One thing I hope you’ll touch on in the series is your motivation(s) for blogging. Do you do it to share knowledge with others? For yourself, to chronicle what you’ve learned? Something else? All of the above?
These were some of the questions Josh asked me after I started writing this series about my blogging process. If you remember it was a conversation with Josh that led me to start the series in the first place.
I thought the questions worth answering and there are a few loose ends I thought I’d tie up to conclude this series.
My Reasons for Blogging
If I have to offer a single reason for why I blog, I’d simply offer that I enjoy doing it. There isn’t a single reason though. There was a specific reason why I started, which I’ll get to in a moment, but now I blog for a variety of reasons.
- I enjoy writing
- Writing improves design
- To give back to the community
- Blogging helps me learn and grow
- Blogging is good for marketing and seo
- Blogging can lead to new business models
- It’s part of how I multi-task
Enjoy writing — More than anything this is why I continue to blog. There was a time when I didn’t enjoy it so much and I’d skip a day, then another, and yet another, until I had stopped blogging for a few months.
Since I returned with a new direction and focus I have enjoyed what I do here. Don’t get me wrong, there are days and weeks where I’d rather do most anything else, but overall I enjoy creating content for the blog.
Writing leads to better design — Both are about communication. One is verbal and the other visual, but both are essentially the same thing, communicating something to an audience. Becoming a better writer means becoming a better communicator and becoming a better communicator means becoming a better design.
Give back to the community — I’ve learned a lot about how to design and develop websites by reading the works of others and listening to them talk. I remember the confusion I first felt when getting started and if sharing my journey can helps someone get through their confusion quicker I’m all for that.
Helps me learn — Teaching something to others is a great way to learn. it forces you to truly understand the material. Many posts here are about things I didn’t knew before writing the post. The act of writing requires me to go out and research the topic. Much of the time if you’re reading something here, it’s because I wanted to learn that something.
Marketing and seo — This is why I first started. I built a site and wondered how I would ever get someone to visit it. That wondering led to time spent learning about marketing and search engine optimization. Both pointed me toward creating content by blogging.
Done well, a blog can convince potential clients and customers you know what you’re doing and can deliver on your promise. Posts give search engines something to crawl and they’re more likely to be shared across the web and generate links.
If you’re in business and not creating content outside your sales channel, you better have a lot of money to spend on advertising.
New business models — At the moment my business revolves around serving clients. I’d like to move toward a different business model in which I can sell high end content in different forms. Whether that content is in book form or through a premium subscription side of the site, blogging helps prepare for it.
Multi-tasking — My view of multi-tasking isn’t doing multiple things at the same time, but rather doing one thing that serves multiple goals. Look up at the other reasons I blog. I’d say blogging fits right in with how I multi-task.
Again the main thing is I enjoy blogging, though it’s far from the only reason. Blogging improves me, it improves the site and my business, and hopefully something in here helps you improve in some way too.
As I walked through my blogging process I realize there were things I didn’t manage to get in to any single post, but still wanted to share.
In following this process I usually end up working on each post over the course of about 5 or 6 days. I typically work each part of the process on a different day, though at times, especially when pressed, I’ll combine a few stages into a single day.
I could work on them over fewer days, but I think coming back to a post after a break allows me to see it with a better perspective. It gives me some distance from the post and I can come back to it with fresh eyes. It also allows me to separate the creative and productive so they can better co-exist.
Multiple Posts at a Time
The main reason for using any process is to be more productive. Breaking a post into stages allows me to work on several at the same time no matter how I’m feeling on a given day. Some of these steps are easy for me and others take more effort to get done.
On days I’m not at my best I can work the easier parts of several posts and continue to make progress. I can save something harder for a day when I’m closer to my best. I can also work tasks at different times of day that are more conducive to getting that task done. I can skip a day when necessary and put in more time on another.
I’m currently publishing twice a week. That doesn’t necessarily mean I write 2 complete posts a week. I need to keep the whole process moving at a rate of 2 posts a week. There is a difference.
If I’m far enough ahead of schedule I can spend one week making notes on a dozen posts and spend the following writing drafts. As long as the overall process continues to produce at a 2 posts per week rate I’m good.
If I want to produce more posts, I increase the rate, whether it’s to publish more or cover me if I want to take a vacation or need to spend more time on client projects for a time. Even stepping the rate up to 2 ¼ posts per week starts to get me ahead.
This Process Works Best For Certain Kinds of Posts
While I’ve been talking about my process as something that can help with any post, I think it’s strengths are in getting longer and more researched posts done.
Part of why you end up seeing longer posts here with a lot of links and images is because those posts are a product of this process. There are plenty of other types of posts that could be written that don’t need as much research or multiple rounds of editing and post design. I’d actually like to mix in more of those kind of posts.
