We regularly and subconsciously develop daily routines when it comes to work. It doesn’t matter if you are working as a blogger, tech support member, singer, or astronaut because we humans tend to settle into a routine no matter what we are doing in life. This way, things become easier to manage, and it also allows you to be more productive and at ease with your work. Everyone has their own way of doing things.
Some people have their routines planned out to the very minute, but I try to avoid this because it rarely ever works out as planned for me. I don’t know how unique my writing schedule is compared to others, but I do most of my creative writing after midnight and editorial writing in the afternoon. The midnight writing sessions can sometimes keep me up until 6 AM or later, and, as a result, this means I have a somewhat awkward sleeping schedule. But hey, no one should complain as long as the job gets done. Whenever I manage to drag myself out of bed, this is how I get my work done.
The first thing I do when I wake up is open up NetNewsWire. At this point in time, I am usually in awe as the unread count skyrockets to insurmountable levels.
Within less time it took me to stumble towards my laptop, I am presented with hours of work, and, sometimes, it can be quite the eye opener.
I always give a sincere effort to check out every item, and those that I find interesting will be opened in the background for a thorough read later on. While going through each story, those that look interesting, but not required to read at the moment, will be flagged (or a starred if using GReader) so that the story in question will not be lost.
After about an hour or two (depending on the day of the week), I have usually managed to drop the unread count to zero, and I can now focus on the stories I wanted to read about. I am a relatively fast reader, so it is usually no big deal to read the contents. However, if I have opened up some 5,000 or more word articles, it can become quite time consuming as you would imagine. I will bookmark the stories that I find useful, and if there are others that I deem worthy of being blogged about, I will usually be on top of that immediately.
If it has been one of those days where thousands of stories have pilled up on me, I will take a break after. Some people just don’t realize how much effort that can be required to filter out bad content to just find the good stuff.
Eventually, I will have finished with the feeds, and at this point, I will close down NetNewsWire until I decide to take a break later on in the day.
Some people would check their email first thing in the morning, and even I sometimes do that, but I usually wait until after dealing with the news feeds to read my email. On occasion, email can be useful for things other than spam. Unfortunately, computers are not smart enough, yet, to really determine which emails should be of immediate importance, but thanks to Gmail, I don’t usually get that much spam in my inbox.
Thankfully, it only takes a matter of minutes to deal with email, and then I am right back to work.
Develop and Review Article Ideas
I will now open up Google Docs. I did not, however, do this for the purpose of writing. See, there has to be a solid idea to build upon, and I take my time to plan things out. On Google Docs, I have a single document for each blog I write for. For Performancing, I have a document with hundreds of potential story ideas that I have collected since the first day I started working here. Some days, it really feels like it is a safe with money stored in it.
I keep all my idea lists for each blog up-to-date. I will write down any ideas I have come up with over the previous day and current morning, I will strikeout any ideas I have already written about, and I will modify any existing ideas that need changed. Finally, I will usually highlight any article I am currently working on in red so that it is easy to locate in the future.
Finally, after a nice amount of time of brainstorming, I will hopefully have some ideas on what I am going to be writing about. If I can’t come up with any ideas, that idea list I was just talking about will manage to save the day.
After figuring out a title for the article I intend on writing, I will move onto creating a summary and outline.
Creating a summary and outline is probably one of the most productive things I have ever added to my writing workflow. Without a simple outline, I could easily add up to three times more effort when revising my work. I end up having to re-read everything I write several more times, and I have to edit the location of content to make sure it flows correctly. To put it simply—this is a very important step.
Nowadays, I put a lot of emphasis towards making sure my outlines are done well. I want to know exactly how my article is going to flow, and I want to be able to visualize what the finished piece will look like. An outline gives me the opportunity to do that with relative ease.
The first thing I do is create an introduction (I also refer to it as a summary) for my article. I usually complete the entire introduction, and then I will continue on with my usual outlining process. It might take 10 minutes, it might take an hour, but it is always worth the effort. The longer the article, the more effort I put into making my outline flawless.
Even though I am only near the halfway point in this article, as I glance down, I already know what I am going to be writing about. It is a nice feeling to know that I don’t have to deal with trying to figure out where my article is going; I already know.
