Steal My Secret To Keeping Your Blog Ideas Flowing
How do you turn out so much quality blog content? What’s your blogging secret?
I often get asked these questions.
For my part, I’m always surprised readers think I have a secret process.
What they don’t realize is that I spent years studying writing with award winning authors like Michael Cunningham.
After that, I wrote a bi-weekly column for ClickZ called Actionable Analysis before I launched my blog. My columns consistently ranked in the site’s annual list of Top 10 articles.
Result: I have a ton of writing experience.
Don’t stop reading yet!
Learn from my experience and reduce your time to blogging success. (BTW, what your third grader teacher told you was wrong!!!)
5 Never-fail tips to keep creating awesome blog posts
Follow my 5 never-fail tips to keep creating awesome blog posts. They will help you keep your blog ideas flowing. (BTW, I borrowed the term “never-fail” from my mom; she used it to describe her gefilte fish recipe that always works!)
1. Practice writing every day
Write with no purpose at all. Just keep your hands flowing for 20 minutes to an hour per day, every day.
While experts recommend the old fashion hand written method straight onto paper, you can use a computer. The objective is to keep writing without stoping to think about what you’re putting down.
Even better, do this first thing in the morning when you’ve got your coffee and you’re not really awake yet. This helps you to tap into your creative side.
This isn’t just Heidi Cohen’s recommendation.
It’s useful advice from Julia Cameron, Lori Goldberg, and Anne Lamont. Read their books on the craft of writing.
- The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
- Writing Down The Bones by Lori Goldberg
- Bird By Bird by Anne Lamont
This writing is just for you. It’s not for an audience.
Bear in mind: “Writing requires commitment.” According to Anne Lamont
On Late Night With Stephen Colbert, author Stephen King made the point that writing inspiration isn’t like lightening. It doesn’t just strike. You need to practice writing so that you can take advantage of inspiration when you get it!
Check out King’s spoof on writing video.
If you want to go a step further, like Neil Patel, you can polish your typing skills to reduce the effort to compose your ideas onto a computer.
Need another example that writing experience and dexterity matter? Peter Shankman’s been using a keyboard to take notes since he was in middle school.
2. Record every post idea
Ideas have wings and disappear as quickly as they arrive.
Don’t assume you’ll remember an idea later. For example, Ardath Albee, who has 2 published marketing books and 5 unpublished romances, keeps a pencil and paper by her bedside. (Check out Albee’s author interview.)
Don’t like old school idea capture methods?
Alternatively, you can use your smartphone’s voice recorder (although you do need to transcribe it later.) And, don’t forget voice recognition software. It’s getting smarter and better all the time.
Once you have your ideas where you can retrieve and organize them, continue to add points, links and images when you get new, relevant information.
The goal is to get as close as you can to outlining the post. The more you get down in advance, the easier it is to write your first draft.
Here are 7 types of information to capture related to your future blog post.
- Topic: What’s the focus of the post? Where possible associate a long tail keyword.
- Title: Draft a few options. Remember, Upworthy recommends writing 25 titles so that you can choose the best.
- Idea source: What is the inspiration? Write down the original source and related references.
- Links: Keep related reference articles available so that you can refer to them and include charts where appropriate.
- Key message: This is the basis for your article’s excerpt.
- Audience need: Why will your readers find this article useful?
- Photo/other media: If you have related content, add it to your media library now; it’ll save time later.
If you’re brainstorming in a group, let everyone create their own list of ideas for a set amount of time on a set topic before sharing any of them. This yields the most ideas and limits self-editing before good ideas have a chance to hatch.
3. Write the first ugly draft
Don’t worry about how it looks or getting the perfect words. If you do this, you won’t write very much.
The goal: Get the words from your head to the page as quickly as possible.
Use your recorded ideas to guide your writing.
Don’t have time to write?
Writing is hard work so it’s no surprise that other easier, more fun activities push it off your “To Do” list.
If you face this challenge follow Albee’s tip: “Schedule writing time into your work calendar.” Orbit Media’s Blogging Research found that most bloggers write during work hours!
