I’ll start here by mentioning what might be even more obvious to you, dear reader. I’m no expert in blogging. I’m not a blog-guru, no master of bloggery-fu.
I’m OK with that. I will still like myself if I’m not featured in the top 100 blog listings.
I’m doing this because I want to share things that are helpful for aspiring writers.
For me, blogging is about offering the world part of my daily practice. I use freewriting to write blog material. I revise this material into articles then put it up here. My hope is that my articles find their way to the right people and that they will find it enlightening.
I don’t believe that blogging is really very complicated. Much of the time it’s only a matter of knowing how to say something and getting it to the right person.
So that means having the right content and the right headline that the right reader finds it.
What are the risks of showing myself to the world in this capacity?
I risk appearing like a know-it-all. I risk revealing to the whole wide world that I am a fool.
I also risk saying things the wrong way and giving people advice that doesn’t help them.
I’m less OK with that. But, well, there’s a whole internet full of content, much of which isn’t even intended to be deep or helpful. My hope is that the fact that I am trying is what shines through.
So here we go. That out of the way, let’s see what I can offer you about blogging.
I had a blog years ago that I kept semiregularly. “Semi-regularly” is the way most people blog, and how most people write — they pick up the pen when fancy strikes. When they have nothing to say, they don’t start writing.
My advice is…
Start writing before you know what you’re going to say
Don’t pretend that you know anything you don’t.
Write even when you doubt yourself or are certain that you have nothing to say. Actually it can be most fruitful when you write in these states because it requires that you engage your will, your deep drive to create. You score a victory against your inner critic and all the resistances that come up. Everybody has resistances. Everybody.
And if they don’t, they should.
Often, what appears to be resistance or criticism is actually misdirected clarity or sharpness. When you ask yourself the right questions, you can direct your inner critic towards the flow of creation. When you do that, you have a formula for writing that is vital and enthusiastic, writing that shines with success against the dark side of self-defeat and boredom.
Freewriting means that sometimes you’ll need to start writing before you know what you’re going to say. If I’m driving and I feel like drafting a blog article, I speak into a voice recorder. It can work remarkably well, though to be honest the voice recorder does pose its own challenges since it requires speaking out loud. It helps that my voice recorder has “voice-activated recording,” which means that if I take a long, long pause, the recorder stops, and it only resumes the instant that I start speaking again. That means that when I replay the recording later, I don’t have to waste my time waiting out those long pauses. That feature helps me to feel more relaxed and expansive as I mumble around with my voice recorder. I know if I have to take a few seconds to collect myself, I won’t be wasting my own time later.
What about that nagging doubt that you don’t have anything to say right now?
Well, that’s funny. There’s always something to say. Always always. 100% guaranteed.
Oh, ho ho! How can I be so sure of this?
- Because I have done all day writing marathons and if there was an opportunity for the well to run dry, I would think that would be a prime one.
- Because I have done this daily practice for awhile now.
- Bottom line: Because when you have the intent to produce, you will definitely be able to produce.
Every day is different, and that’s part of the fun. Some days you may have to endure more uncertainty, but fruitful writing will happen. Intentionality is the beautiful key component.
Put another way…
- you want something.
- you decide to take action towards it. You flow.
So there you go. Writing is not such a great struggle after all.
I like to sit down and write without knowing what I am going to say. My initial aversion to feeling uncertain has become an embracing of discovery. Uncertainty is merely a negative way of regarding the potential for making discoveries.
Flow! Commit to the process
Here’s the beautiful kicker: regular freewriting is either a vicious cycle or a virtuous circle. The more you hate it, the more certain you are that it will be fruitless, that your writing will suck, and the more likely that is going to happen. Admittedly, it’s still possible you might be surprised — maybe you’ll write the most glorious piece you’ve ever written, and you’ll be grimacing and full of rage all the while. That would be funny to see… from a distance.
It’s also true that the more you feel into your love of the process, the more you pour yourself into it, the more you increase the likelihood of producing good writing. What is good writing? I don’t mean objectively “good,” because to me that is a bit of a boring ambition, basically about wanting to look impressive or smart or worldly, wanting to earn your way someplace. Good writing can accomplish magic, and it does this by honoring things from the inside out.
For me, good writing is… Writing that you like that feels true to you. Writing that blooms organically from your inner wisdom.
Some of my strategies for writing blog posts
I keep a file of compost-in-the-making
This file contains jots and bits of drafts. When I want to write a new article, I open the file and have two choices: If I know what I want to write, then I start a new section. If I don’t, then I can either begin anyway or I can flip through the document and maybe find something that engages me. Maybe I’ll finish an incomplete article or maybe I’ll produce three more partial articles. Because I do this as a regular practice, the virtuous circle works in my favor. I get good ideas for articles all the time. I keep it on the backburner. Throughout the day, I will add stuff to this main file, cut them and paste them into this one if I feel that they are maybe possibly related to something I would want to blog about.
I put things in this file and let things be chaotic. They’re not really ordered. The bits and pieces consist of anything from a phrase, a sentence, a paragraph, or a long tangled exploration of ideas. Or nearly-finished articles.
When I feel motivated to write a blog article, I open this file and I either already have in mind what I want to write about or I find something that piques my interest, some little nubbin more interesting than the rest… or I don’t do either of those things, and I freewrite fresh and generate whatever’s present for me at that living moment.
The way I look at the compost file material is that there are seeds there, little fragments and pieces that I can weave into something larger. I keep them because I know they’re relevant. And it feels good to know that at any point I can reach my hand into that pile and extract something interesting, even if it doesn’t fit into what I’m working on right now.
A compost file is sort of like an incomplete outline to a large mysterious ruined castle. When I pour through it, I get curious.
The bits and jots are like puzzle pieces to me.
I become a detective. I ask questions like “How might this part fit with this other idea?”
As a tool for generating compelling content, try this:
Find two different things and see how they might work together.
Maybe you have a paragraph about gardening and a sentence about geometry. Stick those together. It’s very possible that some part of you knew what you wanted when you included both of those things in the same document.
Maybe instead of cutting what doesn’t fit, you can simply honor what is there and write more. Writing more, you create more puzzle pieces and a wider puzzle. It becomes more likely that the two strange elements will be able to find a home together.
How to use a compost file
It starts out like this:
- you collect compost
- go through it whenever you feel like and find something that lights you up
Don’t indulge the judgment that the document is “all over the place.” You are free to do sentence surgery whenever you want. The fact that it is all over the place doesn’t mean you have to be concerned that it is cluttered. It’s not meant to be read in order. It’s meant to be a pile, so you have succeeded.
If you want to have a sense of organization, use white space to separate different ideas. Indent some things or put headers in boldface.
Even basic tools like that will quickly establish a healthy sense of order that will make it easier to navigate your compost file in a short amount of time.
What constitutes an article?
I ask myself whether something might be useful to someone else.
Maybe that means it’s inspirational or it offers a strategy or invites the reader to see things a different way.
And it begins to make sense when something feels of a piece. As long as it is on topic (for me, that topic is freewriting/creativity/flow), and it reads more or less like a functional piece, then that works.
If it doesn’t work, people will click the back button and head somewhere else. I try not to take myself too seriously or take rejection too personally. There are far too many variables, first of all. The more I write, the more material I have for readers to potentially find valuable.
And the more I write, the more I also gain experience doing what I love. It’s a win/win.