People either do research before or after creating an outline, and then again, some do no research at all because they know what they are writing about. Here at Performancing, I do my research after the outline because I am not writing about content that is time sensitive. What I write today could still apply years down the road. However, if you are writing about breaking news or similar, it is probably best to do the research first as your outline will be that much more detailed.
I break research up into three different stages: preliminary research, active research, and post research. Preliminary research will heavily affect how and what I write. This can be knowledge about the topic known from life experience or gained after scouring books, websites, people, and other resources of information. I shouldn’t have to state how important this is.
If I didn’t have a clue about what I was writing about, those that have the experience about what you are discussing will be quick to make me look like a fool in the comments section. It is simple really—the more knowledge a person has about the topic in question, the more potential for the finished product being an easier job and a great read.
Researching while I am writing (active research) is also a very important part of the research process. However, it is also the part that can distract me the most as well. I really try my best to reduce the amount of research that needs to be done after I start writing, but I help myself by having the resources I need at the ready. Some writers, today, thrive off of using Wikipedia (as do I), but whether it is Google or an actual person, I am prepared for these things.
Finally, depending on how serious you take your work, there is the post research stage that is needed for things like fact checking. I could get in serious trouble for stating lies about people and companies. Bloggers are not free to say whatever they want, and giving people false information, in my opinion, should be punished. Just recently, I made the mistake of reviewing an older version of a product for a review, and had I made sure that I was using the correct version, I would not have upset a particular company. It is important to make sure what you have written is factual.
Different people place different amounts of effort into the writing process, but I believe research is one of the most important. Research is what will shine throughout the work, and those that put in the effort will be rewarded for it.
The rough draft is that time when I am taking all those ideas in my head and getting them out of my system. I have previously heard by some of my teachers that this process is referred to as “throwing up” words on paper. Regardless of what you call it, the concerns over structure and grammar should be set aside in order to maximize creativity. There are certain times when a writer will get in a rhythm, and when that happens, it is time to type away.
My rough drafts can really be rough. After I have filled in the gaps from my outline, things might not make sense after reading it, but as long as I have the ideas written down, I can’t lose them. You would be surprised if you ever had the opportunity to read a few rough drafts by famous authors in our past—authors managed to transform blobs of words into amazing pieces of work.
In other words, it is better to have too much than not enough. I can always trim the fat from an article, but having to go back and add stuff is not as easy. When I have finished my rough draft, it will be time to make things look good.
I prefer waiting until I publish the article to include links and pictures, but some of you might be happy with adding them in by this point. I tend to include notes within square brackets to remind of things that I should do before publishing; like [add a link] to a previous article or insert a relevant image.
Final Draft (Editing)
So, I have these paragraphs full of text, and now it is time to bring it all together with the final draft.
For some—myself included—this is the most time consuming task after doing research. Authors really can spend hours upon hours trying to make things better, but as many of us have realized, there is always a way to make something better no matter how well we have done it.
Grammar, sentence structure, and punctuation will be perfected—at least, I like to think so—by the time I am finished with the final draft.
I also try my best to ensure that the flow of the article is correct. The outline already helped to avoid any issues with the flow of the article, but it can’t hurt to double-check.
By the time I am done with the final draft, only things like spelling errors and punctuation should have to be fixed. If I was needing to re-arrange content or worse, than I probably did something very wrong. Thankfully, that rarely happens to me, but I always keep on the lookout.
I am almost done, but there is still the issue of presenting my work. Links, images, and videos are now common additions to content on the web. As even the latest poll on Performancing has revealed, people prefer to, at the very least, have images and links which are relevant to the content.
I must also account for the fact that images and videos might manipulate the way my content looks, and I might need to make small changes to account for this. It can be annoying to have finished all the writing, and then have to change stuff do to layout issues, but so be it.
Finally, right before publishing the content live, I give my content one or two good readings to ensure that everything is done correctly. I have caught many last minute errors just by reading an article one last time. It is important that you do this as well, and hopefully, I will have enjoyed what I managed to come up with.
It’s Not Over
After an article has gone live, there is still the task of submitting it to social networks and responding to comments and criticisms. Some people skip out on these parts. I, however, always make an effort to respond to every single comment.
