“Write about your process, your worries, the joy you feel when you write something wonderful, the pain you feel when you publish something that you know isn’t very good.Write about where you write, when you write, why you write and, perhaps most importantly, why you don’t write.”
Many people still think of blogs as online personal journals and amateur author opuses (or is that just my friends who won’t like my FB Page?) Random Bits of Interesting tossed between Stream of Consciousness tangents and long winded what I did this weekend tirades. And yeah there are a lot of blogs out there that still do that. Heck, I even used this platform to write about my neighbors lawn service who blocks my driveway — hardly award winning copy by any stretch.
Still, there is a lot of work that goes into a professional or even quasi-professional blog. By the way,Professional isn’t strictly limited to whether you get paid or not.
As for my actual process. Like Julie Hammerle of Hammervision aptly pointed out: We like to think that we sit “in the leather chair that faces the woods, not the creek” because it better attunes us to the Creative Muse. In reality, most of us write wherever we can, when we can and as quickly as we can in order to get the post out the door before the idea because irrelevant, overdone or crushed underneath the neverending demands of Life, The Real World and our Daytime/paying jobs.
The Process Itself
It starts of course with an Idea. I have lots of them. Most of them are garbage. Many of us have draft folders full of half started posts or lists of topic ideas that may never see the light of day thanks to writer’s block or our Creativity Muse taking a smoke break. Right now I have 12 drafts in the WordPress queue and those are just ones that have got that far. Sometimes to get the Creative Engine going I’ll go for a run or think about my post during my drive to work. Or if I get stuck with one post, I’ll start working on a different one.
What I usually do is open up Notepad and start typing. occasionally I’ll do the Outline thing we learned in school. For instance for this post I did:
- Notepad file
Once I get a good chunk of text I decide that I have the makings for a publishable post. If I don’t have enough or I still want to flesh it out, I’ll either save the file to my Google Drive or I’ll put it on my personal blog. Sometimes that’s where it goes to die, a throwaway paragraph to augment a picture of my cat or backyard sunset view. Other times I’ll resurrect it and flesh it out more here.
I mentioned Tools. Usually that’s just sticking the text in Word and doing a spellcheck and word count. I prefer the Word spellchecker over WordPress because it is a little more robust and catches minor grammar errors. Occasionally I will also cut and paste it into Hemingway to see if I have too many pretentious sentences.
Finally I put it into the CN WordPress interface. This is where I do the formatting and final editing. I come up with a good lead sentence and hopefully an SEO friendly headline, preview it a few times and then find a good photo or two to go with the piece. If I decide to make it a gallery then I have to find a few more. Sometimes this is more time consuming than writing the post because we have to either us our own photos or have permission to use other people’s photos.
Remember that professional thing I mentioned? There are thousands of amateur blogs out there that link to photos without having permission to do so or giving any form of credit to the photo owner. They are small fries and like a jaywalker or spitter in a large metropolitan city, will unlikely ever be brought to justice. However, it is classless to deny content creators the little reward they tend to get (credit and possibly a little ad revenue) by stealing their stuff.
Blogger Currency that fuels our Culture of Collaboration
I try not to spend too much time on a particular post, not just to avoid a time suck, but because 1) I realize that they aren’t all going to be the works of Vonnegut, Hemmingway or Bradbury or even John Scalzi* , and 2) more than one CN blogger has remarked that the posts they work the hardest sometimes get very light traffic whereas something they put together quickly and without much effort went pseudo-viral.
That said, I have to confess that it tickles my butt when publish something and Google Analytics shows it getting good traffic. I try to act like I’ve been there before, but I get a real tickle when one of my posts makes the front page of ChicagoNow. The encouragement that comes from reader feedback such as those desired shares, likes, tweets and comments. Sometimes I even draw in a new subscriber or FB Page like. Seriously, it’s a “like” not a kidney. Go ahead and like the page. Then invite all your friends to do the same.
*who I’m convinced is my more successful doppelganger
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