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Don’t Just Have a Blog – Learn to Think Like a Blogger

Think-Like-A-BloggerLast week I was chatting to a new blogger and he asked me

“how do you manage to keep coming up with post ideas for my blogs?”

It’s a question I get a fair bit – and one I’ve struggled to answer… until recently.

It sounds odd that I don’t know how I keep ideas coming – but I’ve never really understood how I’m able to do it – it just seems to happen quite naturally.

What clicked for me was a conversation with my personal trainer who said something that switched a light on for me.

Learning to Think Like a Fit Person

He told me that what we’re trying to do in this early stage of my new training routine (I’ve been at it a month now) is really to establish new patterns in the way that I think.

I’d been thinking about my training as exercising my body – but what he’s helped me to see is that we’re actually working upon my mind as much as anything.

It’s a process of retraining my mind and how it thinks about numerous aspects of my life including what I eat and the activity that I do each day.

In the early stages of this process I’m being quite intentional about it (keeping a food diary, recording the amount of exercise that I do, having a weekly plan of exercise, learning about food portion sizes etc).

To be perfectly honest, a few weeks, the process doesn’t feel at all natural. My body feels sore and I feel like I’m thinking of nothing other than food and exercise and how they fit into my day.

It doesn’t feel natural at all – but what’s gradually happening is that I’m having a mind-shift.

Danny (my trainer) explained to me that in time the food diary will become less important because I’ll just start to ‘get it’. The exercise plan will be less central because I’ll be thinking like an active person and incorporating activity into my day in a more natural way.

Learning to Think Like a Blogger

Today blogging is a very natural part of my life. On most days I can sit down at the keyboard and start typing – a post appears. Sure I need to ‘work’ at it – but more often than not it’s relatively easy.

However it wasn’t always like this.
In my early days of blogging the process was far less natural. I sometimes forget how challenging it was – but when I force myself to think back:

  • I remember a period where I had to set an alarm on my phone to remind myself to post
  • I remember times where I’d sit down to write an nothing would come
  • I remember times where I’d write and rewrite posts and then hit delete – not publishing anything at all
  • I remember at times being quite structured in setting myself goals (posting targets, the number of comments I wanted to write on other people’s blogs etc
  • I remember times where it would take me hours to come up with a satisfactory opening line to a post or where I’d write 20 or so titles before finding one I liked
  • I remember struggling to find my ‘voice’ – wondering if I should be more professional, more personal, use humor, write as an expert etc

This process wasn’t always easy and as I think about it I realize that what I was doing in these early days was as much working on my mindset as I was working on my writing skills.

In a sense I was teaching myself to think like a blogger.

In time things began to change – in a similar way to the way Danny explained the process that I’m going through with my diet and exercise. The blogging process became more natural, it began to flow, the ideas came, I found my voice and I began to see some progress.

So what helped me to not only have a blog but to think like a blogger?

1. Goals and Planning – one of the main things that helped me in the early days was to sit down and think strategically about my blogging. As I mentioned above I had specific goals in the early days – particularly around how many posts I wanted to write per day. In a sense this was my exercise plan but instead of how many pushups I needed to do or what weight I needed to bench press the goal was XX posts per day.

This planning and objective setting went beyond the number of posts – but got as detailed as the days that I’d post, the types of posts that I’d write and even down to the time that I’d hit publish (I found giving myself specific deadlines helpful).

2. Structure and Routine – out of this objective setting I could then structure a routine for my blogging. You can see some of this routine in my posts A day in the life of a ProBlogger and Another Day in the Life of a ProBlogger (note, these posts are now 2 and 3 years old, my routine’s changed quite a bit – I’ll do another one in the new year). While you’ll see in those posts that my routine did change from day to day – there were specific tasks that I needed to achieve each day and I did develop a rhythm that repeated itself over time.

These routines changed over time and at some stages I didn’t feel the need for them at all – but in times where I hit a slump I’d revert to them to get myself back on track.

3. Spending time with other Bloggers – one of the reasons that I’ve started seeing a personal trainer to help me get fit lately is that I recognized that I’d be more effective in achieving my goals of fitness if I spend time each week with other people who already are (and think) the way that I want to be. Danny is (and thinks) like a fit and healthy person and spending time with him means some of this rubs off on me as we talk, and as he models what he asks me to do.

In my early days of blogging I gravitated towards other bloggers who’d been doing it longer than me. I particularly spent quite a bit of time interacting with Rachel from cre8d design. Rachel taught me so much about blogging – sometimes quite intentionally and sometimes just by me watching what she did.

4. Education – in my early days of blogging i was quite intentional about being a person who was constantly learning. I bought books about html (you wouldn’t know it), I asked other bloggers to teach me how to do things, I bought books on blogging (there was only one or two back then) as well as books on other online ventures and even did some online training courses. Some of what I learned I didn’t really use – but in time I grew in my knowledge of online activities. While I know not everyone has the budget for self education – I would highly recommend bloggers who are serious about learning more about their craft consider investing in themselves in this way.

