I kept “wishing” I was writing more, until something helped me get unstuck recently: figuring out an easy workflow. By knowing exactly how to get a blog post or a block of text from “not written” to published, it has helped me become way faster at getting things published.
I recently wrote this summary to help my colleagues at Domain7 write faster posts for the company blog, but thought it would be useful for a wider audience, too. Here’s what works for me, and I think it can work for you:
1) Brainstorm topics, and post it visibly
I sat down with a coffee for 30 minutes and brainstormed any topic I could think of. Projects I had worked on, problems I had solved, ideas I’ve been thinking of, trends I’ve been watching: anything that might fit our company blog. A messy, dirty mind-map. Then I chose my favourite 10 ideas, and I wrote those topics on a piece of paper I posted on the wall by my computer. I now I have a list of great topics from which I can glance up, pick a topic, and write.
2) Pick a calendar time
When will you write? I have a recurring calendar appointment that is reserved for me to write blog posts (Wednesday at 9 am). Once that timeslot is happening, I pick a topic off the list on my wall, set a timer, and go. It’s reserved, nobody else can book anything in that timeslot. And it gets done, usually far before the hour is up. Maybe yours can be once a month, once a week, or just a one-time deal to get that post done you’ve been dreaming of doing.
3) Set a timer (for 15 minutes)
I always overestimate the work it takes to write, but the hardest part is starting. I set a timer on my phone for 15 minutes, pick a topic from the wall, and write until my timer stops. Sometimes I’ll finish a whole post in that timespan, but if not, those first 15 minutes give me the momentum I need to keep galloping towards finish, and often I’ll just pretend I didn’t hear the timer and keep going.
4) Know what tool to use to write
Where do you write? And where do you store your notes and ideas? I use an amazing app called Scrivener. Maybe you use Evernote, Microsoft Word, Google Drive, Dropbox, Notational Velocity….whatever you use, just know where to go when it’s time to write. Don’t add extra friction by having to make the “tool” decision every time it’s writing time.
5) Optional: Get an editor
It’s not your job to edit your post. Your job is to create something out of nothing, which is hard enough. Stop stalling in the editing phase, and just dig out your great ideas. At Domain7, we have the amazing privilege of having an editor for our blog, which means the things WE write don’t have to be perfected by us. It honestly saved me so much time once I stopped over-editing. Just write the basic points, get it half-decent, and trust that Amanda will fix my poor grammar and bad ideas. She does. And it breaks the bottleneck of not-writing. When your roughest, baddest, dumbest-sounding first draft is done, send it to someone to edit. If you don’t have an editor, it’s okay. Call it a “first draft” and finish it later.
6) Optional: Go long form
The real reason I’m excited about this new workflow is not because it helps me write more blog posts. It’s because it helps me write long-form text, too. I am working on a full length non-fiction book, and I’m structuring my writing bursts in this same way. I’ve got an outline or list of topics I’ve brainstormed, which I keep in Scrivener. My writing block for my book is on Tuesdays. When it’s time, I pick a topic and I go. When the timer’s done, I’m done. And I’m making more progress writing than ever.