How To Write Blog Posts (Even When You Really Don’t Want To)
When you have to write a blog post you don’t want to, time stands still. Despite the intriguing sci-fi possibilities of time standing still, it’s not at all helpful for your blog.
I write thousands of words each week for blog posts, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say there were posts or days when I looked at the screen and groaned.
“How am I supposed to write about that?” I often think, allowing myself about 30 seconds of a writer pity party before diving in with a tried-and-true system that has worked for me every time. Here’s the key: That system is custom-tailored for me, and it’s in place ahead of time.
It’s not too difficult, really. There is a basic two-step approach that taps into your current writing abilities, helping you come up with a way that works with you, not against you, when you’re faced with the World’s Most Impossible And Uninteresting Blog Post Assignment Ever.
1. Figure Out How You Write
Let’s start with the known factor: how you already write. By this, I mean really understanding how you write in every possible way, from writing style to the tools you prefer.
You shouldn’t have to start from scratch and begin an entirely new way of writing. It’s better to understand what you are already likely doing and see how that can be capitalized.
Dissect Your Old Posts
Tearing something apart to figure out how it was made to work can be the best way to learn about it. You may have dissected animals in school—why not dissect your old blog posts?
This may cement me as a huge nerd, but I loved diagramming sentences when I was in school. It was like dissecting a sentence, and one of the best ways to learn how grammar worked and how words in sentences were connected to each other.
You can take a similar deconstructive approach to your blog posts to help figure out how you write.
Dissect your post types.
Gather all of your blog posts together, and begin categorizing them according to what type of post they are.
You can think of your own categories, but some examples include:
- List posts
- How-to posts / Step-by-step posts
- 3-point outline posts
- Interview posts
- Case studies
- Research-heavy posts
- Narrative posts
- Checklist posts
If you are always assigned a post to write by your editor, this may be less helpful. Still, I’d encourage you to do it. We all have a way of taking an assigned topic or headline and turning it into a post type we prefer to write.
Dissect your content types.
Now that you know which post formats you prefer to create, figure out what kind of content creator you are.
We’ve covered this in greater detail before, but here is a summation:
- Teacher: Good at breaking down a topic so that others can learn and understand easily.
- Insider: Have access to something readers are curious about, pulling back the curtain to reveal secrets.
- Outsider: Question the beliefs or held opinions of a group. Attempt to challenge the status quo.
- Expert: Know all that there is to know in a niche, and in great detail, and share that with readers.
- Newbie: Not an expert, but good at opening the eyes of experts to what questions are out there.
- Observer: The non-gonzo journalist who has a bird’s-eye-view of a topic and shares it with readers factually and as a broad overview.
- Cryptographer: Knowledgeable, but only sharing enough to whet reader’s appetites in the hopes they’ll read more or download something.
- Convincer: Skilled at convincing and persuading readers to act in a certain manner. Good at presenting a problem and a proposed solution.
Again, even if you are assigned a topic, you likely approach writing in a preferred manner unless you are specifically told not to.
Dissect your time.
Track your time from start to finish to figure out where there is time mismanagement (if any).
How long did it take you to:
- Write your post in total, from idea to final draft?
- Come up with headlines?
- Write the introduction?
- Do keyword research?
- Gather research for the post itself?
- Write the copy?
- Edit or proofread the first draft?
- Find or create graphics for your post?
- Create peripheral content (social media, etc.)?
These are just a few questions. Depending on how you work, you may have other questions.
Once you’ve answered what you think are the most important questions that cover your work process, figure out the percentage of time you devote to each of these questions (or the questions you determined were most appropriate for you) out of the total time (#1) to write a post.
Do you see any problem areas? Or, do you at least see what slows you down the most?
If you realize that keyword research is what is keeping you from writing great content more efficiently (which is the case for me), perhaps it’s time to see if your content team could be restructured so that one person focused on keyword research and left the writing to others. Or, if you aren’t part of a team, perhaps break up how you approach your posts by doing all of the keyword research at once for the upcoming posts.
Dissecting your time isn’t about feeling guilty because it takes you a long time to do something. It’s merely about understanding which activities come easiest (shorter time) and which are more difficult (longer time).
Understand Why You Prefer Specific Tools
I’ve used a lot of different apps and tools in my writing. From Evernote to OneNote to SimpleNote, the list is endless. I’m never afraid to try something new. But in the end, I reverted back to Google Docs. I’ll explain why, and help you choose your own writing tools based on your needs.
I determined that writing a good blog post in a time crunch would need to address a few key areas:
1. Low distraction. As regular readers know, I was a big fan of the older version of WordPress’s distraction-free writing system. I’m not a fan of the way the latest updated version of WordPress handles it at all, turning it into a pared down version of the dashboard post creation window.
