challenging thing about blogging regularly is that it requires me to suspend my
self-judgment for long enough to let the magic happen. I have more than enough
potential ideas for blog posts - during the average day, I’m flooded with
thoughts, and pretty much any of them could turn into a reasonable post.
Usually these ideas flit out of my head as quickly as they enter, but when I
take enough time to actually write those ideas down (walking around with a
smartphone or paper notepad definitely helps), I quickly come up with an
imposing-looking list of topics. So, I should never have to worry what my next
blog post will be ”about,” because it’s already taken care of. But a strange
thing happens when I think about sitting down to write - all sorts of fears and
judgments do their best to dissuade me. For example:
“What if it isn’t as good as my last post?”
“What if no one wants to read it?”
“What if it isn’t on-topic for my blog? (one of my favorite things is when a writer I like publishes something completely off topic - it gives me a chance to see how he or she can apply that familiar style to a completely new and different arena)"
“What if people read my post, and that causes them think that I’m stupid or not a good writer?”
“What if I can’t think of enough interesting content to fill 1,000 words (if you read all of my recent posts, you will find that most of them are approximately 1,000 words, including this one)?"
There are literally hundreds of reasons why I could avoid sitting down and writing a post, and they probably all come up at some point during the creative process. I’ve found that setting aside an hour works pretty well - if I write for longer, all the better, but an hour is enough to get somewhere, and if nothing comes out, well, I’ve wasted more than an hour on many occasions. So I sit down, and deal with the inevitable distractions that come up whenever I sit down at my computer (such as checking my email and looking through every single browser tab that’s already open). And then, when my mind is mostly clear, I can finally start to write.
I begin writing on the intended topic (or just typing things out in a stream-of-consciousness sort of manner, which typically works pretty well), and all the while, I’m coming up with reasons why no one would ever want to read my writing. About 40 percent of the time, the demons win, and I drop the post by the end of the second or third paragraph.
“See, there wasn’t enough material here to fill an entire blog post,” I tell myself, and then I promptly delete everything I’ve written. Or, even worse, it sits in limbo on my computer forever, in a Gmail draft or in a sticky note (I clear these out once every year or two).
Usually, though, I keep on typing, because sometimes when I hit the end of the second or third paragraph, a strange thing happens, and I start to drop into a flow state. For just a split second, I can see the big picture, and my job becomes simple – just find the words required to paint that picture so that everyone else can see it.
I’ve learned the important thing is being able to silence the demons long enough to see the big vision, bang out a draft, and hit the post button. There are a number of blog posts that I wasn’t going to publish because "they weren’t good enough." And then I begrudgingly showed them to one other person, who managed to convince me otherwise (all it took was a little outside validation).
But the coolest thing about a blogging practice is that I’m actually writing for myself, and the goal is to write, not to win love and adoration. If anyone else finds my writing interesting, then that’s awesome, but if I’m the only one who ever reads this post, then I probably got something out of the process of writing it (and publishing it publicly on the Internet for everyone to potentially read).
So, I keep writing, and as I go, I add, delete, and rearrange a bunch of sentences and paragraphs. I take some of the passive voice sentences and rewrite them in the active voice (thanks to Mr Bruner, my high school English teacher). It’s likely that I find a bunch of things don’t really fit with my original argument, so I get rid of them. And I add in a few points to flesh out the places where the argument isn’t completely clear and coherent. And then, finally, there is this point where the first draft of the blog post seems more or less complete.
I typically read through it, thinking up a bunch of reasons why I should just hit the delete button and put the post out of its misery. But, after a few more read-throughs, with some minor changes each time, I figure that it’s pretty much now or never, and I might as well just publish my writing for the hell of it. I copy and paste the document from my notepad into Microsoft Word, look for typos, add some witty headings, and then check the word count (hopefully I’m close to the magic number 1000).
Finally, I open up my blogging software, and paste in the final article. After taking one last read-through, considering scrapping the whole thing once more, and hovering over the button for about 5 minutes, I hit submit, and the article (*finally*) goes live. At that point, I read through it once more just to check for typos, and I probably find one or two nitpicks to adjust. Then I post to Twitter and a few aggregator sites, and check my blog stats page every five minutes to see whether anyone new has read my post.
And, that’s it. My work is done, at least until the next regularly scheduled session.