Blog writing is fun. You get to tackle new subject matter, read some interesting sources and, who knows, maybe even include a Star Wars AND Simpsons reference in the same blog.
But when you’re on the clock, sometimes speed and efficiency takes a backseat when it should be sitting shotgun. For those who love to blog but might need to pick up the pace a little bit, here are some ways to do it without sacrificing quality.
There have been a few times in my writing career where I’ve tried to go full-Jedi and write a blog blind. No outline, no organization. Just a topic, a blank content edit window and the Force.
I, however, am no Luke Skywalker.
A good outline will not only provide a cohesive map to follow, it will keep you from getting stuck. “…It’s easy to get stuck because you’ve come to a standstill or gone off on a tangent,” according to Daily Writing Tips. They suggest putting your map on paper (or on your screen), ensuring you have your next subhead or paragraph point to keep you moving forward.
Not the outlining type? More of a bulleted list kind of guy or gal? That’s OK, too. Any pre-writing organization that works will keep you on track and help you write more quickly. Just make sure you do it.
Thanks to the world wide web, there are so many places to turn when it’s time to research your blog, especially if you’re in an industry that a LOT of people like to write about (*cough* content marketing *cough*). It’s a double-edged sword, however, and you can easily fall down the research rabbit hole. You start researching marketing automation and before you know it, WHAM! You’re on Purdue Varsity Glee Club’s Wikipedia page, wondering why they have a mascot and why in the world they named it “Glee Club Pete.”
The best way to avoid this sort of spiral and its inevitable impact on your focus is to separate your research time from your writing time.
Do your research first and, in your outline (or however you organize your thoughts), include whatever quotes, facts or anecdotes you wish to cite. Then turn off your information-gathering mind and flip on your writing mind. If, while you’re writing, you come across a section that needs some more research to support, Blogging Wizard suggests making “…a note in your blog post with an X or asterisk,” and keep writing. When you’re done with the draft, go back and address those spots.
This idea is especially important if you’re writing on someone else’s behalf, like a client who’s providing the direction on a complicated subject. Don’t be afraid to solicit as much information as you can before you start writing.
“I’d rather spend 10 minutes pestering them with emails to get the info I need,” says Evelyn Pimplaskar, a senior writer here at Brandpoint, “instead of 40 minutes trying to research information they could easily provide me.”
Evelyn also recommends “buckets and buckets of coffee” as a key to efficient writing. Evelyn is very smart.
I get it. You’re a writer. A professional. A perfectionist. You don’t want to put your name on anything less than Oscar Wilde (if Oscar Wilde had a health and wellness blog).
Though it’s imperative to have high standards, it can be a mental barrier big enough to hinder your productivity on your first pass. (Plus, Oscar Wilde wouldn’t have a health and wellness blog. He’d have an HVAC blog and it would be called “The Importance of Cleaning Furnace”).
The more you think about ideal word choice, proper sources and perfect spelling and grammar, the more likely you are to have the almighty train of thought completely derailed. Leave yourself little notes in the margins or highlight sections that just don’t feel right. And then keep writing. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to edit and fine tune later. The same Daily Writing Tips blog says allowing yourself to produce a “rubbish first draft” can increase your writing speed up to threefold.
At the end of the eighth-season episode, “Homer vs. The 18th Amendment,” temporary bootlegger, Homer Simpson, credits alcohol as “…the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.”
I feel the same way about the internet.
While the internet is a modern marvel of technology, it also has the power to be EXTREMELY distracting. And since good, efficient writing is often a product of good focus and rhythm, it can quickly become your arch nemesis.
One of the most common distractions is an influx of incoming messages. You probably collect a Skype for Business message, a Slack notification or at least a couple new emails over the course of a couple hours. Our often-impetuous minds tend to prioritize new messages as very important and trick ourselves into thinking each requires our immediate attention.
Knock it off.
If you feel overwhelmed by people trying to reach you, try logging out of those channels to put a barrier between you and the people who always ask you for stuff. If you’re starting to feel the FOMO creep in just reading that tip, I get it. But trust me. Most of those emails can wait. If logging out of your email isn’t an option, try blocking off some time on your calendar for writing to let people know you’re unavailable. Another way to keep the email gremlins under control is to simply set an out-of-office message for a couple hours, letting whoever just sent that email know you’re busy but will respond when you get a chance. This gives you permission to turn off that part of your brain and focus on your writing.
Social media is another big distraction. This one is simpler to turn off but seems to require a little more willpower (at least for me). The most effective way I’ve found to tune it out is to log out of whatever social site(s) is giving me the most trouble and tell my browser to forget the password. That means whenever I feel like I want to go check Facebook, I’ve got to physically log back in, making me think twice about distracting myself.
Blogging Wizard lays it out very simply:
“Spend time researching your blog post, make notes, …and get whatever information you need. Then, close down your browser, disconnect from the internet and do nothing else but write.”
Even if you take every single piece of (high quality, unbelievably professional) advice, sometimes writer’s block will strike when you’re almost done or maybe haven’t even started yet.
If you’re having trouble getting rolling, look at your outline and find the section or sections you know you can cruise through. Perhaps it’s the most fleshed out or the point you’re hoping to make is just a little bit clearer. By aiming for the easy stuff first, you can start to build crucial momentum that can carry you throughout the tougher sections.
If you hit a snag in the middle, grab a pen and some paper. “Brainstorm, freewrite or just start a no-judgement draft that no one else will see. This almost always shakes something loose,” suggests Jodi Rogstad, another senior writer at Brandpoint. “Plus, we use a different region of the brain when we write with a pen versus type on a computer.” It can often be a way to center yourself and your thoughts and keep you moving in the right direction.
Sometimes there’s no way around the pesky writer’s block. If you just can’t seem to shake it, don’t be afraid to put that particular project away for a bit and focus on something else. Especially for longer posts, it’s easy to get bogged down. When it’s time to come back, you’ll usually be able to finish it in no time.
Some writers can just sit down and crank out blogs without a care in the world. Those people are called unicorns. Writing quickly and efficiently while maintaining high quality is an ongoing challenge for all of us, to one degree or another. Take a deep breath, read this blog again if you need to and get writing.