Ali’s recent post discouraged us from forcing creativity. If you don’t feel it, she said, don’t write. Yet Gretchen recommends sitting down and writing every day, because you’ll get in a rhythm and stay connected to your material.
Well, which is it? Should you force yourself at your blogging, even when you don’t feel the inspiration, or wait patiently for the muse to visit, hopefully before you lose your readers through neglect? I’m curious to hear how you approach this question. After all, blogging is about content, right? If we can’t generate content on demand, what are our chances of being great bloggers?
As a professional writer, I’ve had plenty of time to consider the inspiration vs. obligation (or creativity vs. productivity) question, and I think the best answer revolves around self-awareness.
When I began writing, I’d only write when I felt the urge. Fortunately for me, that was a fairly continuous state, but for many bloggers, it’s not. This is particularly true for the beginning blogger who’s striving to build an inventory of great content, but after an initial flush of inspiration, finds themselves scratching for ideas, and creatively burnt out.
As you’re beginning, and getting a feel for either blogging itself, or your topic in particular, you might do well to try to write multiple posts at those times when inspiration strikes. If you’re feeling psyched about your topic, don’t spend three hours honing one post: spend it drafting five posts. Then, on the days when you’re not feeling so creative, spend your time honing and publishing that store of articles, tiding your blog and your readers over with consistently great content until the muse returns.
This approach keeps you engaged with your blog and your topic—you’re working on new content every day—and can significantly boost your post quality, since you’re reviewing drafts with those fresh eyes that writers and editors are always talking about. It also keeps readers engaged, and returning.
If you can consciously tune in to your inspiration, you’ll come to know what it feels like, and understand the capabilities that come with different degrees of inspiration. Will you get three posts from today’s inspiration, or ten?
This approach really comes into its own as your blog becomes a longer term project.
If you’ve monetized your blog, or established a strong following, you may well find that you have more of an investment in it—and in producing great content for it. Without content, your income will drop, and your audience will be disappointed. Suddenly, writing when the mood takes you won’t seem like such a viable proposition any more. And with that thought comes a new kind of pressure.
Many bloggers struggle at this point, because posting becomes a monetized task—it becomes work, and an obligation—and the sense of creative fun that writing used to hold suddenly seems to disappear. But if you’ve taken the beginners’ approach I outlined above, you’ll have a strong chance of getting through this phase, to reach a point where you can produce a reliable stream of quality content on demand.
You’ve spent your first months or years of blogging learning what the creative urge feels like, and what it makes you capable of. You’ve also been developing your creative muscle and learning the techniques and skills that make your writing great.
So you have a rich store of experience, knowledge, and inspiration to fall back on. You also know what you’re capable of, creatively speaking.
When you sit down at your desk to write, you’ll know if you’ve got zero articles in you, or twenty. You’ll be able to manage the ebbs and flows of your creativity. Most importantly, though, you’ll be able to rely on your knowledge and skill—rather than heaven-sent inspiration alone—to produce excellent content.
You’ll know that all you need is that 1% inspiration to kick you off. After that, the work of writing the post is all perspiration: technique, concept, and skill.
Do I write my best work when I’m inspired? Who knows? Over time, the idea of “creative inspiration” has become immaterial. I just write. I know when I have a wild rush of ideas, and I know when my mind seems more suited to the more predictable work of editing and polishing my content. But through the process I outlined here, the magical, mystical quality of “inspiration” has been replaced by the more sustaining notion of reliable output—output being, by its very nature, creative.
How do you manage the balance between inspiration and obligation when it comes to creating content for your blog?