I usually take a 30-45 minutes each Friday and just write about a topic that grabs my interest. How do I get ideas? I pay attention to my own work, to the challenges I face every day as a professional writer. I also read a lot about freelancing, and sometimes adopt an idea from another freelancer, putting my own stamp upon it. I also ask friends for ideas, which they often provide. This post on blogging, for example, was suggested by a blog reader and friend of mine, Dave (thank you, amigo!).
When I get ideas, I add them to a list of blog ideas I keep on Evernote, the mobile app organizer. The guy who told me about the importance of consistency also got me hooked on Evernote. As you can see, I'm someone who's naturally open to suggestion -- I take help from wherever it may come: clients, editors, coworkers, friends, my own reading, and more.
There are few new ideas, but what matters most is voice, which is the filter of a human personality. In fact, how a writer develops their distinctive voice was among my first blog posts.
As a person and reader, I long to hear the voice of a human being, and speak to other humans as a human being myself. This may seem obvious, but it's not. Most of today's writing, especially in marketing, lacks any real human voice. The writer seems neither human, nor seems to be writing for humans. Don't try to sell me stuff. Don't try to get my vote in November. Don't try to impress me. Speak to me.
I see reading and writing as a conversation. You are as much a part of this as I am, making impressions about me as I do about you. We may be right or wrong, but it's the same in any human interaction. I don't want to get all Whitmanesque here, but we need to talk to each other openly as people.
Are there times when I lack ideas for a blog post? Indubitably. But since necessity is indeed the mother of invention, I often just sit down and think on pen and paper. Something comes to hand, or not. It can be fun sometimes to not know where you're going, to follow your thoughts to wherever they lead. Trust, or at least a certain lack of fear, is part of the writing process.
Every writer wants readers, and a blog is a good way for a writer to establish "an online presence." I can't say I know a lot about self-marketing or self-branding (whatever it's called) but I try to do what I can to keep my name out there. The best way to do that, for me, is to share what I know about writing with others who may find it valuable and/or entertaining, or at least I hope they do.
I'm a content marketing writer, and the belief of any content marketer must be that if you provide something informative or entertaining, people will give you their most valuable possession: their attention. The best engagement strategy ever invented is still people talking to people. Technology is not the answer. The money any company invests in its brand equity is not the answer. Ads and marketing are not the answer. Those things only get in the way of human conversations.
We need each other, all of us. You need me, and I need you, in a million different ways. People with 3,000 friends on Facebook should not be lonely, but many of them are. Social media, despite the name, can often isolate us. We yearn for human connection, the chat with a neighbor over the back fence, the smile from a stranger walking past us on the street. Everything seems to be readily available in today's tech-enabled, globalized marketplace except real human interaction.
That's why I like to blog. It can feel like being involved in a human conversation that might go anywhere (fun, awkward, inspiring, mediocre, who knows?). The lack of planning can be its most interesting aspect. That said, do I (should I?) have tips for would-be bloggers?
Well, I've already offered a few. Be consistent. Write about something in your life, something you like to do or share. Please speak in a human voice, the one you use when talking to friends. The more you sound like a marketing brochure, the more I want to flee from you in horror. You can make mistakes. You can fail. You can be anxious. It's all human. You can be yourself -- please be yourself, always.
The technical things, such as setting up a website, are easily done. The human stuff is harder, but far more important. Oh, and ask for reader feedback, as I will do now. What would you like to add to "Blogging 101," dear reader?