5. Experimenting – over the last 5 years I’ve written many thousands of posts (on this blog alone it’s now over 4000). In that time I’ve tried so many types of posts, experimented with different voices, tried so many ways of promoting my posts and used hundreds of different types of blogging tools. The result of this is that much of the blogging process has become natural to the point where I sometimes forget what I’ve learned and find myself making decisions quickly that I used to have to think carefully about (for example knowing when a good time to post a particular post is – something I used to agonize over).

6. Making Mistakes – perhaps the best way to learn how to think like a blogger is to make mistakes. There’s nothing like falling flat on your face, making a fool of yourself, or doing something stupid that can’t be reversed to teach you how something should be done. I’ve made more mistakes than I can remember – each one has shaped me.

In time as I did these things (and mainly as I just practiced blogging) my thinking changed. As it did so did my blogging itself.

Image by minifig

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. A Taylor says:

    I would add that one of the most important aspects of being able to come up with good – exciting content for your blog is to actually enjoy or have an interest in what you are blogging about.

    So many bloggers nowadays blog for the wrong reasons..to keep up with the Joneses or to become rich:)

    But if you really have an interest or passion in what you blog about you will actually get on a roll and have so much content that from time to time you may have to cut back a bit on blogging as to not inundate your readers.

  2. Sean Hodge says:

    I’m finding that I’m trying to find my voice in illustrating and writing at the same time. I’m a good graphic designer, but not a great drawer. So, deciding to illustrate my posts creates alot more work, but its work I want to do because I want to grow as an illustrator as much as a writer.

    So, I’m trying to find a groove so I can get one solid illustrated post out a week for one blog and a tutorial for my other blog. I think as I build my habits and find that groove all my work will improve in quality. So, my plan is to post the same amount each week, but just continue to improve the quality of the posts. I can imagine these habits becomming ingrained over time like you mentioned in your post.

    Thanks.

  3. You don’t see that advice about commitment to self-education very often but I think it’s vital.

    I went solo almost a year ago and spent much of the first six months gathering the educational resources — bookmarks, RSS/email, books, whatever — and dedicated at least several hours a day to learning. Sometimes all day.

    Now I spend at least an hour, learning or refreshing. And another hour keeping up with related news, staying current.

    I had a decade of big-time Internet before I went solo but after 2007 I feel I’ve been through grad school. Every second of learning and exploring was worth it.

  4. Started blogging out of anger and the need to do something after my homeland, Kenya, began tearing itself apart about 10 days ago after a fiercely contested election. It’s been a combination of blogging, activism, news reporting, protest march coordination all rolled into the easy format of blogging. I have almost 100 posts and over 4,000 hits so far. I feel like this blog is so important now and that keeps me going. I get an average of 250-300 hits a day.

  5. Ben says:

    Good to hear that blogging gets easier. Can you and all the other bloggers please stop writing now though? How am I supposed to write my own blog if there are so many good blogs to read?!

  6. ebookbum says:

    verrrrry nice….

  7. Vjai says:

    hi.. Im a a big fan of your blog. Wonder how u managed it so well. There, I got the answer for it. But, it is really amazing that you follow it. I can never folow a thing that you have said. So, though I have a blog, I think I can never become a blogger like you. If you could visit my blog @ http://www.vacationflirting.com , I would be over the moons!!!

  8. Rajesh says:

    When i sit down at front of my pc,i never think like a blogger.Just i think i’m providing something information to people know about that.

  9. thom singer says:

    The trick is consistency. Just blog. Sometimes you stuff will just be okay. Other times it will be good. Then those moments of brilliance will appear.

  10. camping says:

    Great post Darren. From the amount of comments I can see that alot of other people have drawn as much inspiration from it as me. Keep the ideas coming guys, isn’t communication wonderful.

  11. Joe says:

    I have seen horrible bloggers that by posting each day, they have achieve a respectful number of usual users.

  12. Latarsha says:

    Great tips for sharing your insight on what it takes to make blogging work effectively.

    Effective blogging requires that you find fluid and engaging way to speak to a targeted niche of people who can authentically connect to you.

    Thanks!

  13. An awesome post! Very helpful for a guy like me who is just beginning.
    I recognize myself in many things you said. I will try to use some of the tips to discipline myself over thinking like a blogger and work on getting blogging a more natural activity than it is now.
    The post scheduling is a great thing to start with.

