Do you have a blogging schedule? Or is blogging something you fit in and around other things?
Dan Poynter famously once said ‘If you wait for inspiration to write you’re not a writer, you’re a waiter.‘
A modern play on that might be something like…
“If you don’t have a blogging schedule, your not a blogger, you’re a wannabe writer”
Not such clever wording, but hopefully you get the point.
You cannot have one without the other. You cannot be a blogger without a blogging schedule.
In this article, gifted writer Nic Rowen explains the importance of a creating a blogging schedule along with the 5 steps you need to take to create a rock-solid blogging schedule of your own.
Why Create A Blogging Schedule?
Pledging to write a blog is the new “I’m going to start a diet after the holidays” of broken promises.
It’s something many of us aspire to, but ultimately fail to achieve.
Some people manage to post one or two blogs, only to fall off the wagon as soon as their schedules get busy or once they’ve used up the most obvious material.
Others fail to get started at all, constantly pushing their plans to start a blog into the hazy and distant realm of “sometime.”
So how do the successful bloggers out there do it?
Do they know some extraordinary secret about writing that you don’t?
Do they have more hours in the day than you do? Nope!
All that separates the would-be bloggers of the world from the successful authors is a plan, a schedule, and a bit of self discipline.
You can do the same.
Follow the five steps below to jump start your blog, and more importantly, keep it going once its started.
#1. Make a Plan
Skyscrapers don’t happen by accident, and neither do great blogs. You don’t just start hanging steel beams or writing posts while hopping for the best, you need to plan things out from the start!
First, ask yourself why you want to write a blog.
You might be surprised how many aspiring bloggers don’t really know when you poke them about it.
Do you want to write a blog to support your business?
Are you hoping to generate traffic, interest, and build your business’ reputation through a regular blog series?
Is this going to be a money-making endeavor?
Are you hoping to make a living by writing?
Or is your blog your side-project, something you’re personally interested in and hoping to grow into something more?
Knowing your goal will help direct what kind of articles you write, what kind of structure you’ll need, and who you’ll be writing for. It gives your blog shape and direction out of the gate.
Speaking of who you’ll be writing for, do you know your audience?
You might think this is easy, after all, if you’re writing about a specific industry or niche interest, your audience is fairly obvious, right?
Well, yes and no.
You might know the broad strokes, but the best blogs always have a laser focus. They don’t speak to a market, they speak to a person.
Create a mental image of the kind of person who will respond the most to your kind of content and always keep them in mind as you plan and write.
Blogs that read more like a direct conversation are far superior to loftily written blogs trying to appeal to as broad a base as possible.
Before you start off the races, take the time to outline a few ideas.
Spend 20 minutes brainstorming some potential article ideas.
They don’t have to be fully fleshed out, just one line, a leading title, or a general idea is fine.
Fill up a page or two with ideas and hang on to them – you’ll be glad a few weeks from now when you’re racking your brain for a topic and all it spits back is “file not found.”
Brainstorming early also helps identify potential problems. If you’re having trouble filling up a page or two of general ideas before you even start blogging, you need to stop and think about that.
A blog is a long-term commitment, ideally, you’ll be writing it for years to come. If the topics you want to cover are so thin that you’re not sure how to fill up the first month of editorial content, you need to go back to the drawing board.
#2. How often do you want to update your blog?
Decide how often you want to update your blog. You can only create a blogging schedule after you have decided how often you plan to write?
The key to a successful blog is consistency, a regular schedule of updates.
It doesn’t matter how great your blog posts are, if your update schedule roughly matches that of a lunar eclipse.
That said, if you’re just starting out, be careful how high you set your sights.
Many would-be bloggers burn themselves out by setting ridiculous expectations on themselves (“I’m going to write a 1500 word blog every day!” *heart attack*) which they inevitably won’t be able to achieve.
Once they miss the first day or two, they lose all motivation. Soon enough they’re not blogging at all.
At the same time, you don’t want to make a goal so flimsy that there are no stakes.
I promise to update my blog at least once every three months with a 400 word post” is not exactly the kind of motivational goal Hallmark would frame with a cute picture of a sail boat or windmill
I’ve always found that for beginners, one solid post a week is the pace you should strive for.
As for word count, there is no need to be slavishly devoted to an arbitrary number, but you should always be sure your blogs are long enough to be meaningful, while short enough to be interesting. 800-1600 words is a good ballpark. (A side note for those concerned with SEO – the longer the post, usually the better it ranks)
The important thing is to set a schedule and stick with it. You do need to be consistent and disciplined with your updates before anything else.
Once you start getting into the writing groove, you might find that one blog a week is too easy. Cool!
You can always bump that number up to jive with your ability and what you want to accomplish.
Just make sure you know how to walk before you try to run a marathon.
#3. Set a daily word goal for your blogging schedule
So now that you have a weekly blogging goal, how are you going to go about meeting it?
Are you just going to wait until Friday afternoon every week before cranking a post out under the wire like a collage undergrad who played one too many rounds of beer-pong the night before?
That’s not a recipe for success (just ask my old profs), so let’s find a more stable way of blogging.
