I'm a firm believer that writing takes time. It's messy. It's frustrating. It's thrilling.
It shouldn't be rushed.
However, I'm also a firm believer that when you write without a plan, it's easy to lose grip on the reins.
Minutes turn to hours and the next thing you know you've written 3-4 cheap sentences about a topic you're not even sold on.
Sounds familiar? Here's how to remedy that.
Have a backlog of ideas
Let me start by saying that I'm writing this post on a Monday morning.
I stayed up late watching American Horror Story on Netflix and if there's one thing I'm feeling right now it's tired, not creative.
Truth is, it doesn't matter what I'm feeling. I'm responsible for having a post ready to publish at 8 AM. That's my job.
Now it's important to note that this morning could have gone one of two ways.
I could have come in, sat down to my computer, shuffled through my email, read a couple blog posts, and waited for a little bit of that lackadaisical Monday morning feeling to wear off before I began racking my brain for blog topic ideas.
Instead, I pulled a concept from my running list of potential blog posts and began hashing it out before my tea even had a chance to cool.
This list of ideas lives in an app called Trello and it's there for situations just like this. (Need help setting up an editorial calendar in Trello? Here's how we did it.)
Rather than waste time waiting for inspiration to strike, we've found that it's best to have backup.
I know, I know, you're probably thinking that it's hard enough to come up with one blog topic, let alone try to come up with 5 or 10 at a clip. We get that.
Here's some resources that will help:
While the latest movements on Twitter might not always suite your business, it's easy to search for relevant hashtags to dig up the latest from people in your industry.
Checking in on industry-friendly hashtags helps you stay on top of the times, and in tune with the events and changes in your industry as they happen.
For example, a search for the hashtag #inbound turned up a ton of industry-related articles covering topics like:
Elements on an inbound marketing strategy
Email marketing hacks
Increasing lead generation
By simply entering a few keywords, Yahoo Answers will churn up the most popular questions being asked.
Aware that providing answer to your audience's most commonly searched questions is an effective way to attract the right type of people to your website, this approach is highly valuable.
For example, a quick search for the term "landing pages" turned up the following blog topic ideas:
What is a landing page?
How do I enhance my PPC landing pages?
Should I be creating landing pages for portable devices
Take a minute to look back at the blog articles that you've published in the past. Which ones received the most views?
It's likely that these topics are the ones you want to mirror. If these articles are continuing to see views even months after they've been published, it's clear that their is still a consumer demand for this type of information.
Know your routine
Getting down to business has a lot to do with knowing your routine.
Having worked from home for 12+ years, Ann Handley realized that there was "too much living" going on within the walls of her home for her to focus on her writing.
Dogs. Laundry. Doorbells. It didn't breed creativity.
So she built a tiny house and now does her writing in an 11 x 12 space in her backyard, equipped with rich red-oak floors, French doors, and a little porch.
Best-selling author, Stephen King, sits down between 8:00 and 8:30 every morning to get to work. He sits in the same seat with his papers arranged in the same place where he left them. He pours himself a glass of water or a cup of tea, takes his vitamin pill, puts on some music, and writes.
The point that I'm trying to get across is that writing well is about knowing exactly what you need to do in order to turn out the best results. Whether it be a particular environment, the right playlist, your lucky socks, or an ice cold beer, you've got to do what's right for you.
Aware that often times the hardest part is getting started, establishing a routine helps to eliminate the decision making that occurs when we struggle to determine the best way to start. The less energy you spend making decisions prior to even getting started, the more energy you'll have to focus on what actually matters.
It's not uncommon for an article to start off strong and begin to fizzle out soon after the introduction.
It's often a result of poor planning.
The writer doesn't know what they are trying to say before they try saying it, so they wind up saying very little. The message lacks structure, and their rough ideas carry less weight.
It's a downward spiral.
If you're looking for a place to lay down the foundation for your next post, consider one of the following tools:
Evernote is an online service designed for notetaking. They offer both a free and a premium version, depending on your specific needs.
Conveniently, Evernote is accessible across all of your devices, eliminating the inconvenience of having your information scattered amongst several tools.
Quite simply, Oak is a plain text outlining tool that works in your web browser.
It serves as a place for writers to type out their ideas and format them through the use of commands.
Outlines made in Oak autosave to your browser's local storage, so if you're working on one project from several different computers, you'll want to save the outline elsewhere.
Blankpage provides writers with a distraction free writing environment. While it's currently still in beta, you can gain access to it by registering.
The tool boasts a ton of valuable features, but the outlining tool is particularly interesting. Essentially it allows you to "add pieces" to your story, and rearrange them whenever you need to make a change.