People think that writing is a magic skill, mostly because it seems you’re creating something out of nothing.
It’s not magic, it’s not a genuine act of creation.
It’s part art, part craft. It’s a lot more perspiration than inspiration.
You start with a given set of resources (ideas and a little time), learn the right way to put those resources together, and you’ll write a blog post.
That being said, here’s how to write a great blog post in five easy steps.
1. Ideas, ideas, ideas
Getting in the mood to write generally comes from having an interesting idea you want to expand on. Every time you get an idea for a blog post, even if you’re not sure it will work, write it down.
Create a draft post, add to it, expand it..
The more ideas, the better.
2. Turn off the TV.
“All great and precious things are lonely.” ― John Steinbeck
You need to work without distractions or interruptions. Turn off your iPhone, shut the door and put up a do-not-disturb sign. If you have to lock yourself in the bathroom to get interruption-free time, do that.
Even 15 or 20 minutes can produce good work, especially for a short piece like a blog post.
The key is to find any uninterrupted chunk of time at all and defend it.
3. Writing the damn thing
The easiest way to start work on your blog post is to write 3 or 4 subheads that expand on your main idea. More may come to you while you’re writing, which is just fine.
When you’ve got some subheads captured, if you don’t feel like writing any more on that topic, put it aside. Save the post as a draft, or capture it in Google docs, or whatever you do to keep work in progress.
You may find that you’re ready to start writing a few paragraphs. You don’t have to start at the beginning. Just jump in wherever feels right, and write 2-3 paragraphs per subhead.
4. Just write
Thinking about writing is wasted time. During your writing time, write.
Punch the damn keys.
A lot of what you write will be awful. Please understand that every writer you admire produces a lot of garbage. Cultivate what Anne Lamott calls the “shitty first draft.”
In fact, try to write as horribly as you possibly can. Break all writing rules. Use lots of clichés and redundancies. Be trite. Write about stupid ideas. Insult your readers. Make no sense. Make simple ideas as complicated and obtuse as possible.
If you can’t find the right word for something, or a particular word or phrase just bugs you, [put it in brackets] and come back to it later.
5. Writing is (actually) rewriting
Take your saved draft and start editing. Figure out what the main idea of this piece is. It might be a very different main idea than the one you started with.
Cut everything that doesn’t fit that main idea. Read the post aloud. Read it backwards. If anything sounds stiff or awkward, rewrite it so it sounds like something you might say to a friend.
All those clichés and stupidities you indulged yourself with can go now. They’ve done what they needed to do, which is to loosen you up and keep you from paralyzing yourself. A few of them will actually be pretty interesting and cool. You’ll keep those, or spin new posts off of them.
This final process can take a long time. I spend two to three times as much time shaping posts as I do drafting them.
Take a pass and cut or fix stuff that doesn’t work, then let the post rest. Take another pass later this afternoon, or tomorrow.
Writing doesn’t end until you do. A blog post is never finished, only abandoned.
BONUS: Don’t be so harsh on yourself
If you write a post that’s not very good, or that people just can’t get into, the world will not come to an end. No one will be maimed or die. No innocent puppies will suffer.
The only one who will really be bothered by it is you, and that’s optional.
If you keep yourself busy enough, failures aren’t a big deal. In fact, failure is just the building block of future success. As long as you do not quit, that is.
How about you?
What are your steps when it comes to writing a blog post?