Efficient Writing Through Assembly Line Blogging

“I hate writing, but I love having written.”
—Dorothy Parker

Are any of the following familiar?

  • You sit down to write, but can’t think of anything to write about
  • You have plenty of blogging ideas, but the words to express the ideas won’t flow
  • You start to write a post, but scrap it because you don’t think it’s good enough
  • You let other things distract you while writing which keeps you from finishing

They’re all familiar to me. What do you do when blogging becomes difficult? What do you do to get the creative juices flowing again?

If you’ve been reading here for awhile you’ve likely noticed I haven’t been posting as regularly as I used to or would like to. Other projects and client work have taken precedence at times and the only way to get both done was to let this blog slide a bit here and there. The more often I let it slide the easier it becomes to let it slide again the next time and the easier it is to lose the flow of my blogging routine.

So what’s a blogger to do?

For this blogger the solution is to implement a process of planning prior to writing.

Blogging From An Assembly Line

For most of the time I’ve been blogging my process has been very simple. Early in the week or over the weekend I think about what I’d like to blog about during the week. When it’s posting day I pick one of those ideas and go. Not exactly the most formal process I admit, but I suspect many of you blog in much the same way.

You get an idea, open up your favorite blogging application, write the post, and publish it. Then you wait for the next idea to come. Sound familiar?

Sometimes, though, the idea that sounds good in your head on Monday doesn’t sound as good when you’re writing the post on Tuesday. Maybe you lost a few points that you didn’t write down when they first came to mind or as you got into the post you realize you didn’t have as much to say about the topic as you originally thought. Sometimes the ideas don’t come at all.

We’ve all been there, haven’t we?

When 2008 began I set out three major goals I wanted to accomplish before the calendar changed to 2009. One of these three goals was to change my process for blogging. I want to migrate from the haphazard process I’ve been using toward something more like an assembly line. I’ve finally managed to get the process started, but I expect it will take some time before I’m used to it as part of my usual routine.

I’ll share more details once I’ve put it all in place and proven to myself that it will work as I hope, but I’d like to share the gist of what I’m trying to do in case you like the idea and would like to run with it as well.

The process I’m envisioning is a blogging assembly line. A successful post has several components working together. An idea, a post title, links to external resources, links to internal resources, specific points you want to make, a target audience, relevant quotes, relevant images, etc.

Instead of hoping to find many of the above while writing my goal is to collect some of the components over time. I’ve set up a spreadsheet in Excel (though recording notes in a notebook may work just as well) with different components of a post as column headings and the plan is to fill the columns in over time. At the same time I’ll make notes and an outline for writing the post.

Ultimately with an outline and different components in place I’ll sit down and write the post. Call it a focused swipe file if you will.

photo credit: rick

Why An Assembly Line Process Will Lead To Better Blogging

The main goal of an assembly line is efficiency and that’s exactly what I’m looking for with this process. On average it takes me between two and three hours to write a post, which only allows creation of so many posts in a given week or month. I’d like to produce more here and have posts at the ready for guest blogging opportunities.

An assembly line will allow for batch processing. You can spend a day brainstorming post ideas and another day researching ideas and collecting resources. Keeping your mind focused on one task at a time should lead to an increase in overall efficiency.

I think it will also lead to higher quality posting. Posts would have time to be refined as opposed to being published just to fit a schedule. Idea would have time to germinate into posts instead of being forced to grow in an instant.

Ideally this process will allow me to create more posts than I need to publish here and allow some posts to be stored in a blog bank for future use.

Sounds Good, But Will Assembly Line Blogging Really Work?

I’d like to tell you it will, but as I’m only beginning the conversion to an assembly line process I can’t honestly guarantee success. I suspect for some this wouldn’t work at all, but I imagine for many more it would. I’m convinced once put in place it will work for me.

It’s only the beginning stages and I know I’ll need to refine the process. At the moment I’ve gotten as far as setting up a spreadsheet in Excel and transferring many of the random notes I’ve made to the spreadsheet. I’ve spent a day brainstorming ideas and filling in a few notes for some of those ideas, but none has reached a point where the it’s time to write them up as posts.

It will probably take a few months before I’m creating posts from this assembly line of ideas and notes. I do want to keep the blog running and until I can make a complete switch I’ll need to work off the old haphazard process at the same time.

Hopefully in a few months I’ll be able to revisit this idea and tell you how much it’s helped me. Assuming it does I’ll share the refined pricess and offer a an Excel file to download if I’m still using one. Until then wish me luck.

Are you a haphazard blogger or do you have a process in place for writing posts? If you do have a process in place to make you more efficient please share. I’d love to hear your ideas and I think others here would as well.

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  1. I post Monday – Friday and ideally spend Saturday and Sunday writing my posts, then I refine them throughout the week and publish. This works very well – I also have a list of post thoughts that I need to take pictures for or do research for or need to wait for the right season for or just finish. When I’m able to do that blogging stays fun and I put out decent posts.

    The last couple of weeks – we’ll just say that they haven’t been that way and I’ve noticed it in my writing, even if no one else has – time to get back on schedule!

    • Sounds like you have a bit of a process going. A little more formal than my current haphazard approach.

      Every weekend I tell myself I’m going to write some posts and once or twice I actually have. Most of the time though once the weekend is here I don’t want to work and end up leaving the post writing for Monday.

  2. I’ll be interested to see how that works out for you. My own style is similarly haphazard, which is one reason my posts tend to be shorter than yours — when the muse strikes, I go for it.

