The question I’ve gotten most often after starting this blog is how I write a blog post every working day. My answer is “not well.” I mean, have you seen some of my posts? There’s one in here that is a fake-PSA for data hygiene, for goodness sake. In 50 Ways to Thank Your Donors, I tortured rhyme schemes so much, they confessed to smuggling WMDs.
Then people clarify and ask how I find time to write a blog post every day. Ah. That’s something I can help with.
And, since I’m on the record as taking whatever topics you ask of me in the comments section or at firstname.lastname@example.org, it looks like we are doing this thing. But let’s broaden it out a bit more to:
How do you create content consistently?
Since that will be of more use to more people. Today, I’ll describe my process, such as it is. Then, this week, I’ll cover topic, medium, marketing, and conversion strategies.
I should mention that an actual specialist on this, Kivi Leroux Miller, has written a full book on content marketing for nonprofits here. I’ve not yet read it, but I’ve read some of her other work and if it is half as good as those things, it’s still worth a read.
So, to the question of how I do whatever it is I’m doing here, here goes:
Write every day. Every single day. Even if it’s just for a few minutes. Jerry Seinfeld talks about how he puts an X on every day when he has done his writing. His goal is not to break the chain of Xs (that probably goes back for years). Since part of my goal for this was to improve my writing quality, this exercise is little different from working out every day to stay in shape.
Thanks to Brian Clark and Copyblogger.
I know. Sometimes life gets busy. But we all have some cognitive surplus time.
Ideally, you could get 25 minutes of uninterrupted time to work on it (aka a pomodoro technique). This should be a findable about of time. I cut my video game intake for part of it; I also work between when my daughter gets me up and when I would actually get up in an ideal world.
For you, it may be something different. Property Brothers is a great show, but if you want to get 25 minutes to write, here’s how that episode begins:
- Brothers take couple to a house.
- Couple can’t afford it.
- Somehow, this is the brothers’ fault.
- But don’t worry; they can make a fixer upper just like this house.
- Montage of house shopping at worse houses.
See? It’s like you are right there watching it. When in reality, you are writing your content.
It doesn’t necessarily need to be writing to paper, either.
TOBY: You want to play?
CHARLIE: Aren’t you supposed to be writing?
TOBY: I am writing.
CHARLIE: I don’t see paper.
TOBY: “We can sit back and admit with grave sensitivity that life isn’t fair and the less-advantaged are destined to their lot in life and the problems of those on the other side of the world should stay there, that our leaders are cynical and can never be an instrument to change, but that, my friends, is not worthy of you, it’s not worthy of the President, it’s not worthy of a great nation, it’s not worthy of America!” Paper’s for wimps. Wanna play? — The West Wing
Even if it is organizing your thoughts for a future blog post while indisposed or showering or what-have-you, this is a conscious effort that you want to build into a habit.
And writing is a fundamental part of any content strategy. Yes, even if it’s for a podcast, infographic, or video: you are going to want a written script or outline. It’s harder to write short than long, so you may find yourself spending more time to come up with the 17 perfect words to go alongside your home page image than a journal article.
My tools of choice:
- Google Drive for writing. It’s stripped down with few distractions and you can access it wherever.
- Hemingway to help edit and cut my adverb usage.
- Grammarly for proofreading.
- WordPress for posting.
Read every day. There have been a few pieces floating around the Internet of late about how to read a book a week or similar advice. I don’t really get these; for me, an equally useful article would be “Why You Should Try Breathing.” But there are some for whom this isn’t a habit and I don’t know how you would create good content without it. You will get ideas and inspiration and rage-face from the things you read and it will inform your content.
My tools of choice:
- Feedly for aggregating blog posts.
- Pocket for saving things that I’ll want to refer back to. Other people like Evernote.
- Audible for audiobooks. If you are going to be reading every day, you can’t just read books.
- PodCruncher for podcasts. Ditto
Embrace suck. My first blog post actually contains the line “Now, start up your email newsletter.” Oh, I’ll just spit that out then, shall I? No directions on how to do that?
You are never going to get to the good stuff until you get through this. Write, post, get comments, revise. Suck a tiny bit less next time.
Take breaks. I sometimes have the opportunity to write for hours straight (read: I sometimes am on airplanes and arrive the day before the conference/meeting). Even when this happens, I take short breaks every 25 minutes per the pomodoro method and long breaks after two hours. During long breaks, I find activities like showering and exercising (not in that order) help, because I’m alone and able to edit or outline the next piece in my head.
Ask people to become a part of your family. For me, it’s asking people to sign up for my weekly newsletter. What’s yours?