You’ve probably already accepted into your heart the truism that yes, you (and your team) should be blogging. You may have even came up with an idea, set aside some time, chose a blogging platform, told your coworkers, the whole nine. But something is up. You still can’t write. You have the idea, you think you have the time – what’s up? You may be experiencing the dreaded Blogger’s Block.
During our days as in the trenches marketers at software companies, Brian and I have developed a system for producing blog posts that alleviates many of the big blockers to just sitting down and getting some writing done, including Blogger’s Block. We now use this system ourselves (sometimes) and recommend to our clients that they use it – and it has typically been a success. So now we’re sharing it with you.
Note: we assume that your organization has access to either Trello or some other equivalent project planning product. If you don’t, that’s fine! A spreadsheet will work very well for this.
The big idea
There’s one big basic idea that permeates through this process:
Separate idea generation, writing, and typing
The big problem that potential blog authors tend to face is that even if they manage to set aside time to write, sitting down to “do some blogging” just doesn’t work. It’s like winging it on a diet or exercise plan, or assuming that you’ll just do stuff the right way the first time when you’re writing some code – it won’t work! Always know what you’re going to work on before you sit down to do it.
Writing a blog post includes these different modalities. The big idea is to only do one of them at a time:
- Generating ideas - what do you want your blog post to communicate?
- Creating outlines - what specific data are you going to use to support your idea?
- Typing a draft - fill in all of the extra words you need to make your outline into a post.
- Revision - address the concerns of your editor/colleagues/self.
- Publishing - publish, measure, and distribute!
Instead of sitting down to “just do some blogging,” which would see you careening up and down this stack of modalities, we recommend that you only try to do one of these activities at a time. Schedule some time on your schedule to generate ideas, or to turn ideas into outlines, or outlines into drafts, etc. – and only do that! Treat the board or spreadsheet you create as a work queue for blogging, because that’s exactly what it is! All you need to do is set the time aside, and if you groom your content board properly, the work will be set out for you, removing the pressure to decide on what to work on.
The five sections below each describe a “column,” the information that “cards” in that column should contain, and the rules for how cards move from one column to another.
1. Title / Abstract
This is the first column in your board – where all ideas can roam free and be themselves. Be gentle. The title of the card will be your proposed title, and the body of the card should contain only the abstract: a description of the ONE BIG IDEA you’re trying to communicate with this post.
Approval Process: Approval for this stage happens in this stage – get a +1 from someone else and you can move it to the next stage.
How to work in this stage: Generate cards! Each card should have a potential title and an abstract describing the “big idea” you want to get across in your post.
Cards are moved to this column WHEN AN OUTLINE EXISTS. An outline for a blog post should fit on one page of a google doc, and you should decide on a template in advance for your outlines. You may want: title, intro sentence, three supporting examples, and conclusion, but you might be more comfortable with a different format. Feel free to experiment. In this stage, you also want to identify supporting materials this post might need – code samples, images, quotes from 3rd parties, etc.
Approval Process: When an outline is ready for review, it will appear in this column. Any big issues with the main idea, the supporting examples, or the conclusion should be ironed out here instead of during the draft phase. This will make things operate smoothly if you can get the hang of it.
How to work in this stage: Pull a card from the Title/Abstract column that attracts you, create a new Google Doc (our favorite platform for commenting on living documents), and begin to create an outline. If you start the process and can’t finish, leave the card in the first column. Only add a card to the Outline queue that has an existing outline! When you’ve finished your outline, put a link to the google doc in your card, and move it to the outline column. In many ways, this is the most challenging stage to complete.
Card Format: Cards are moved to this column WHEN A FIRST DRAFT EXISTS. Turn your outline into a first draft by fleshing out the intro, turning your supporting examples into body paragraphs, and producing as many of the supporting materials as you can. In our tongue in cheek way, we call this “typing” and not “writing,” because hopefully most of the “hard work” of writing has already been done by this point.
Approval Process: Like the other stages, let the card sit here while it’s still being edited and commented on. When it’s ready and all comments have been addressed it’s ready to be a final draft.
How to work in this stage: Pull a card from the outlines column that is ready to be turned into a draft. Put yourself into storytelling mode and BANG IT OUT! You can do it!
4. Final Draft
Card Format: All concerns from first draft are addressed, all external resources are produced and present, the thing is ready to publish.
Approval Process: Posts are ready to move out of this when a PUBLISHING PLAN IS IN PLACE.
Card Format: Move a post here when it is published! Post the post! Yay. you did it. Leave stuff here and collect comments/metrics if you want, or maybe just archive them. Your call.
How’s it going?
We hope that this process helps you achieve your goals of blogging more regularly and withmore confidence. If you try this out, whether you love it or hate it (or somewhere in the middle – that’s still possible, right?) please let us know! We’re looking forward to hearing from you.