I found fewer icons on the screen, plus the ability to save a draft without a page refresh an important key for keeping my writing quicker. In the new version, this is gone. It explains why I don’t write my posts in WordPress as much anymore.
2. Formatting options. The way I write requires me to be able to quickly format which parts of the content are headings and which are notes and other copy.
As you can see from my writing approach, your headings and subheadings are similar to outlining your topic. Markdown never worked for me because it is the finished product that has the bold headings. I need them where I’m writing for visual separation of ideas.
3. Assist in research. While having an Internet connection means you can do research no matter what app or traditional software you use, having it in the same tab saves clicking time.
Again, this helps with the distraction. If everything is right there on the same screen where I’m writing (without tab-hopping), distraction is cut down.
4. Share with others. As a freelance writer, I have a variety of clients using their own platforms to manage content creation. I wanted a place to write where I could do all my writing in the same platform and share it with clients so that they could access it and comment on it if needed.
5. Organization and access. By keeping my writing all in the same place, across all clients, I can better manage my files and have a reference tool to all of my writing with one simple search. I can also write easily from the road.
Google Docs fit the bill for me, easily meeting all of these requirements.
- They’ve steadily been cleaning up the interface all across Google Drive, making it a similar experience to what I’m used to elsewhere in my Google account.
- I have access to a great selection of formatting options.
- Google Docs allows me to open a handy research window (Tools > Research) where I can search Google, Images, Scholar, Quotes, Dictionary, and my own personal writing.
- I can share my document with clients with different levels of permission, including the ability to comment and see previous versions. With a surprisingly good selection of Google Add-ons, I have the ability to easily create a bibliography, clip research notes and links to a file without putting it in the body copy, and create an even more robust version of client approval than mere sharing.
- All of my writing is in one place, organized by client. Each client gets a folder, with each folder receiving a description of what that client’s needs are (word count, scope, topics, etc.). I can easily find old writing or dig up research for an old project that might be useful for a new one. I can write when on the road, and I can even write offline on the airplane, syncing when I get an Internet connection later.
Google Docs has proven highly powerful and effective for me, but your needs are not going to be the same as mine. There is likely a reason you write good blog posts where you write them, or have always returned to one method no matter how many others you try.
Determining why you prefer one app is a huge part of understanding how you write.
Understanding how you write will help you handle the times when writing that blog post doesn’t come easily. So, figure out why you prefer the tools you use.
First, start with the tools you use. Here are a few example questions:
- What is my favorite tool for writing?
- What is my favorite tool for research?
- Where do I save notes and web clippings to use later?
- Where do I store my ideas?
Then, figure out what you actually need your tools to do. Here are a few example questions:
- What interface qualities do I like best when writing?
- How do I organize my research?
- How do I work with my team and clients?
- What future access will I need from my old content?
Does the list look similar?
A key sign that you might have a problem is if the answer to every question is a different tool. Try to find a tool that can do as much as possible without being too hacky. One tool is fantastic. Two tools is fine. Three tools is a direction toward capsizing. Four or more and you’re sunk.
2. Create A System From Your Natural Writing Approach
Now that you’ve broken down how you write and what tools you prefer, you should have a better understanding of where and how you write the fastest.
All that is left for you to do is to create a system that taps into what you’ve learned about your writing preferences.
In the past, I’ve shared my own 4-step system to writing a blog post, even if (or perhaps, particularly when) you don’t want to. My approach is to:
- Write quickly. Just get ideas down.
- Write slowly. Go back and bring order.
- Burn. Edit and clean up.
- Return. Polish and finalize.
This is truly the system I still use today, and it still works for me. But an even better approach is to find a system that works for you, specifically.
Let’s look at how I came up with my system using what I know about my own writing approach so that you can do the same for yourself.
Why did I need a tool that uses formatting? Why did I need the ability to research and attach random notes and clippings right to the document? Because I start a post out by writing quick body copy that is borderline chaos (#1). I don’t want any distractions that might interrupt a kind of “self” brainstorming session.
Then I go back and clean it up by formatting headings and subheadings, pulling order out of that chaos (#2). This is important to me because I tend to write in an outline post-style.
How Do You Write Good Blog Posts When You Have No Motivation?
The main takeaway from this post is not me imposing on you a preferred way to blog. What works for me won’t work for everyone
If you don’t want to write a blog post, that’s one strike against you. Forcing a clunky system that doesn’t fit your style will only make things worse.
To really be a productive blogger, you need to be in tune with how you already work, and find a system that builds on that as a strength.