjects, once a week, I sit down for about 1 1/2 to 3 hours and do ALL my intended blog writing for a week – usually 7 and more columns.  I review the list, pick a topic, and write on it.

When I write a blog post I write until it's done, edit it a bit, then take a break.  THen it's on to the next column.  Eventually I have a backlog for the week – and in some cases more than I need.

I like to write a bit extra because if I DONT come up with as many bright ideas, I have other items to publish.  I also may do more than my intended posts, depending.

I also store my columns in a directory with a folder for each date I wrote.  I keep those untouched, but have a folder on my computer of "content" that holds all my unpublished entries.  As I publish them, I move the items to another folder to keep track of them.  This system gives me the ability to both archive and track my work.

Note this does NOT keep me from writing during the week to cover news, relevant issues, etc.  This is my regular planned work, I don't let it get in the way of doing more.

STEP 5: Blog
Now – start posting!  You've got content, so go and post it.

A few bits of advice:

  1. The backlog I mentioned of extra stuff? Keep reviewing it – you may find some things weren't so hot and remove it, or they're irrelevant.  In general I post 80-90% of things I write one week in the next week.
  2. If your blog software has an automatic posting system that lets you make an entry that isn't published to the blog until a set time, consider using it.  This lets you set up all your blog posts in one sitting and take a break.
  3. I do one more edit when I post or set up a que (item #2).  This may or may not suit your needs, but it works well for me.

And that's it.  That's how I get blogging done.  What I like about the technique is that it mixes good discipline with inspiration, creating the right balance of organization and new ideas to get a lot of good content and get it done regularly.  In fact, if you have issues staying organized, the blog can be an excellent tool to develop discipline.

Try it and let me know how it goes for you!

– Steven Savage