Further your blog content must appear on a consistent schedule to build your audience’s expectations.
If you first start thinking about your writing when you sit down at the computer, the writing gods aren’t going to be nice to you.
4. Let your writing rest
To increase your creativity, John Cleese recommends using combination of the Hare Brain and the Tortoise Mind (a book by Guy Claxton). You can harness the power of your rational thought by giving yourself time to play. (Read this Fast Company article.)
Specifically, brainstorm your ideas and then give your brain time to work on them behind the scenes while you do something else. Then when you return to your work, you’re able to turn your writing into brilliance.
This is one of the reasons Thomas Edison took lots of short naps. He tapped into that other part of his creativity.
Let your work sit so that you return with fresh eyes. This way you’ll see where the core ideas are and where the problems are.
Even if you have a professional copyeditor, write at least two drafts. Only you know what you think is key to your content.
Then edit, edit, edit. This is where you make your writing the best it can be. Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick, burned his drafts so that no one could see how his writing was transformed in the editing process.
Once you’ve finished this step you can hand it off to an editor or at least get someone else to read it.
When it’s not always possible to allow your writing to rest, then at least take a break or a short walk. Then read your writing out loud so that you can hear where it needs work.
5. Optimize your blog post for audience readability
Here’s where you take the brilliance that you’ve transferred from you brain to your paper and make it accessible for your readers.
Remember that your blog posts aren’t required reading for English Literature 101. You can have the best piece you’ve ever written but if you don’t transform it to attract and keep your audience then no one will ever take the time to click through.
Here are 10 ways to make your blog post easier to read (and here’s how to optimize your blog.):
- Draw readers in with your headline. As David Ogilvy said, only 1 out of 5 readers gets beyond your title.
- Create a strong lede or opening sentence. Think like a reporter. Give the important facts upfront.
- Make the opening paragraphs short and very easy-to-read. Otherwise potential readers think that the article is too much work.
- Add images and other non-text content. Readers check all images and videos. Add a caption to increase the chances of this type of content being viewed.
- Shortening your paragraphs. Never write more than 4 lines. (I borrowed that from Andy Crestodina) Forget what you learned about writing in third grade.
- Make your text column narrower. This gives the illusion that your text is shorter.
- Love the white space. It makes skimming or scanning easier.
- Choose legible type. Use 14 point type or larger. Readers over 40 tend to wear reading glasses. Also if your audience reads on-the-go or at the gym they need larger type to compensate for the movement.
- Guide readers through your content. Use bolding and outlining to help them.
- Use good grammar. Contrary to what you may think, readers do care. Use Hemingway to help you assess your writing quality.
Need more blogging tips?
To keep creating awesome blog content every time, takes practice.
Sorry but there’s no substitute for actual writing time. Even Stephen King needs to sit down and write in order to get inspired.
But if you capture your ideas and crank out your first ugly draft, you’ll have a working draft that can steep while you do other things. This is John Cleese’s advice and he’s spent a lifetime being creative.
Then take the time your writing deserves to edit it and make it easier for your readers to consume.
What are your never-fail tips for creating awesome blog content?
Meet me at Content Marketing World, the largest content marketing event on the planet!
Save $100 – Use my promo code, COHEN, when you register.
Now there are two ways to get Heidi Cohen’s Actionable Marketing Guide by Email:
Signup for the weekly Actionable Marketing Newsletter and get a roundup of of the week’s posts, plus extra content you won’t find on the website, plus a free e-book: What Every Blogger Needs to Know – 101 Actionable Blog Tips
Want to check out the newsletter before you subscribe? Visit the Actionable Marketing Guide newsletter archive.
Actionable Marketing Guide publishes new posts from 2 to 5 times each week. You will receive a summary of each new post from “Heidi Cohen”. The email’s subject line will begin “Actionable Marketing Guide” followed by the title of the new post.
Girl with pen: https://www.flickr.com/photos/danielavladimirova/4089141799/