Social networks are, of course, useful for getting that boost of traffic, and I really enjoy submitting my works to StumbleUpon lately. They help with getting backlinks to your articles, and I can’t complain with that.
The more effort you put into an article, the more effort you should put into doing these final steps. I take it very seriously, and so should you if you plan on being a great blogger.
Eventually, it will be time to start the process all over again. After all, that is why it is called a routine. I am used to it by now.
This was a lot to have thrown at you, but my work routine is really involved. However, I don’t put much thought into it as it just happens to work out this way.
I am interested in learning if you have a routine that you follow while writing an article. How similar or different is it to mine? If you have any ideas, please let everyone know in the comments section.
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I have to agree that the best rotines are the simple ones. It could be work related or not; However, I think the central focus should probaby be that one should always “strive” to be happy. No matter what the subject matter is.
Thanks for posting your thoughts, Jeff.
Wow James, I didn’t know you put that much work into your articles. When comparing my routine to yours, mind seems terrible. Because I work 9pm-5am, I’ll get home from work at about 5:10 AM and check my email. I’ll go through and moderate comments, check the spam queue, and other stuff thats come into my inbox. Once I take care of the email, I’ll review the stats for my blog for the previous day. Once that is finished, I’ll check out any sites that linked to mine within the last 24 hours. By this time, it’s usually 6AM and I try to get some sleep. Depending on when I wake up, I check the email inbox again for new messages, then I open up the feedreader to see what’s happening. I browse through the feedreader until I come across an article or a post which strikes my nerve and then I begin writing about it. I am a spontaneous writer/blogger. I’ve noticed that if I save an article to write about later, when later comes, I won’t have that same feeling of wanting to write about it. When I do write my article, I insert the images/links and format the post as I write it. I like to reread my posts a few times before it goes public and I also check the links to make sure they are pointing to the right places.
I wing it everyday, perhaps I should take a few notes from you and give some of these methods a try.
No problem Roy.
Thanks for commenting.
Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience! I’m always looking for ways to improve myself and I’m glad to have found your blog. Thank you for sharing with us.
I certainly hope it will! Thanks for the comment.
Yea I broke out of my routine for blogging. I am now getting back into it. Good post it will help me get back on track!
Thanks for commenting.
The best routines are the simple ones, and I used to do the “winging it” approach, but because I love to edit the hell out of my posts, I needed a way to reduce the time I was adjusting things. The only way I have been able to reduce the problem is by using outlines.
I am glad your way works, and I know it works because you create some amazing blog posts. Keep up the great work!
My blogging routine is a bit different- I only write on the weekends right now, because that’s when I have the most time, and I tend to get my best ideas in short bursts. I like to start early, not that I’m one of those chipper morning people who practically cartwheel out of bed, but that’s when my brain seems to be most active.
I’ll review my stats and any new comments over a cup of coffee, then briefly check my Netvibes page for anything that ‘jumps out at me’. Then I’ll hop back over to Google Analytics and look over the list of search terms people used to find my blog. Usually there’ll be something there that I haven’t covered yet, and if it’s a topic I’m comfortable with, I’ll write about it. Simple enough, I suppose.
The actual writing part has become pretty simple, too. I used to write outlines (and spend hours doing it), but found that it flows better if I just “wing it”, rather than obsess over every little word. I’ll proofread my article a few times, then either publish or put into queue for a later date.
Anything to help a fellow blogger out.
It is funny that you bring up Google Notebook. It was the tool I used BEFORE Google Docs. However, since they took it away from the navigation area on the top, I started using Google Docs. I thought they were attempting to phase out Google Notebook. However, it seems that Google Notebook has come back with some flair.
I will probably stick to Google Docs though.
I should have mentioned that I also user Twitter and FriendFeed throughout the day. I am @JMowery on Twitter and JMowery on FriendFeed. Looking for some cool people to follow on Twitter. Just be sure to @reply me because I haven’t been getting notifications of new followers.
ScribeFire is a great tool. I use ecto and WriteRoom for the most part though.
Anyways, I am glad I helped you with school, and let me know if there is anything else I can help you with.
I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed your article and I found it very useful. I do use a number of applications to write with.
For blogging on the spot, I use Scribefire which has been a wonderful tool. I mostly set my blogs in draft so that I can schedule in when I would like to post.
