“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