We’re sitting around the dinner table on a Tuesday night. The kids talk about their day at school. Charlie tells us what happened at work. And then I ask, “Anyone have an idea for my blog post tomorrow? Because I’ve got nothing.”
This is a pretty typical scene at my house.
I firmly believe that a key component of building a blog audience is consistent posting and I’m committed to sticking to a schedule of writing something here three times a week. The writing and photographing are time-consuming, but doable. It’s generating the ideas for posts that is the real stumbling block.
The internet is a fast paced thing, constantly in motion, ideas rapidly scrolling past. It’s awesome that yesterday’s post was well-received and generated an interesting discussion, but what about tomorrow? I need something for tomorrow.
When I’m scrambling like this inevitably what works for me is to stop and take notice of what I find interesting right now and write about that. What articles have a I read this week that stuck with me and what are people talking about online? What’s going on in my business right now? What am I struggling with? I’ve used this technique successfully so many time. Simply noticing what I’m interested in, what I’m thinking about, what I see happening at this moment, then writing about that is my most reliable source of new post ideas.
Here’s an example. Last year I heard a recurring complaint among designers I know. They were frustrated to see their work pinned on other people’s DIY pinboards. The complaint when like this: “This is my original design and handwork. How dare other people post it on a board of DIY ideas for them to replicate in the future!” These complaints didn’t sit right with me and to figure out why, exactly, and I explored my own view in this post. Just by noticing what kinds of discussions were going on and thinking about my own take on the situation I was able to come up with a interesting post that generated a terrific discussion of its own.
There are other ways to come up with a steady stream of posts, of course. Creating a blog series like this one, or following a weekly theme like Tips Tuesday, or reviewing a book, or doing a round-up of tutorials, or creating a tutorial all work.
I wondered how other craft bloggers who post several times a week generate ideas so I got in touch with two and asked.
Heather Valentine is the author of the three-year-old blog, The Sewing Loft. Heather is a prolific blogger, posting new content fix or six times each week. Heather and I agree that a blog is like a hungry animal always waiting to be fed.
Let’s take quick look at some of the headlines on The Sewing Loft over the last three months to get a feel for what kinds of posts she’s writing. Her posts fall into three main categories: sewing techniques, project tutorials, and free pattern round-ups. Here are some of the sewing techniques:
- Binding Your Quilt with School Supplies
- Printing PDF Patterns at Home
- Dip Dyeing Fabric
- Fabric Painting Tips and Tricks
- How to Clean Your Sewing Machine
- To Starch or Not to Starch
- Pressing and Ironing – What’s the Difference
- Scissor Organization and Care Ideas
- Washi Tape as a Sewing Tool
- Pillow Piping Made Easy
For each post she’s selected one small topic to cover. The posts are micro in focus which makes them easier to write and easier to read. They’re tight and they’re useful!
Heather feels strongly that one of the best ways to find new post ideas is by listening. Listen to what people are talking about on Facebook and Twitter and in blog comments on other blogs with an ear toward answering their questions in your own posts.
Heather turns to her Facebook followers when she wants to listen for new post topics. “Ask them basic questions,” Heather advises. “What are you working on? What do you want to learn about? What is your most dreaded task? Really anything works and the answers might surprise you. This information is valuable insight into your audience and it can create the most awesome posts.”
“I also like to ask random questions,” Heather says, “like ‘What color thread is on your machine right now?’ I even shared my least favorite sewing project and it turned into a fantastic conversation jam-packed with ideas.”
Laura Howard is another prolific blogger. She posts on her blog, Bugs and Fishes five to six times a week. Her blog has a more journal-life feeling in which she documents her creative explorations and outings. “For these posts it’s less about brainstorming ideas and more working out what’s worth blogging about and how to make the things I want to share more interesting than just saying ‘here is a thing I am making’ over and over,” Laura says.
Laura said something else that I think is perhaps the most important element in keeping a blog going consistently over the long-term. “My blog can be a bit of a hotchpotch of different things, but I like having that variety and the freedom to blog about stuff as and when it suits me.”
Blogging is hard. It’s work, even when it’s fun, and that work never ends. A huge majority of people who begin blogging don’t continue. To make it work, your blog has to not only be great for your audience, it has to be great for you. It’s got to fulfill something in you. Creative expression, exploration, documentation, relationship building…something.
If you blog, what does it do for you? What role does it serve in your creative life? And any tips on generating post ideas?