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How to write consistently for your blog

I’ve written a series of articles for Immerse Journal describing a digital ministry philosophy for youth workers. The first article, called “Be Consistent” brought a lot of questions because I spent all 800 words talking about “why” to be consistent and it left many struggling readers with a burning question, “How can I be more consistent in this area?”

Here’s my process for daily blogging

  1. I’ve made it a daily habit. To put it in Christian terms I’ve added it to my daily devotions. I consider writing a major discipline of my spiritual life. It’s a daily exercise for my brain. I belive it’s one of the ways the Gospel works its way both into my life and into the lives of the people around me. Since its part of my daily routine I don’t find the time to blog. The time to blog has found me.
  2. I constantly capture ideas for blog posts. I have two distinctly different methods for doing that. Everywhere I go I have a journal and my iPhone. If something comes to mind, a sentence or thought or paragraph, I capture it. (If you spend time with me you may have seen me do it, though you may have thought I was just checking my email.) Sometimes its a visual sketch that I draw out or write out. But typically, its any idea that pops into my head or flows from a conversation and I capture it. (I use Evernote for that. Synchs from my phone to the cloud to my laptop.)
  3. I have a list of blog posts for future writing. Periods of inspiration come and go. So I maintain a list on Evernote called “blog posts” — Just a raw list of things I want to blog about at some point. Right now, that list has 11 posts titles/concepts. Sometimes it has as many as 30 and sometimes it has as few as 5. Each morning, as I sit down to write, I open up Evernote and decide if I want to write about one of the things on my list or something else that just came to mind. (It’s about 50/50)
  4. I write on a timer. Since I ride public transportation to work I have a firm departure time from my house. If you could see  the time stamp of most of my blog entries you’d see it is right around 8:00 am Pacific. DING! That’s when I have to leave for work. So my blog post has to be done even if it’s not perfect. I start at around 7:00 am and I have to press “publish” by 8:00 am. That means I have to write, edit, do artwork, publish, and push the links out to Facebook & Twitter in that hour.
  5. I process concepts in outline form. That may sound weird but it is how my brain is trained to work. If you were to look the concepts I capture on Evernote you’d see a formula: Concept; list of supporting items. That’s why so many posts are often lists or bullet points. I’m starting with that and wrapping an intro and a conclusion. If I have more time each supporting item may be a paragraph. But typically, like this post, those supporting items are bullet points or numbered points.
  6. I allow myself to slip in other posts. Each day I have my “main blog post.” This is the one I get up and write in the morning. But if something pops up and I want to post it later in the day, I do it. Typically, that drop-in post takes me a few minutes instead of an hour. It’s a thought or image or video or life nugget or reaction to something I read. But I’ve found allowing that to flow allows me to have still have that consistency of one thing I’m writing each day.
  7. I don’t punish myself for days off. I don’t have a scheduled day off from the blog. But sometimes, typically a weekend, I just don’t post and I don’t worry about it or force myself to write two on one day to catch up. Or sometimes I’ll skip the morning ritual to take the dog for a walk and in the process of walking him I will generate 3 new ideas. It’s also typical on weekends that I don’t have a “main post” but I’ll just push out two drop-in posts of quick thoughts, videos, family updates, etc.
  8. Blogging isn’t really always on my mind. I’m not sitting there, having coffee with a friend, and thinking… I’m so blogging this. This process actually allows me to NOT do that. It frees my writers mind to be fully present in my daily life. That’s hard to explain– but I think I’m just wired to write and writing in the morning kind of gets it out of my system so I can be productive in my day without thinking about things to write.

So, that’s how I do it right now.

My process is one-part analytical, one part self-discipline, and a pinch of artistic desire. You could even call it a little bit manic.

And if I’m really honest with myself. Part of the reason this process works for me is that it brings order, control, and discipline to my scattered mind– writing a blog is more for my benefit than yours.

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My blogging process

Photo by m-c via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Posting something almost daily at adammclane.com is a challenge. So I thought it’d be fun to write about that process. Perhaps this will provide an insight into my daily life or maybe it’ll even help someone figure out a new process for them?

Three main sources of my daily post

  1. I wake up and have something on my mind to write about.
  2. Pre-planned posts.
  3. Rants.

Typically, I write in the morning. I leave for work at 8:00 AM and I often start writing at about 6:30 AM. Most days I am literally pressing the publish button, hopping in the shower, and dashing off to work!

1. For stuff I write in the morning.
These are my journal posts. They tend to ramble more. These are also posts that I mostly write because I have to or the thought will take over my day. It’s hard to explain that, but I think I’ve disciplined myself to wake up thinking about something. There’s definitely a spiritual discipline side to it as well. I’m going on 6 years of daily public blogging… so it’s probably as much a habit as a discipline. But I really dig getting up early to write. And the pressure of having to finish by a certain time helps. (Donald Miller has a great post about using a timer to blog)

2. For stuff I pre-plan.
I’m a doodler. And if you’ve spent time with me you’ve probably seen me listen to something, or finish a conversation, and pull out my iPhone to take notes. (I also carry a notebook for this and use Post-its for the same purpose.) I use Evernote to organize that mess into a list. I have one ever-edited note called “blog posts” which is simply a list of things I want to blog about at some point. Some of those items on the list have partial posts that match… these are things I doodle while in meetings, sitting in church, on the trolley, or in a plane. Some of them are just main ideas, some of them are fully edited posts, and some are pictures of things I’ve doodled in my notebook.

Sidenote: Almost every morning I look at that list and decide do I want to write about something on the list or something on my mind? If I chose to write something on my list instead of what is on my mind, I always make sure to capture a couple sentences of that thing have on my mind for a later post.

3. Rants
Rants are a healthy part of the blogger diet. The part of ranting that I’ve tried to eliminate from my blogging diet is the immediate rant. (That’s blogger junk food!) I used to allow something to fire me up and then I’d write a scathing response. Bam, done. My new self-imposed rule is that I don’t publish a rant right away. Instead, I prefer to allow it to sit in Evernote for a while and add it to my list of things to blog about. Then, when I’ve had some time to reflect, I can decide when to publish the rant as well as how I want to edit it. Some of my most popular posts of all time started as rants, fermented, and got re-edited to something else. But a good rant is fun and I let ’em fly on occasion.

Other types of posts

There are a couple of genres of blog posts I didn’t include here. These are my more spontaneous posts. Book reviews, family updates, and video posts. There’s not much pre-planning or  deep thought that goes into them. Which is why I typically publish them on weekends or when I’m on the road. And the truth about those posts is that they are more meaningful to me than they are to the reader.