I'm not much of a numbers hound.
I don't pore over my stats with a fine tooth comb, I don't obsess about unfollows or subscriber numbers or any of that stuff. In fact, I don't even have that nifty little widget here to tell you how many people subscribe - even though I understand the benefits of social proof- simply because it's never been that important to me.
So it's a bit contradictory for me to say that I'm proud to have recently crested 10,000 subscribers for this blog in the two years I've been musing here. It's been an amazing adventure, and one I intent to evolve, shape, and carry forward for a while to come. I thank each and every one of you for making this place the rewarding adventure it's been.
Several folks have asked me how I keep content fresh and where I find blog ideas. There are some amazing posts out there on blogging (like these from heavy hitters Jay Baer, Chris Brogan, Copyblogger, and Jason Falls, for starters). But if you're interested in my take, I'll celebrate this milestone by sharing some of my basic tips and strategies.
1. Capture Ideas Everywhere
I use and love Evernote, because it's on my phone and on my desktop and on the web, and they're all synchronized. And I capture every fleeting fraction of a thought that might be a blog post or an ebook or who knows what. If something sparks in my head, I write it down. That also means ideas that are wildly divergent from what my blog "seems" to be about. If you're too rigid about your focus, you'll always lack inspiration.
I also use a Moleskine notebook to scribble stuff in. But the premise is the same. Sometimes it's just a few words that are the seeds of an idea. Sometimes it's a photo. But even if I don't have it worked out yet, I've gotten good at identifying the initial sparks of thought and making sure I capture them. Because if I don't, I WILL forget them.
2. Mine the Holding Pen
I use Evernote for this too, and I keep a notebook full of those fleeting ideas.
When I spend writing time, I look over the list. There are posts in all states of completion, from a single thought to a few rough paragraphs. I'll sift through the list, and inevitably one post or subject will jump out at me as one that feels "right" for the moment. So that's the one I write. Some topics come more naturally than others at certain times, so I learn to go with that flow. The only exception is when I write a series, and sometimes I'll write that series all in one fell swoop if the inspiration is right.
3. Dedicate Writing Time
I take at least an hour, every single day, to write. Even if I don't finish a post, sometimes I just flesh out some ideas, or tinker with posts I have in draft. But write is a verb, and it's a honed skill. Raw talent and interest help, but it's something you have to practice often in order to improve and build momentum.
Some people prefer to write in the morning. I prefer to write in the evening. There's no right answer, but carving out time is the constant. And even if I'm not feeling particularly like writing, forcing myself to take dedicated time usually results in progress, and better results than I would have expected going in.
4. Capitalize on Idea Storms
If you feel like writing, write. And keep writing while you have the spark. That means stacking up several posts and scheduling them out, because it makes up for the days when you don't have the time or inclination to do it. I'll sometimes stack up 4 or 5 posts in a single session and park them for a a later date.
When you have the benefit of a head teeming with ideas, don't let it pass by. You won't remember it later. Get them out somewhere, even if it means interrupting what you're doing. (Hiding now before David Allen comes and hunts me down).
5. Minimize the Me Too Posts
Irony, of course, is my writing this one. But my typical approach is to not write the "my take" posts on topics that have been written unless I feel like I can offer a truly fresh, different perspective. This one feels okay to me because it's blogging through my lens, which you can't get from anyone else, even if my ideas reflect some of the same ones you'll read elsewhere. Plus, I've been asked to talk about it, so I'm delivering on a request or two.
You'll have to decide for yourself what your unique contribution is to the blogging space, but don't get caught in the trap of writing about what everyone else is writing about. Emulating can be good, imitating is usually bad (and uninteresting).
I try to tackle topics from a new perspective or shine a different angle on things if they're familiar ideas. I call it reframing.
6. Get Outside Your Comfort Zone
I'm a big believer that reading a ton is a key to writing well. And I read things outside my world all the time. I read tons of books, fiction and nonfiction. I subscribe to dozens of blogs, some of which are in sociology and psychology, space, physics, science, equestrian interests, parenting, music, you name it.
Some of my very favorite posts are ones that have their roots in inspiration far outside the walls of my industry, or even my experience. You don't have to be an emblazoned expert on something to write about it well. In fact, those kind of inexperienced perspectives can be groundbreaking and insightful.
7. Get Over the Comment Count
Sometimes, posts don't get tons of comments or traffic. I'm okay with that. Some posts are intellectual exercises for me, a chance to stretch my brain and explore something new. Some of my favorite posts of mine are ghost towns, getting few comments and tweets. Maybe the ideas sucked. Maybe they were ahead of their time. Maybe it's just that they came out in a way that only I can understand. All of those things are fine, and they're part of my overall blog intentions to kick rocks and see what sticks. Yours may differ.
I'm savvy enough to know what posts to build and write that will help drive attention and encourage subscribers, but I'm okay sometimes with writing just for me. I think any sustainable blog has a balance of the stuff that brings the masses, and then the stuff that solidifies the interests of the core community and the author.
8. Be Okay With Incomplete Thoughts
You don't have to deliver an answer in every post. Sometimes it's enough to ask a question and let it sit there, or get halfway through your reasoning and ask others to weigh in. Giving people the opportunity to contribute makes for a richer experience, and you might even learn something from doing so.
So many people think they've got to write the complete guide to whatever to have a blog post. Instructions and how-tos have their place, but so does theory, insight, exploration, questioning. That's part of what distinguishes a blog from a seminar, to me. It's teaching and learning all wrapped into one.
9. Give Your Ideas Air
Related to the above, I've heard countless people say that they don't know what to write about, because they don't know if they have anything important to say.
My response: the only way to know is to let your words breathe. I believe LOTS of people - most of them, in fact - have valuable things to say. The hard part is finding the unifying thread or platform that gives your ideas a cohesive foundation. That's where the work is. But you find clothes that fit by trying them on. This is my fourth blog, and the first one that could claim to have a readership. Keep working until you find the pivot point around which your ideas can anchor.
So, those are 9 off the top of my head. Are they helpful? Nothing new? Giving you any ideas you can use?
I mean it when I say I'm humbled and grateful that so many of you swing by here to read what I have to say. If it's worthwhile, send a friend. If you're new here, consider subscribing and sticking around a while.
I'm on this rock to change stuff for the better, and with your help, I have a feeling we'll do just that.
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