I frequently get questions about how I organize my blog post ideas and generate new content. I've hemmed and hawed over how to answer them because, although it's not a big trade secret, it's somewhat awkward to share. This is absolutely going to remove the mystery of how a post pops up every weekday at 5am.
I don't think I can say this enough - this is blog is a big part of my job. I have different expectations (on myself) and standards (for myself) than I would if this was just a place where I wrote for a hobby.
Six and a half years ago I started writing for fun. I had a voice, but I didn't yet have my footing for who I was or what I wanted from this space. The archives are quite random, but I keep them because I appreciate the record. I like many of them and I LOVE a few of them. I am thankful that back then I was practicing my writing and getting thoughts down. For no reason really. There was no grade. There was hardly an audience. I wrote because I loved it.
Today, I still write because I love it. I love it so much. I love talking the empty text box and filling it with words & photos. It's a honor to have this site and I work so hard on it.
But over the years, as blogging has become an aspect of my job (mostly as a vehicle to share other ventures), it's important to me to have a new post up every weekday. To make this more cohesive, and less of a jumbled, forced mess... I plan out the month on a large Stendig calendar that hangs on the wall by my computer.
I write all my post ideas on post-its and move them around throughout the month. I don't stick exactly to the calendar. New ideas pop up and have to be shared so things are always moving around. This is why the post-its work so well.
Because you can't read the big calendar in the photo, I've created a generic, sample month to show you in more detail how I break it all down.
Towards the end of each month, I start thinking about the next month. Some of the squares fill themselves in (that's the black handwriting). Sundays are covered with Project Life updates. Saturdays, I usually don't run a post. Fridays, I plan on "around here" posts as sort of catch-alls. In those posts, I share photos, links, and text about the past week & future weekend. If something else comes up (like a project I can't wait to share) I'll cut the "around here" post.
I do photo walk posts every other Monday. I can easily count on having four pizza posts a month, but those don't fall on a certain day and will often get pushed to the next month if something else (read : A Good Idea) comes along. This summer, I have been sharing garden updates towards the end of each month, so I schedule one of those in. I like to do one product focused "I LOVE _____" post each month to share fun stuff.
In this sample month, after I fill in the topics I can count on, I am left with nine days that need Original Ideas.
Where do I get those? From a few areas :
- Reader questions. Recently, I have been able to count on a question that can spark a blog post about once a month.
- 27 materials project. To stay on track and finish by my birthday, I have to create and share 2-3 projects each month. I sometimes have these planned ahead of time, but often I'll decide the project is lame or attempt it and have it fail. I have learned that the best projects are the ones I don't think about for too long so I don't do much advance scheduling for these.
- Various updates. Book reports, green skincare, goals... I could always do an update.
- Sharing stuff we actually do. Like vacations, hikes, weddings, the Chemex, dinners...whatever. These posts are 100x more fun to write when I take tons of rad photos - like Palm Springs.
- Personal* posts. Posts like the "currently" ones are always fun to share. Whenever something big is happening in our lives (moves, deployments, homecomings, etc.), I always have oodles to say. (I starred "personal" because truly everything here is personal. Even the craft projects & recipes because they are things I make to hang in our house or eat at our table.)
- Random strokes of inspiration. Last week, while driving to pick up Paul from work, I thought up a post idea that as I started to flush out, became a week-long feature. I'm excited to share it starting Monday.
And that's "it." It's about half science, half art. I have given up completely on guessing what's going to get a lot of comments or tweeted about or pinned or whatever. It's a horrible game that makes me feel like a dog chasing its tail. So instead, I just do what I like and share what I love. My blog absolutely goes through seasons where I am incredibly personal or incredibly crafty. After six years, I understand and respect the waves, and don't force either when it's not flowing.
I guess you could say that by placing an expectation on myself to post everyday I am "forcing" it. But I don't really look at it that way. Sure, some days I am not motivated to write. But that's totally normal. It would only become a concern if I went a few days or a week with no motivation. Because this is my job (not a hobby), I would have to take a hard look at what I am doing with this space and re-evaluate. My recommendation if you've lost interest in your blog (and you genuinely want to get back into it), is to do a complete re-shift. Take what you normally do on your blog and turn it upside down. Spend a month posting only photos. Spend a month taking a break and re-reading what you wrote in the beginning. Spend a month writing about objects in your house. Spend a month writing about childhood memories. Whatever - the point is to try something completely different. Don't keep posting on the same topics and expect to love writing again.
Sometimes I panic a bit over the future. I have created something that is the opposite of self-sufficient. Yes, I start each month with a framework of posts, but I still have to write & edit, take photos & process and obviously DO the stuff that I plan on sharing each month. Without the aid of guest posters or contributors, this is all on me. It will be interesting to see how things change as our family grows in the next few years. (That's not a hint - we're going to get Paul deployed and home safely again before a Baby Cripe crash lands into our lives.) But when the panic starts to set in, I remind myself that everything and everyone evolves. This space is no exception.
So far, that (and a stack of post-it notes) help keep me (relatively) sane.
Whenever I write about blogging, I get questions on how I make money from all this. I make very little money from the actual blog through sidebar advertisers and affiliate programs. But it fuels all other aspects of my job (like workshops & product sales) plus it serves as a sort of resume and job application that has led to other opportunities. You can read more about my job here.