After numerous false-starts, sputters, and peterings-out, I have come to discover that blogging, and not just doing it, but doing it consistently over the course of many years, so as to create a valuable body-of-work, is much harder than it looks. So, now that my own blog appears to be firing-on-all-cylinders again, I thought I’d take a moment to share 5 tips on how I got back here.
First, when inspiration strikes for a topic you want to write about, make sure to write the idea down. I have a friend who – ever since grade school – has been carrying a notepad and pencil in his pocket, so he can always write-down good ideas. But he’s a bit strange. I’d recommend something like EverNote or OneNote for your mobile device, or an email to yourself, or whatever notepad app comes pre-installed on your phone.
Second, go one step further: when inspiration strikes, write the whole post right then-and-there. This won’t work when you’re out, but if you’re in front of the computer and feel passionate about an idea, write it that very instant.
By the time you get around to hammering-out the full-blown post a few days later (or weeks if your schedule is like mine), the fire in your belly will have dissipated, and you won’t feel the urge to write it in quite the same way. It will become a chore you’re following-up-on rather than an impassioned treatise that pours out of you effortlessly.
Third, write what you know.
I often think about my blog as a tool to learn more about things that interest me. As though, in the process of investigating for a story on Zynga, I’ll finally get around to learning everything there is to know about, and fully-understanding, the wide world of game mechanics. This is appealling because there really are so many things that I want to learn about. But investigative reporters get paid to investigate. I have a day-job. Instead, I realized that I actually am pretty knowledgeable on a lot of topics. In fact, it’s pretty surprising that I’ve never, in my 18+ years of obsession, thought to write a post on Star Trek. Or, despite watching West Wing from start-to-finish at least 4 times now, never thinking to write a word about it. I mean, I’ve got to be one of the world’s foremost experts on Star Trek Deep Space 9 by this point. At the vest least I know enough to add value.
Fourth, write less. I have a tendency to want to boil-the-ocean. To write comprehensive essays analyzing a topic from all angles in an exhaustive survey of the terrain. It comes from an attitude where if you’re going to rebuild the wings of this Lego plane anyway, you might as well smash the whole thing and overhaul it entirely, and make an afternoon of it. This, in turn, comes from a childhood where there really wasn’t anything better to do than rebuild the entire lego plane from the ground up. No wonder I never had a girlfriend.
This attitude lead to quite a few feats of Lego engineering, but who has the time these days. Needing to do a comprehensive survey of the terrain before I feel confident enough to write about a topic means that the quality remains fairly high, but it also means most posts never get written.
Instead, writing often needs to be a time for short bursts of commentary with a point or two – a space where it’s ok that we’re fallible and that our thoughts are left incomplete, for the sake of sharing any thoughts at-all.
Fifth, and the hardest part of all, is hitting “publish” when you know it could be better, when you know it isn’t ready. Because it will never be ready. That’s the nature of our hobbies, I suppose. I would keep writing, but it’s time to get this one out-the-door as well. So, the end.