    Sometimes I’ll mull over an idea and will awake one morning with the post written in my sleep. Other times I’ll run across a story that invokes an emotional response and the words will fly instantly into my blog.

    • I’ll definitely let you know how it goes. It probably won’t be for a few months until I can really wrap my head around how I want to get this assembly line going.

      I’m afraid if I wait for the muse he’ll walk by mocking me. I want to see if I can gently lead him in the front door without him realizing it.

  3. I try to work to a schedule/routine, and that generally allows me to publish 2 articles a week. However, there’s certainly room to improve the process. Not sure the assembly line would work for me though, because despite the amount of prep work I do, I’m still likely to spend 2-3 hours writing. I can’t see that time coming down substantially, even with a tight outline. Unfortunately, that’s the way I work. I’m not a quick writer, and I re-read every paragraph 30 times…

    • The one thing I’m worried about is that I may just be one of those people that takes a few hours to write a post too.

      A recent experience makes me think this will work. I was hired to write an article where the idea and article title were given to me. I first had to submit an outline. After a couple of edits I then wrote the post.

      It turned out to be a much smoother process for me. The outline was almost like brainstorming. Editing the outline focused what I wanted to say. In the end by the time I was actually writing the words came much quicker.

      I think some of the efficiency will come in knowing myself and knowing when I’m more productive with specific tasks. I seem to write best in the morning and after dinner. Unfortunately I can’t always set those times aside to write a full post.

      On the other hand researching is something I can do at most any time. Ultimately I think I’ll be able to schedule the different tasks at the best times for me.

      I didn’t really explain all the reasons why I think this will work out well for me in the post, but I do think if I can put in practice what I see in my head it’s going to make me much more efficient and also improve the quality of my posts.

      Time will tell though and I’ll keep you updated. And like I said in the post this probably won’t work for everyone.

  4. Even if your process isn’t formal the content here is always great. I find it good to get into a rhythm and try to post once every other day at minimum. Works nicely.

    Keep a pad of paper and pen with you at all times and always write down ideas…

    Inspiration strikes at the weirdest times.

    • Thanks Adam.

      A rhythm definitely helps. I think without a process in place it can be easy to lose your rhythm. For much of this year I’ve had other things that needed to take precedence over the blog at times.

      Good point about keeping pen and paper near. I have a Moleskine notebook that I carry around. I can also type or speak notes into my cell phone.

      Even with an assembly line process I still expect I’ll sometimes just go when the inspiration strikes. I’m hoping that the process will make it so I don’t have to rely on inspiration. I’ll follow the muse when he’s there, but if he doesn’t visit there will still be posts to publish.

  5. I think your plan is a good one. I’m not sure it would work for me, but it would probably work for a lot of people. I tend to be more of a by the seat of my pants blogger. I get inspired, I write, I’m done.

    I do keep a list of potential topics just in case I get stuck for an idea. That does seem to help.

    • I don’t think this would work always for everyone, but I think most people can still benefit from parts of the process.

      For example keeping a list of potential topics is the first step in what I’m describing. Instead of just jumping in to write the post I’m suggesting spending a little time researching the topic, collecting resources to link to, etc before the writing begins.

      I think it’s still ok to write solely from the inspiration too. I’m not thinking of abandoning that at all. But I hope this will ultimately help be build a store of posts I can use at any time.

  6. Nice discussion, Steven. I’ve struggled with this a lot too, and the problem of creating a system/process without destroying the passion and impulsive side of writing. When I get a spark for an idea now, I try to brainstorm it ASAP, create a document and put as much down on paper as I can. Then, later, I go back and, if it still sounds good, schedule it as a blog post. I’ll finish the writing closer to the post date, but at least I haven’t lost the initial spark.

    I’ve been playing around with using a voice recorder, too, as I find that my brainstorming is more verbal in nature. I come up with great ideas when I’m walking or in the shower, but then draw a blank when I sit in front of the keyboard. So, I’m trying to tap that inherently verbal process.

    • The process I’m describing for myself is similar to what you described in many ways. I guess I’m trying to take it more to an extreme.

      I don’t want to eliminate the spontaneous side of writing, but I don’t want to force spontaneity or rely on the muse showing up the day I need him to be here.

      You make a good point about finding the balance in creating a system without losing the muse. That’s really what I’m after.

      My phone has a voice recorder and I’ve been thinking of playing with it too. There are times I’m sitting outside and an entire post runs through my head only to be gone before I get back inside. I’ve thought why not get that post in my head into the recorder.

      With this process I probably wouldn’t publish right away though. I’d site on the post a bit and see what I could cut from it and what I could add to it.

  7. I use it both ways: I sometimes create everything from scratch in two days for one post and at the same time, I save links for future posts in files, named for the idea (and I already have the title in mind).

    It works, but there still isn’t enough time for everything.

    • I guess I do a little of both too, but I haven’t been very good at writing the post where I’ve been collecting notes. I’m trying to formalize that process more and make it more a part of my weekly habit so those posts actually get published.

      By the way anyone ever tell you that you look an awful lot like Skitzzo?

    • I hope it works for you. It’s still a struggle for me to get it where I want. I’ve managed to start the process and I’m getting better at collecting the initial ideas, but I still haven’t worked the process into my weekly routine.

      I’ll keep at it though. If you find this works please come back and share your experience with it. Thanks.

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