Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Please Stop Trying to Blog

better blogging ideas

Do a web search for the phrase "how to never run out of blogging ideas", and you will find several pages of articles offering the formula for the best content ever. Dig into the posts and you walk away disappointed because most of it is the same advice rehashed to look original. The problem is not lack of a magic content pill, but that too many bloggers suffer from a case of "trying to damn hardism." This is when blogging is more like torture instead of a worthy cause or business. Now I do not claim to have all of the answers but I do a process that leaves me with more content than I can use. 

The process of building anything requires raw materials. This post describes how to create an abundance of raw materials to draw on for fresh content.

Building Block #1 - Be a Writer, Not a Blogger

Forget about being a blogger and become a writer instead. The difference is writers write even when they lack inspiration. They focus on getting in practice time, not giving birth to the great American novel or the next viral post. Therefore, building block number 1 is to just write. Easier said than done, I know, but if you sit tight and be patient, this post will show you a failsafe method for spitting out hundreds of words every day. 

Start by creating a folder on your computer for dumping random thoughts and draft content. I have two such folders. One I call "daily musings" where I write whatever comes to mind, even if it turns out to be junk. I named my second folder "rants," which I will get to soon.

Use your "daily musings" folder for recording your thoughts until you run out of words or get tired. This is not a journal or diary where you recount your day, but a deliberate process for learning to build raw materials for later use. This folder is for those days when inspiration goes on vacation, leaving you staring at a blank screen.

As you begin each writing session, do not concern yourself with editing, content flow, SEO or even embarrassment. The point is to get the work in.

Building Block #2 - Establish a Daily Minimum Word Count

Some employ the strategy of writing for a certain amount of time each day, but this a dubious approach. I cannot always be sure if I wrote for an hour or used part of the time to browse the web, go too the bathroom or get a drink of water.

I prefer a minimum daily word count of 1000 to 1500 words. Choose whatever number is appropriate for you and something you can commit to.

The word count feature of word processing software makes this a more effective metric, allowing you to pinpoint your progress at any point of the day. If by 10pm I am short by a few hundred words, then I have work to do.

Be sure to restrict the count to original, creative content, not emails or text messages. Yeah, I know you were thinking it.

Building Block #3 - "Screen Scream"

robert collier quote
When Abraham Lincoln died, he left behind a collection of letters addressed to scores of different people. The addressees did not receive the letters because Lincoln never mailed them.

These "musings" were tirades directed at individuals who somehow got under honest Abe's skin. This was Lincoln's way of venting without destroying his reputation or the feelings of another human being. My "rants" folder serves the same purpose.

Anytime I allow someone to get my blood boiling to the point I want to bite their head off, I scream at my laptop screen with my fingertips. This can be good for as much as 500 words for those who really piss me off. I let my fingers race across the keyboard until the venom is out my system, and I always feel a lot better afterward.

Once you complete your musing and rant, close the file and do not open it until you go looking for what I call "loose change." Be patient! I'll get there!

Building Block #4 - Learn to Embrace Crap

Today's crap is tomorrow treasure, as you will soon see. Part of the struggle with content creation is the need for perfection. Let it go, for it does not exist. Instead, be just as proud of the "junk" in your daily musings and rants folders as you are with your most popular posts.

Building Block #5 - Finding Loose Change

This is where commitment to process pays dividends. Over time, you will build a treasure trove of material, similar to the loose change jar sitting on your kitchen counter. A nickel here and a quarter there may not seem like much until you roll them up and exchange them for bills.

On the days I cannot come up with blog ideas, I search for loose change in my musings and rants folders. Each time has produced a good blog post judging by traffic results. On rare occasions, I can piece together a single article out of several separate rants and musings.

Now that you have your raw materials, you can focus on editing, content flow and building on the idea. You may even be struck by inspiration while searching for loose change!

The below posts are sample results of my loose change exercise:

Even if you are not a writer per se, we all have random thoughts and we all get ticked off from time to time. Turn these thoughts and rants into writing exercises, which will improve your skills, help you develop content and perhaps save a relationship or two.

Godspeed and I look forward to seeing you in The Players Lounge.

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