Guest post by J. D. Bentley of Wage Slave Rebel
Twelve weeks ago I was an entirely different blogger. Hell, I wonder if you could even call me a blogger back then. I was struggling just to churn out three decent posts per week. And guest posting? Forget it. Who had the time.
I’d put it off all day and then when I finally made myself sit down at the computer I’d just stare at a blank page. It could take me anywhere from two to six hours just to get a single 600 word post out the door and the worst of it was that these posts weren’t two-to-six-hours worth of good.
Spend that kind of time on a short piece of writing and you’d expect it to be a masterpiece. They were good, but not what you’d expect if you saw me writing them.
Today that’s all changed. Now I sit down and knock one out of the park in 30 minutes or less! I’m talking about posts that I’m passionate about and that I actually enjoy writing. It no longer feels like a chore, but a calling.
How did I do it? What brought about this change? Well, back in March I committed to creating a course to teach new bloggers the foundation they need to get started and reach their first 500 subscribers. I’d be teaching them about how to find a niche, buy a domain, setup WordPress, get a design, create content, promote that content and on and on. The whole nine yards!
It was foolishly ambitious. Here I am, Mr. I-Can’t-Handle-Three-Posts-Per-Week, seriously thinking about writing substantial posts for paying customers nearly every day of the week. I second guessed myself many times. I had a hard time believing I could do it, but I pushed ahead anyway and I’m glad I did. I’m a better blogger for it… a faster blogger who creates quality content.
There are a few really essential lessons I learned from that kind of intense blogging and I think they are lessons any blogger would benefit from learning.
1. Challenge Yourself
There’d be nothing else on this list if I didn’t challenge myself. As with anything in life, it’s really easy to get into a certain routine and to find yourself or your blog stagnating. You have to shake things up and take chances on projects that scare the shit out of you. You’re going to be afraid, but it won’t be because you can’t do it. It will be because you aren’t giving yourself enough credit.
When you think about putting really big plans into action it’s easier to think about what a catastrophic failure it could be than what a life-changing success it could be. I think anyone who really takes chances could never fail. Even if things don’t work out, the lessons you take away from it can easily contribute to other successes in your life.
2. Find Your Ideal Writing Time
I’ve been blogging to some extent for years and writing for many more, but this still hadn’t occurred to me in all that time. One of the reasons I always had such a hard time writing posts is because I was inundated with distractions (sound familiar?). Tweets and Google Reader and instant messaging and the phone, not to mention Facebook’s ever-present and overly-sensual beckoning (which did not go unheeded.)
In twelve weeks of having very hard deadlines every day, I had to quickly figure out how I was going to get things finished on time. I can’t tell you what your ideal writing time is, but by around the third week I had found mine: as soon as I wake up and before I do anything else. No messengers on, no email notifications, cell phone on vibrate. Just me and a text editor. What I needed was absolute solitude without anything present that could pull me out of my creative flow.
3. Implement an Accountability System
When all your deadlines are self-imposed, they tend to be quite a bit more flexible than you originally intended. Sometimes you’ll be tempted to miss them altogether. As a blogger I’m just a one man operation so it was really easy to avoid setting strict goals. The blogging course changed that.
Once it got started, I had paying members eagerly waiting for my content each day. It’s different when your readers are actually *paying* you. If you fail to deliver they can ask for a refund and then complain to everyone about how bad your course sucks. It’d be a failure from the start!
Obviously, most bloggers won’t have the opportunity to get paid directly for their writing so that’s not really an option for accountability.
I’ve had discussions before about how bloggers can be held accountable. The best solution I’ve heard is to create an accountability group. It would be like a blogging alliance whose only purpose is to keep everyone on schedule and posting regularly.
4. Plan Everything Ahead of Time
I went from barely putting out three posts a week to having five posts per week scheduled to be published a week before they were due. What makes this possible is planning! Simple enough, right?
The blogging course taught me that I really wasn’t a slow, mediocre writer. I was just spending most of my writing time 1) not knowing what I would write about and 2) hating the topic I chose. When you plan ahead that doesn’t happen.
For the course I had a vague outline for every week’s content. I knew what had to be written and when it was due. When the time came, I could sit down and churn out a lesson in 30 minutes or less. Not just that, but I would actually be writing what I felt to be *spectacular* content. Not okay content or good content, but great content.
This combination of speed plus quality was absolutely foreign to me. Early on I knew I needed to somehow break down what I was doing into a system I could apply to any other writing I needed to do.
First, I set up an idea file. I use Notational Velocity for Mac to collect all my potential post ideas into a massive backlog. Then, on Sunday I sit down and go through the backlog and choose the five ideas I’d like to publish for the week. I create an outline for each that consists of an introduction and three or four headings (this takes about five minutes for each). Believe it or not, having the small outlines actually helps me speed through the posts. On each Sunday, I’m now capable of writing five posts in three hours.
If you’re a blogger I really hope this advice can help you take your game to a whole new level. If you want to really see results, do your own twelve week challenge. Write at least once a day for the next 90 days and I guarantee that you will see a vast improvement in your writing and your writing process.
photo by mikebaird