A short opinion piece or a quick commentary on someone else’s post don’t need to go through this whole process to work. A rant might end up more entertaining if you just let it fly. That doesn’t mean these other types of posts can’t benefit from this process.
I talked about it in 5 stages, but you can really beak the whole thing down into 3 steps.
- Know what you want to write about
- Write about it
- Improve what you wrote before publishing
A quick commentary doesn’t need a lot of research. Reading the other post and thinking about it might be enough. It still qualifies as knowing what you want to write about.
In the introduction to this series I said I didn’t think everyone should follow my process exactly, though I suggested the process itself could help anyone with their blogging. The 3 steps above are what I meant.
Whether it ultimately means your process is 3 or 23 steps doesn’t matter. Just know that in creating a blog post or an article or a video, you should be doing more than creating.
Since I mentioned it above here are some of the other kinds of posts I’d like to create.
- Opinion pieces
- Commentary on other posts
- Audio posts
- Demos with explanation
- Code examples
- Working through real problems and solutions
Some of these posts might follow my process very closely, others less so. All will follow the process to the degree of the 3 more general steps above.
There are plenty of good reasons for blogging. Ultimately I think you need to enjoy it if you’re going to stick with it for the long term. Enjoying it also helps you do it well.
I don’t expect you’ll follow my process exactly, nor should you. What I mainly hope you take from it is the idea that to produce content you need more than the actual act of creating. You should prepare by knowing your subject, create, and then improve whatever you created.
I hope you enjoyed hearing about my blogging process and even more I hope you’re able to take something from it to make your own blogging more productive. Having a process in place will make you more productive. That’s what processes are for.
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I love that you mentioned your fourth reason for blogging, that it helps you learn. Sure blogging is great for branding, SEO, and developing a reputation in your field, but I feel like one of the most important benefits is exactly what you said, that it makes you sit down to really digest and understand the concepts you’re blogging about. People say that the best way to learn things is to teach them to others, and I think blogging is a great manifestation of that idea.
It’s one of my favorite reasons for blogging. So many of the posts here started because I wanted to learn something. Teaching things to others is definitely one of the best ways to learn. You really have to understand a subject before you can help someone else understand it.
The funny thing about the marketing aspect of this is if you blog for all the other reasons, and do your best to created the highest quality content you can, much of the marketing will take care of itself.
Thanks very much for an enlightening series and for sharing the details of your blogging process.
One piece of advice I’ve heard time and time again from multiple sources is that if you want to establish a blog, the single most important factor is the content–spending time writing in the blog is more important than making it look pretty.
This series has motivated me to attempt to keep a regular blog. After building up a tiny queue of posts, I’ll start throwing them out there and then try to see how long I can keep it going!
I’m glad you liked the series you inspired Josh.
While I do think the aesthetics of the post are important, I do agree nothing is as important as the good content. People will consume great content on a poorly designed blog. The best combination will be great content on a well designed blog, but the content is definitely the more important of the two.
Cool that I’ve inspired you to work on your blog more. Is it going to be in the Writing section on your site? Let me know so I can subscribe. If the posts will be somewhere else send me a link.
I debated e-mailing this to you instead of writing it here, but a ‘please check your e-mail instead’ comment seemed pretty lame.
It’s located at http://blog.joshdick.net and has its own RSS feed. Right now the ‘writing’ stuff from my site has been brought in, but no new posts yet. Hoping to fix that soon. 🙂
Rather than integrate it directly into my existing site, the blog is standalone since I wanted to try out some tools and design concepts I haven’t used before to get it going: Jekyll, Compass/SASS, and establishing vertical rhythm with the help of Compass. I’ll eventually change the ‘writing’ button on my site to link directly to the blog, once I put something in place to redirect the existing article URLs to the blog.
The blog’s design is minimal and is a work in progress, but is mostly done. The biggest problem with it is a lack of decent navigation but I need to do more Jekyll research to figure out how to approach that. It’s probably obvious that the design has been inspired by various other blogs/reading applications I’ve used.
Thanks Josh. I’m now subscribed.
I understand your choices for keeping the blog separate, though do consider that you’ll get much more marketing value out of it if the blog is on the same domain as the rest of your site.
While you’re experimenting and learning it’s probably fine to keep the set up you have now, but at some point you’ll probably want to merge blog and site for the added benefits of having them be on one domain.
Whenever I decide to write about a subject, I find out out the I know lesser than I thought previously. This forces me to seek more knowledge, read more and research more. So one reason for me also is that I end up learning more
I know how you feel. That happens to me a lot too. On the bright side it does force you to learn more like you say. Fortunately I enjoy the time spent learning new things. I’m guessing it’s the same for you as well.