  14. Cara says:

    This is a great post, so timely for me as well. I feel like I’ve backed myself into a corner with the very specific niche I’ve chosen to blog in and I’m still not sure what route to choose – revamp the whole thing or start a new blog to write about the other things I am interested in.
    I’ve only been at this for about 2 months and find that I have enough to say for 3 to 5 posts a week in this one area, but that I have other things that I’d like to do.
    Any recommendations as far as re-vamping a blog, similar interest but broader appeal?
    Thanks

  15. Henning says:

    I agree with the comments above. Very useful post! But what exactely did you mean by “developing relationships with other bloggers”? Just get in touch with them? To do what exactely?

  16. Wonderful post! I’ve been blogging for 9 months now and at first it was just for fun. Then I decided to get more serious about it. I stressed to much about post topics that I couldn’t think of anything. I nearly dropped it and I’m glad I did it. I returned to my neglected blog simply because I enjoyed it.

    I blog about what I love. Everything else is secondary.

  17. toni says:

    It is easy to read and hard to be done. However, I will try to practice it in everyday life of my life as a blogger – hope so :D

    Thanks, great post.

  18. ITrush says:

    Very useful! I think these are the tools you need in order to become a problogger.

    nhick
    http://www.itrush.com

  19. Chetan says:

    Great great tips shared there Darren :)

    Planning and setting up goals as a blogger is one of the important factors, which i usually think to implement by myself.

  20. Nadim says:

    Well i appreciate the ways to become a successful blogger… really helpful and quite to the point… these are the important factors which one should implement to be successful

  21. OnlineSmarts says:

    It’s nice to see in writing the process a pro blogger went through to get from ‘what should I blog about’ to having it be second nature…as for anything else in life if you do something often enough you won’t have to think about the mechanics anymore…persistance is the key

  22. Really nice posting helpful for beginners. Thank you

  23. I also run a few blogs and blog daily on a number of different topics. I have found the best way to stay fresh and come up with new things to blog about is to open up my little number of sites. It is real easy to just stay with a few sites. Even though there are billions of webpages out there, most people only have about a dozen or so sites that they regularly visit. I make a habit every day of going outside my little box and look for new and exciting things I knew nothing about.

    Thanks for your wonderful blog. I love it.

  24. Charles says:

    Err.. It took me an hour to read and understand this post. And another two hours to read the comments.

    I think I spent all my “blogging time” for today. Not having writen a single line of course.

    I am definitely on the right path, I guess.

  25. bidarlah says:

    thanks for the tips.

    someday i do get blogger’s block! and staring at the post and keypad…blank!!! so will try to think like a blogger…goals and routine…hmm…

  26. What Blog platform do you use ? its a great layout and has a nice feel can you email me that answer if you dont mind .
    Thanks George Barrows
    http://www.TotalDiamonds.com

  27. Lexus ISF says:

    Well I like the ways to become a successful blogger… very helpful and it was straight to the point… these are the important factors which one should implement to be successful in the blogging world.

    Thanks!

  28. Kate says:

    I’ve got the mistakes thing down perfectly.

    But, I also suffer from being too original and not being nasty enough. I really think if I wasted a few posts telling horrible bloggers what I really think of them, traffic would explode. Unfortunately, I come from the school of “if you don’t have anything nice to say…”

  29. ciken says:

    Very helpful for beginner like me..TQ..Yeah!

  30. Vaibhav says:

    Hi,

    I would say, it will provide tremendous amount of value to people who are beginning to write or thinking about writing or new to blogging.

    This blog is truly an inspiration for people in every aspect of life. “Think like a blogger”.

    It reminded me of one of my friend. It was my first software company and I had a new friend, he had done his masters from UK. There was an English competition on many aspects in our entire company, even directors participated in that.

    My friend won the contest, he got 43 points out of 50 and the runner up was our company’s top director, who scored 32. Let me tell you, our top director was very much recognized in USA and in fact the whole world. This was a big achievement for my friend, I must say.

    I got inspired by this person and later on we became good friends. I used to keep bugging him with my queries on improvement in English. Once, while having a fag, he gave me the most influential tip, he said, “Start thinking in English”.

    I could not understand immediately the true meaning of what he said. But, with more discussions, I understood the concept and idea behind it.

    I am from India and my mother tongue is Hindi, so, whatever I used to think till that day, was in Hindi. Yeah, I guess, its but natural. Anybody would think in his mother tongue. So, I used to do no different. But, since that day, I consciously started making efforts of thinking in English.

    Same idea goes behind this post, ” Think like a blogger”.

    I hope you find my English satisfactory.

    With regards,
    Vaibhav

  31. enovator says:

    Yeah. It is natural in the beginning that you don’t like or you are not satisfied with what you write on your blog. But gradually as you get more experience and knowledge, you feel more confident and contented about what you have written.

  32. I “think” that I have found my niche, but in order to get good reviews/make readers want to be interested in my blog, I put much effort into my blog, and try to reply to comments with atleast an hour.

  33. richter says:

    Wow, really good stuff. I probably wouldn’t have “got it” myself if not for the personal trainer analogy. Thanks!