I’ve found the absolute best way to stay honest is to stick to a daily writing goal. Don’t wait for the day you need to post to start writing, don’t save it all for the weekend or one particular night. Do a little every day and never stop.
Writing on a daily basis will help make blogging a regular part of your life.
When you’re busy with work, life, and everything else, it’s so easy to make blogging the sacrificial lamb. The first item to be cut whenever your schedule get’s crowded.
Writing to a word goal every day prevents that. Plus, the constant practice will make you a better writer than sporadically rushing off a post one day a week. There’s only one way to get to Carnegie Hall after all.
Set a daily word goal for yourself and stick to it five days a week, rain or shine.
Take the weekends off – even bloggers need to rest and recharge. If you feel like getting a little extra done that’s fine, but give yourself permission to rest like a human on your days off.
Your daily goal doesn’t have to be massive. In fact, I’d say that when you’re just starting, an overly ambitious goal is only going to do more harm than good. Think smaller. Think of something you can get done before hitting your morning commute, or during a dull lunch break.
300 words a day is all you need to get started. That’s it. Honestly, 300 words isn’t much. You can write 300 words by accident. 300 words can fall out of your pocket while you’re fishing for your keys.
If you sit down to write 300 words a day, you’ll hit that goal easily. No sweat. In fact, it will probably be too easy. Once you’re sat down and in the mood to write, you’ll likely be hard pressed to stop at just 300. But, that’s the beauty of it.
Writing may or may not be your salvation; it might or might not be your destiny. But that does not matter. What matters right now are the words, one after another. Find the next word. Write it down
~ Neil Gaiman
The idea isn’t to create a new mountain to climb everyday. The goal is just the kick in the rear you need to keep on track.
The good news is, if all you write is 300 words a day, five days a week, that’s still a nice crisp 1500 word blog at the end of every week.
If you write more, that’s all bonus.
You can increase your posting schedule, create more nuanced content, bump that goal up to 400 or 500 words a day, whatever you like.
The point is, your writing.
#4. Getting started and keeping that momentum
Getting started is the hardest part of almost any endeavor. So how do we jump start our blogging ambitions?
Well, if you have a steely resolve and ironclad willpower, you can just jump into it and make it happen. For the rest of us mere humans, we might need to employ a few psychological tricks to get us started down the right path.
For starters, unplug. You can’t write if you’re checking your twitter feed every five seconds or responding to texts. Turn off your notifications and close those distracting browser tabs.
If you have a serious case of “ooh, shiny!” syndrome and find yourself unable to stop checking on your email and all those hilarious cat videos, you might need to take extra steps.
There are a number of concentration apps out there that will prevent you from using other features for a certain period of time or until you meet a certain word goal.(essential if you are going to keep to your blogging schedule)
However, I still find one of the simplest techniques works best – just use a timer. Grab a regular old egg timer and set it to ten minutes or so. During that period, don’t do anything but write. That’s it, just ten minutes. We’re all capable of ten minutes of focused, dedicated work, right?
Can you hit your 300 word goal in ten uninterrupted, focused minutes? Great! Call it a day if you want or write more if you have a hot streak going. Ten minutes not quite enough time for you to make 300 words yet? That’s fine, go grab a coffee or stretch your legs for a minute or two and then reset the clock for another round.
The important thing is that you stick to it. Both in the immediate (“I will keep writing until I hit my word goal for the day”) and in the big picture.
It’s tragically easy to never start a thing. It’s easy to give up completely if you’re giving a half-heated or irregular effort. But, it’s hard to walk away from something you’ve been building for weeks, months, or even years.
This is exactly the technique Jerry Seinfeld used to build his comedy skills. Every year, he would buy one of those huge wall calendars with the entire year on it. And on each day where he put his nose to the grindstone and wrote new jokes (whether they were good or bad, whether they’d go in his act or in the dumpster), he’d mark off a day.
Once you’re looking at a long string of successes, it becomes more and more important that you “don’t break the chain.” A good streak becomes its own kind of motivation.
#5. Find a blogging schedule that works for you
Writing isn’t a science. While there are tips and tricks we can share to help us get started, writing is ultimately a very personal thing. So make sure you’re approaching it in a way that works for you.
If you find you’re dreading your daily word count, take a minute to figure out why that is.
Do you not enjoy the kind of content you’re creating? Does something feel forced or phony?
Course correct where you can and make sure you are writing on topics your comfortable with.
Find a time of day that works best for your creative juices. Plenty of writers swear by writing early in the morning. However, if you’ve always been a night owl (like myself), you may be more comfortable writing in the evening when things have settled down.
Find a place that works for you. Some people can write wherever they can lay down a keyboard or flip out a pad and pen. Others might find it difficult to write in the same space and on the same computer where they crush the rest of their work day (the temptation to check your email instead of buckling down can be overwhelming).
If possible, try writing in a different space. Whether it’s a coffee shop, a cozy nook in living room, or even just a different room in the office, find a spot where you feel comfortable and can concentrate on writing.
Every successful blogger needs to forge their own path, but the fundamentals of having a blogging schedule are the same.
Consistency and determination are the two most important elements for a great blog that achieves its goals. Figure out what you want to achieve, write a schedule that will support those goals, and stick to it, day after day, week after week.