Blogging isn’t just sitting down and writing a bit…

Well, not if you’re doing it properly. It takes a lot of research, planning and forethought, followed by time spent sending it out across social media outlets and link aggregators once you’re done. Before all of this even happens, the most daunting part can actually be coming up with an idea in the first place.

Start with what you know: If you’re writing for yourself, a good place to begin is with what you’re interested in. Perhaps you could write about one of your favourite hobbies. It could be something to do with your job; a skill that you’re particularly well versed in or is important to your role. The one thing I would advise is not to make things up. Readers will be able to discern when you’re fluffing your way through an article with recycled opinions if you’re not clued up on a topic.

Use your resources: As someone who writes regularly for a blog, it can be difficult to keep generating good ideas for content on a regular basis. It takes a bit of time, but there are ways you can overcome this by simply honing your skills at making use of the internet – spend some time on Twitter or Facebook, taking in things that are shared within your circles or perhaps start up conversations with them; use blogroll resources such as Feedly or CommaFeed to build up content streams on subjects that relate to your interests and read what well-established blogs and companies are writing about; create feeds on link aggregators like Reddit and Digg which offer round the clock updates with interesting articles and news pieces. Once you’ve propagated these sources, you’ll have new places to find inspiration any time you get a bit stuck.

French Bulldog in his comfort zone
Image by Susan Dennis

Be fearless: When inspiration is lacking and you’re feeling uncertain about your work, try taking yourself out of your comfort zone. Buffer recommends getting used to a level of the “healthy uncomfortable” – a state in which you are constantly challenging yourself to do the things that fear might be holding you back from. One of the main aspects of this relates to writing and content creation. Instead of fearing the repercussions (or lack thereof) of allowing our content to be viewed by others, we should fearlessly take risks and say the thing that needs to be said, regardless of its controversiality. This step gives us a chance to break through our fear barrier and a boost in confidence, ultimately providing an opportunity for growth.

Seth Godin talking at a conference
Image by Rachel Lovinger

“We need to take more risks with our content creation and distribution…filling templates with clever headlines that lead to unsatisfying fluff isn’t a model for success. ‘Failures are most responsible for my success,’ Seth Godin said. ‘We need to do things that are off the grid.’
And he’s right (again).”
Hunter Boyle

Once you’ve ascertained your post topic, there are other elements of a blog post that can increase its chances of success, but are not so easy to measure. HubSpot did an article on these called the Immeasurable qualities of good content:

A vintage ruler
Image by Thomas Armstrong

  • Actionable: Have you given your readers something to do with your blog post? Ask them questions that they can respond to in the comments. Give them something that makes them want to share it with people. Even better, inspire them to go away and create something themselves.
  • Metaphorical: If you compare a situation or subject to something else, it helps others to understand the point you’re trying to make. Using metaphors to analyse two topics and draw out connections will peak your readers interests. If it worked for Jesus in the Bible (he used ‘parables’ – like story metaphors – to illustrate his message), it’ll work for you, too.
  • Urgent: If you’re writing about current trends and events – things like celebrity culture or the latest tech releases, for example – it’s important to stay on top of the latest info. With today’s ‘up to the second’ news that’s available at the touch of a button, this is an incredibly time consuming task. However, if you can’t keep up with being first, then be the best at being good. Writing something from a unique and informative standpoint will give you an edge over the hundreds of similar posts out there. That’s not to say that your writing shouldn’t be timely and relevant. Being aware of your audience, what they value and what they’re passionate about, will ensure that you know what to put out there and when.
  • Visual: Pictures and graphic elements catch the eye. If you have data to show, make it look interesting with an infographic; show doodles on post its; add bullet points and use section headers to divide up your text. You may not be a ‘creative’ person, but there are many online resources available to help with this. Just make sure to get permission and credit anyone whose work you use.
  • Solution-based: Does your writing offer an insightful way to solve a problem? It’s always good to put things back into the world when we take so much out of it. Write about a time that you had to overcome an issue and found a fix to deal with it.
  • Entertaining: Nobody wants to read something that’s dull. Give your writing some attitude; include jokes or anecdotes. Telling a story will give a blog post energy and make it relatable to your audience. Be the expert you already are.
  • Definitive: Be clear and direct in what you have to say, not subtle. You’ve been there and done it. This give you credence and allows you to take an authoritative stance on your chosen topic.

Apple 2 computer made out of lego bricks
Image by Kristi

Read your own writing: Whilst it goes without saying that you need to check your writing as you go (for spelling and grammatical errors, amongst other things), it can be hard to spot mistakes without distance. Leaving time and space between edits will ensure that you pick up on flaws that might be missed if you’re skim reading whilst you write. I also find it’s helpful to read your blog posts once they’re online. Seeing the words in-situ will allow you to see how it flows on the screen and how your audience will be reading it. Most importantly…

Stay true to yourself: If you’re not writing from the heart, it’s likely to show. Your personality should shine through your writing – this is what makes it come to life and encourage people to return to your work time and again. Write to your style, no-one else’s.

Main image by Lollyman