Ten Years of Down the Road

How to blog more often

As I’ve been celebrating this blog’s tenth anniversary with posts about blogging, a few of you have asked me how I blog so often.

I haven’t always published six days a week. At first I published sporadically, as little as twice a month. In 2010 I committed to three days a week. In 2014 I bumped up to six days a week.

The benefits have been clear: the more often I publish, the more pageviews I get. That’s because frequent publishing makes your blog look more serious to the search engines. And when you publish regularly and write compelling posts, your readers come to look forward to it. You gain regular readers.

But publishing frequently takes time. At present I give this blog as much as ten hours a week. I’d like to produce the same output in no more than six hours. I recently took a nonfiction writing workshop that gave me some solid techniques that should help me get there. But when I started posting six days a week, it took me far more than ten hours a week to deliver the goods. I’ve figured out how to write more in less time.

Here, then, is how I do it.

blogideas

My sticky note of ideas for this series

Write down ideas as they come. You’ll always find two or three sticky notes on my desk filled with blog post ideas. I write down potential titles, which is usually enough for me to remember what I was thinking. When I sit down to write, I have plenty of ideas ready to go.

Brainstorm ideas. Sometimes I make time to imagine a series of posts I might like to write and just think up (and write down) titles.

Set aside specific regular times to write. I write 30 minutes to an hour (almost) every morning over breakfast. I also set aside at least a couple hours on Saturday morning. Writing regularly is important because it helps keep your pump primed. The more you write, the more you have to say. Make a regular writing schedule that you can stick with.

Freewrite in 15-30 minute time boxes. I’ve only recently started practicing this technique, and it is allowing me to write more posts in less time. I’ve always edited as I go, which slows me down, gets me stuck in the word-choice weeds, and blocks the free flow of thinking about my topic. Perfectionism kills creativity and can lead to writer’s block. I start by writing down my high-level ideas about what I want to say, and then I write about each idea without judging the words I type. I allow myself to move sentences, paragraphs, and sections around for better logical flow, but I do not let myself change or rearrange words. If I’m struggling to write, I make myself keep going for 15 minutes and then stop. If I’m able to freewrite easily, I’ll use all 30 minutes. I generally stop at 30, but if I still have time and I know a whole bunch of things I still want to say, I’ll write until either those words or my time are exhausted.

Let unfinished posts stay unfinished until the next time you write. An unfinished post will frequently keep percolating in the back of your mind until you come back to it. I’m astonished by how often I return to an unfinished post I had been struggling to write to find that I now have plenty of good things to say.

When the words come to you, make time to write them down. Sometimes post ideas and the words that go with them just come to me in a flood. I make every effort to set aside a block of time as soon as I can to write them. I love it when this happens, and when it does I can suddenly find myself with a month of posts queued up.

When the well is dry, choose a photograph you took and like and write a paragraph about it. Sometimes you just can’t think of anything to write about. Write about a photograph to prime your pump. If you’re not a photographer, write about a song or a book or a favorite possession. Tell something about it, or what was happening in your life when you photographed it/first heard it/first read it/first got it, or how it makes you feel now. It hardly matters what you write, just write it and publish it.

Edit separately, lightly. After you’ve written a post, set it aside for a while. I often use a future 15-30 minute time box for editing. And I generally edit lightly. This is a blog, not high literature. But my freewriting lets my personality shine through and I hate to edit that away. I start by making sure I like the way the post is organized; if I don’t, I move things around until I’m happy. Then I tweak the words, sentences, and paragraphs to make them flow better.

This is what works for me. Take what works for you from this and leave the rest. But if you try any of this and it works for you, I’d love it if you’d come back to this post and say so in the comments!

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22 thoughts on “How to blog more often

  1. zorkiphoto says:

    These are all excellent tips, Jim. I hope this gets the attention it deserves.

    As someone finding little time to blog (mostly because of work and a book project) aI’m looking at what kind of regular habits to get into to make sure I post a couple of pieces a week. Good food for thought here!

    S

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I think you’ve covered the most vital things Jim, I’m sure this post will be really helpful.

    The two core factors for me I’d say are capturing ideas and having a regular writing habit.

    With both there are no secrets, just have easily accessible ways to write your ideas down (notepad, post it notes, Notes/text app on a phone, or just type straight into a new draft post in WordPress or wherever you use) and set a time to write.

    What you’ve done with writing at breakfast is clever and powerful. When we attach a habit to one that already exists (getting up, having breakfast, having a shower etc) it’s massively more likely to stick than a new habit trying to stand on its own.

    With both idea generation and regular writing, as you say, the more you do them the more they come.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I tried capturing ideas in fresh posts, but then my drafts list became unmanageable. So back to pen and post-it for me! But yeah, you boiled it right down: idea generation and regular writing really are the keys. Keep the pump primed.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Wonderful post Jim! Due to my health finding a regular time to write is difficult but something for me to aim at nonetheless. I was interested to see how many of your tips I’m already doing. I get bogged down in some posts, so leave them for another session and do the mulling as you do. It really works when you are looking at something that seems beyond help. The editing tips were good. I tend to leave a post that I am happy with for a few hours and edit just before posting and keep it light, as you said.

    I hope you get lots of traffic to this essay. It will be one that I will come back to.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I live with a chronic health condition myself so I feel you. I’m still able to work, but I never know when I’m going to flare up and need to take a day or two off. Some days I just muddle through, but I have to jettison non-essentials and blogging in the morning is one of those things.

      I have a whole post on editing fulminating in the back of my head. I was a professional editor earlier in my career so I have a thing or two to say!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Heide says:

    FANTASTIC tips, Jim. Every last one of them. And I love that they’re applicable not only to blogging, but to all forms of writing. I’m bookmarking this one for future reference and can guarantee I’ll be coming back to it often. Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

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