A question that came up in one of my Google+ Communities was that of focus. How does one focus on blogging, getting themselves into a position to really concentrate on getting some good writing done. This was my response:
First, it may go without saying, but a high interest in and passion for your chosen blog topic is a requirement. If you’re not interested in what you’re writing about, no amount of tips and tricks will help most people to find the level of focus they’ll need to create great writing.
While that definitely applies to the overall blog, it also applies to individual blog posts and topics. Perhaps an idea came to you, or you did some research and thought to write about a topic people are searching on – but as you got into it, the topic lost its luster. Unless you’re under some kind of deadline, drop that post and work on something different that you can get fired up about.
Second, and this is equally as important – try to discover what kind of writer you are. What do you need to be able to write? Quiet, or background noise? No distractions, or are you OK with Google+ notifications and Skype pings?
Personally, I like to stream The West Wing on Netflix, and am OK with keeping all of my normal notifications up and running. While writing this, I’ve been responding to emails, keeping up with three Skype conversations, and listening to the episode Five Votes Down (a classic and important episode about how too much devotion to work can destroy your family and marriage).
But maybe that’s just me. If you need quiet, leave everything off. If you need to be distraction-free, turn off your phone and notifications. Do what you need to do to make sure you’re able to focus on the task at hand.
Along the same lines, think about if there’s a particular time of day that’s better for you than others. During the week, I write whenever I need to or have the time, but one of my favorite times to write is Saturday afternoons. My kids are napping and my wife is relaxing, so I usually have 2 – 3 hours to think about my blog and tackle some big articles. It’s the weekend, so there aren’t any phone calls or emails or social media notifications that have to be seen to. I can grab the laptop and head to the porch or easy chair and relax, losing myself in the topic.
You may need to pick a specific day or time of day to write, one where you can make sure you have no meetings scheduled and are less likely to be interrupted by family or coworkers. When I used to have writing deadlines with a previous employer, I kept Thursdays free of meetings and appointments so that I could devote time to writing as needed.
But here’s the thing. None of that really matters.
I’m sure there are some great tips in there that you or others might pick up and be able to adopt to help you. But generally speaking, the single biggest obstacle to being able to focus on getting some writing done is having to start from scratch.
How many times have you told yourself it’s time to blog, opened up Word, and stared at that obnoxiously white screen wondering where, oh where, will the words flow from?
You see, it’s far easier to jump into writing a blog post when you’ve already gotten started. It’s far easier to get excited about an idea for post when you’ve already had the idea and fleshed it out a bit.
You Need A Blogging System
To do that, I recommend using Evernote, though you can use Google Keep or Notes or whatever note organization app and system you want.
Using that app, the suggestion is that every time you have an idea for a post, you immediately jump into Evernote and create a new note with that idea. Maybe it’s just a title, or maybe it’s a list of the things you want to talk about or answer.
Within the note, you can write up some thoughts, paste in some links, or even begin writing the post if you have time and the initiative.
This, coupled with routine brainstorming sessions and keyword research, will quickly develop into a long and rich list of blog post ideas in various stages of completion.
I currently have 75 – 100 blog post ideas and drafts in my Evernote “Blog” notebook, with titles such as, “How To Increase Your Blog Income Right Now” or “How To Give Your Blog Sweet Emotion” and more (there’s a better than average chance I will never, ever publish that second one…). The Blog Income post is already at 1000 words, has been completely outlined, and is only about halfway written.
Over time, not only will you have a lovely list of blog posts, but more importantly, you will have developed the habit of recording these ideas and being mindful of blog post opportunities. I call this the “Blogger’s Mindset.”
Or maybe you’ve written such a lengthy comment on a post that it, in itself, could be considered a blog article. 😉
The point is that, eventually, every time you want to do some writing, you won’t have to come up with something to write. All you’ll have to do is jump into your list of blog ideas and pick one that interests you right then and there.
Personally, I use a main “Blog” notebook in Evernote as I described. I have a second notebook where I move posts once I’ve finished and published them. And I also have a third notebook where I banish those posts that I decided weren’t good enough or that I lost interest in them.
You talk about things that nobody cares
You’re wearing out things that nobody wears
You’re calling my name but I gotta make clear
I can’t say baby where I’ll be in a year
You can use whatever kind of system works best for you, as long as you’re recording your ideas whenever they come to you.
With a nice, healthy list of blog post ideas at your fingertips, I’m confident you’ll find it far easier to focus on getting some writing done when you need to.
And while you’re checking out the Netflix idea, I’ve copied and pasted this comment into my Evernote and turned it into a blog post…