Getting started with a blog
So you’ve got a new website, and your web designer has incorporated a blog. When you we’re discussing the website during the design phase, your developer asked if you want to include a blog and you thought it was a great idea. A platform for you to unashamedly say what you want to anyone willing to listen. A way to let everyone know what you’re thinking and why they should listen. Yes it was definitely a great idea at the time. What’s not to like? “YES, I’d like you to include a blog” you said, with the same authority that you planned to exude in your prose. Exciting times lay ahead.
“You’re website is live” announced your web developer. Great! Now you can login and start broadcasting your opinion to the whole world. “Get prepared world, I’m about to start typing” you think to yourself. You sit down, login to the shiny new back-end of your website, just like your web designer showed you. And you look at your keyboard. And you stare. Any your mind goes blank. And you don’t know what to write. What the…?
Don’t worry. It happens. All. The. Time. Some call it writers block. You knew you wanted to write about something, but now the time has come, you can’t seem to get your thoughts straight. We all experience it, more often than you might think. Even the Shakespere’s and Dickens’ of the world will have had a mental block at some point, where they just couldn’t think of a credible idea to write about.
Having experienced this many times myself, I decided to document the tools and techniques I use to overcome this. And that’s what you’ll find in this very blog.
Why do I need a blog?
Let’s take a step back first and ask the obvious question. Why do I need a blog? Making sure you’re blog has a purpose will help remind you of the content you’re trying to put together. For me, the Nettl of Stockport blog should be a source of information, inspiration and education. So when I’m trying to think about what to write, I think about recent verbal conversations and ask myself what I learned or taught that would be useful to readers of the blog. And that usually triggers a thought chain that becomes the basis of a new blog post. By knowing and remembering the purpose of our blog, I can channel my thoughts into creating something new.
So have a think about what the purpose of your blog is. Is it to provide information, a news service related to your enterprise, updates on new products and services, a platform for you to exude your industry expertise? Knowing the purpose of your blog is key to knowing what to write about.
Getting Inspiration – and remembering it!
Inspiration for a blog post can come from anywhere. Something you read, something you hear, something you smell, a dream or an idea can just pop into your head completely unannounced. Often the inspiration will come at a time when you least expect it. It feels great when you get a new idea, but when you sit down to actually write the post, the ideas can scarper faster than a startled cat.
The trick is to capture the inspiration at the time it comes to you. This requires a small amount of preparation. Always keep a pen and small notepad with you. Or make sure you have a shortcut on your smart phone to a note taking app such as Evernote. And keep a separate pen and notepad next to your bed for the crazy ideas that wake you up at night. Then when inspiration strikes, write down the idea. Don’t think too hard about this. You just need to jot down enough to capture the thought so that you can re-trigger it when the time comes. Don’t try to write the heading of the blog, or come up with the content there and then. Don’t worry about the spelling, grammar or structure. You just need a few words, enough to remind you what it is that you want to write about. Sometimes just a single word will do the trick. Don’t worry about this list of notes growing too big. You’re not committing to write a blog about each and every one. You’re just pressing record on the trigger of the thought chain so that you can play it back later at will.
Then when the time comes to site down and write a blog post, whip out your notebook, or open your note taking app and browse through all the mini triggers you’ve recorded. You’ll feel the thoughts coming back to you, and your creative juices will start flowing again. You’ll have your mojo back just when you need it!
Practical tips for writing a blog
Experience is a great teacher, and it’s taught me a thing or two that I’d like to share.
Don’t lose your work!
This is important. Make sure you’re using the correct tools to physically write the blog. It’s very easy to get in to the zone, write the perfect piece, then lose it in an instant, simply because you forgot to press save, and your website connection timed out. I prefer to write my content on a tool that continuously saves – I’ve learned my lesson! There’s plenty of free options. I really like Evernote, and you can also use Google Docs or Word connected to OneDrive.
Use these tools just to write the content. Don’t try to use them to get the presentation right – leave the formatting to be done in the website using the built in tools. When you’ve got the content right, cut and paste it into your blogging tool (WordPress for example). Be careful not to paste the formatting from Word into the site – you want the text to match the formatting of your website not the word document. To be sure, cut and paste the text into Notepad first (on a PC), and then cut and paste from Notepad into the website. This will ensure you are only copying the text and not the formatting.
The Hemmingway App
Before you transfer your A-grade prose to the website, it may be an idea to check it with the Hemmingway Editor. This online tool will help you style your content to help you be sure it reads well, and has some oomph. It’s a great tool to help you see if there are better ways to write a sentence, bringing the reader’s focus to the message rather than the prose. The app is available to purchase for Windows and Mac OSX, but you can use the online version for free.
bloggingbasics101 is a fabulous website full of information to help you get the most out of your blogging journey. It’s filled with resources and tips on how to approach blog writing. There’s a great article on the site is titled 5 mistakes to avoid when starting a new blog. Spend some time reading this blog about blogs, and you’ll be well on your way to making the most of your blogging journey. (Note to self: over use of the word blog – must use the Hemmingway App).
How long should a blog be?
As long as a skirt – long enough to cover the subject, short enough to keep interest. There’s no right wrong here. Obviously if it’s too long then your reader may lose interest. If it’s too short, you may not have done justice to your subject. An increasing trend these days is to add a line under the title to stay how much time the blog may take to read – I’ve seen blog posts with “5 minute read” or “60 second read” as a subtitle. This is a great technique to set expectations and could encourage more people to read the post.
If you’re happy and you know it, write a blog. Otherwise don’t.
What I mean by that is you mustn’t let blog writing become a chore. Do it because you enjoy writing, or because imparting your wisdom gives you a sense of achievement. If you do it just for SEO, or just because your web designer / business guru / partner said you must, then it’s not going to be fun, and it’ll be doomed to failure. Similarly, don’t get blog fatigue. If you’ve started writing a monthly blog, remind yourself that you are allowed to take a break. And when you’re in the blog writing zone, see if you can churn out the bulk of 2 or maybe 3 posts and save them for future use.