You want your writing to be inspired, but that in itself can be an obsession, and selecting a topic to blog about can take up a good chunk of your day, if you let it, and work still has to get done. Yet it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are some tips to manage your blogging workflow, choose blog post topics, and make efficient use of your time.
One of the problems with having Web content aggregator tools at your disposal like Google Reader, AllTop, YourVersion, or TechMeme (for tech topics) is that you can easily get caught up in cataloging or bookmarking every new post — especially those with breaking news from a few minutes ago. If you do this, yes you’ll be aware of all kinds of breaking news and other trends in the blogosphere, but if your objective is to blog, you’re no closer to your goal if you’re spending hours looking at what’s going on online. Just like the saying “writers write,” be of the mindset that “bloggers blog.”
Nip Idea Acquisition Obsession and Pick a Topic
To make efficient use of your time, develop the skill of choosing suitable topics for your blog posts and get writing. Here are some suggestions to help you filter your choices.
1. Stop searching.
First and foremost, stop scanning your aggregators and adding new items to your list of references. Close your Web browser tabs – or at least the ones with your aggregators. Trust yourself that if you’re reasonably knowledgeable about your niche, you have enough references to trigger some ideas for a blog post.
2. Check your editorial calendar.
If you have one, use it as a filter for your current list of “hot topics”. Maybe something one blogger wrote coincides with an item on your editorial calendar and you can add to the “conversation” of that topic.
3. Check what’s trending on Twitter.
If you don’t have an editorial calendar, see what the trending topics are on Twitter. The new home page makes it easy; you don’t even have to have a Twitter account (though you should).
4. Look at Google Trends.
If you want a more long-term view of popular topics, use Google Trends to compare the search frequencies (on Google) of two or more keywords/ keyphrases.
5. Pick at random.
If tips #2-4, above, don’t help you, just pick at random. Assuming you have already been selective about what’s in your list of references,choosing a topic at random from the list is far better than wasting time trying to decide what to write about.
6. Set a timer.
If I have a large daily quota of articles and I have a client who needs news-y posts, setting a timer for each post helps me immensely. Sure, I might be able to write 800 words on some celebrity’s passing, but if 200 will do and the priority is to get the news out fast, then I can revisit a longer post later. Think of it as a link-building opportunity: write a shorter post now and link back with a longer post later.
Another area of obsession can be choosing the “right” image for your post. I use Flickr and filter for CC-licensed content. Sometimes certain keywords just don’t turn up the “right” image. If not, use a “first fit” approach: change search keywords and take the first image that works. It doesn’t have to be perfect, else you can easily get caught up in browsing for something “better”. Worst case: browse at most 3-4 pages of Flickr search results and pick the best one from each page. Compare the selections and pick one so you can get on with your day.
- Don’t cripple your creativity by mentally imposing minimum word limits for your blog posts. You might have those, but don’t write as if you do. If you learn efficient blogging, there’ll be some time to edit to length.
- Don’t cripple creativity by worrying about SEO. As you become a better writer, you’ll learn to copywrite in a way that gives you good anchor text for both internal and external hyperlinks. But if you obsess your wording for the sake of one or two links, then you need to go back to Tip #6, above.
- Don’t cripple your creativity by trying to write linearly. If something compelling comes to mind, just write it down. You can rearrange sections of your post later. That’s what editing time is for. (Of course, if you have 15-30 minute deadlines for posts, there’s not much time for that. But then that’s a whole different issue. Hopefully you don’t have a client who expects quality in 15 minutes, but if you do, here are some tips for writing effective news posts.)
How do you keep your blogging time in check? Or do you let it dominate your entire day?
Disclosure: I have share options in YourVersion, a real-time Web content discovery engine.