I am also a college student too so this article not only helped me with my blogging but also helped me with my schooling. I do many research papers so this will come in handy.
The way that I take notes is using Google Notebooks. I like that I can select the text that I am using, then right click and choose to send it to my Notebook. I have a notebook setup for each of my blogs, and I have notebooks setup for blogging resources that I find and I save it my monthly notebook. When I am finished with the note taking on my notebooks I can choose to export it to Google Documents or an HTML page. I normally choose HTML as I would be able to keep it open as a tab on my browser or save it to my computer. I am a bit old school as I have experienced situations of times when my Internet connection went down for a number of days and I had access to absolutely nothing. I do like to save my information on my computer as a back up precaution, so at least I am able to write what I can until I have access again. I do have a laptop now so access is easier.
My normal schedule is:
1. Check Gmail.
2. Check Google Reader-I actually do the exact same thing as you do when it comes to marking messages. I put a star on items that I would like to read at a later time.
3. Check Gmail again and go through my Google Alerts.
4. Open a browser tab and keep Twitter on—this is a part of my daily research, socialization, and marketing.
5. Open a second browser for researching, and writing purposes. I use Scribefire to write and post to my blogs. I use Google Notebook for my notes. However, I will consider giving Google Docs a try for that.
Option 6. For my non-blogging work I like to use Google Notebooks for writing and note taking.
Again thank you for your post.
I have also utilized Google Alerts. Useful, aren’t they?
Let me know how things work out for you, and let me know if you have any additional questions.
I have just recently started blogging and will be implementing some of these suggestions/processes. One thing I’d add though is Google Alerts. Those things are crazy awesome! My typical process goes something like:
Of course it’s a bit more complicated than that with research, collecting, etc… thrown in there. I’m going to give your style a try, especially with the outlines. I definately struggle there 🙂
Thanks for the info!
Glad you found this post useful. It certainly took quite a bit of effort to write!
Structured writing is really good, but sometimes it is fun and great to break the rules. Just got to do what works for you.
Did I mention that this was useful? You covered a lot of the ground I need to cover. As a beginner, it’s easy to just write whatever comes to mind, but having some kind of algorithm always helps. Outlining is something I used to do and it helped. But then I guess as I grew in confidence during my business career I jettisoned that technique. Now that I’ve started with blogging, I think it’s something I need to use.
Also, I’ll have to try Google Docs for idea-storming. I’ve been using MacJournal, but it’s just not cutting it (can’t put my finger on the problem there). ScribeFire is something I’ve been learning and maybe I’ll go that route as my skill level and routine forge on for blogging. But I like the idea of using a web-based doc app.
Some of my better stuff in my past has come from shear stream-of-consciousness writing. I learned this around 5th grade and it never fails. But it needs a structure at the back-end to build something readable and worthy.
A very useful post! Thanks!
Yeah, I tend to read things out loud as well. Really does help. After all, writing is simply talking on paper.
Actually, Im glad you shared that with us. Sure, it was a bit long, but even one little nugget in there could easily save enough time to make the entire read more than worthwhile.
That last read that you mentioned is critical. I find that if I read the article out loud to myself, I still find things that my mind’s eye missed after a 2nd or 3rd reading.
Sierra, you should blog more on your blog!
Thanks for commenting!
since I don’t have actual blogging experience I normally put anything I learn from Performancing and put it towards writing research papers for school always helpful My way of writing is sorta scatterbrained, I almost always go in a certain order–intro, body, conclusion. I’m sorta OCD that way I guess. But for me it works I pretty much never do outlines b/c I don’t follow them anyways. Research always comes after the introduction for me. Doing the introduction normally frees any mental blockage b/c I find that to be the absolutely hardest part to do ever.
Was very interesting to see how you go about writing an article
Please let me know how it works for you in the future. Thanks for reading.
I don’t have a real “process” for my posts, but I’m going to give yours a shot for a post I have plans to work on tonight. I blog casually so I don’t have as strong of a need for a process as others.
I like the outlining stage and can already see how doing this will save some time.
That was probably a lot of text for everyone here to digest, but let me know how your routines differ from mine. Let me know if you work in similar fashion. Let me know if you have any ideas on how to improve my workflow or if I have inspired you to improve yours!