“How do you always find stuff to keep writing about?”
That question came through in one of our many email exchanges with my grandma. She’s 94-years-old and still challenges me in a good way. She’s always logging her walking miles on Strava and I never seem to be able to beat her distance. Her social calendar rivals mine and my friends – combined. And, she’s one of my most loyal readers even though she doesn’t have a use for what I sell.
I adore her for that. How can you not?
This question in particular rang heavy on my ears – not because it’s a hard one to answer but because it’s one I hear a lot.
I can’t do content marketing! I’m too busy and don’t know what to say.
I don’t know what to write about! No one will want to hear from me.
I could never keep up with a publishing calendar! I’m already overwhelmed.
The excuses are endless. I know because I’ve made them too.
I’m finishing up a course I bought to kickstart my 2016. It’s called the 20 Minute Plan Jumpstart by Chris Brogan (that’s not an affiliate link). In it, Chris teaches that everyone has 24 hours in one day. It’s not a surprising revelation but it is a good reminder that when we don’t prioritize our own business, it’s our own damn fault.
Content marketing is the same.
When you don’t prioritize your content marketing, it’s your fault. You can find the time to write. And you can find topics to write about. Here’s how I do it.
How I Write
I don’t follow conventional wisdom.
Standard online advice suggests having an editorial calendar will force you to write more often. You’ll already have the topic you want to blog about ready to go. All you need to do is spout off about it and hit publish. Easy, peasy.
Except it’s not all that simple.
Publishing calendars have never worked for me. I’m a creative. I need freedom to stretch my brain and find the neuropath in my brain that’s firing on all cylinders for the day (and if neuropath is the wrong term there, don’t tell me. I already know I’m not a brain surgeon).
Often times, having a set schedule doesn’t leave me feeling inspired. Still, I manage to make time to get posts published and read. Here’s how.
Step One: Keep a Notebook of Ideas
Ideas hit me when I least expect it. Usually it’s while driving. Sometimes it’s while I’m in the shower. Other times, it’s at 3 a.m. when I’m trying desperately to sleep but can’t because of some ridiculous nagging problem that won’t matter a week from now.
Blog post ideas don’t pop into my head on cue. I don’t know anyone who is that fortunate. So, I keep an idea notebook.
The notebook is simple. I use Evernote so I can always pick up my phone and quickly jot down the topic that just came to mind. Then, when I’m hiding behind my computer unsure of what to write about, I open it up and get inspired.
Step Two: Write.
The writing process begins more like a conversation than a doctoral dissertation.
While writing, I imagine you and I sitting at a coffee shop in Copenhagen (where I used to live). You’re across from me sipping from a giant cup filled to the brim with frothy caffeine. I’m envious of your Cappuccino, but for now I’m sipping hot chocolate topped with delicious whipped cream and cinnamon sprinkles.
We’re chatting about the topic at hand. In this case, you would’ve asked me moments earlier, “How do you find something to write about all the time? Do you have a publishing calendar you follow?”
The answer is no. I’d smile a little bit and then dive in quickly as to why. As I write, I imagine I’m telling this answer directly to you, my curious friend.
Step Three: Edit for SEO
Once I’ve spilled my thoughts out on digital paper, it’s time to edit.
While I edit, I think about a few things:
- Readability because if no one wants to read it, what good does it do me to publish the post?
- Semantics because today’s searchers are using their voice to conduct searches instead of their keyboard. The more I can align my post with what people are searching for, the more likely it is to get found.
- Keywords because keywords still matter. However, the way I go about finding my keywords for each post is more scientific than the way website owners did it two years ago. These days I need to find low-competitive keywords that I can compete with based on domain authority. If it sounds complicated, it is. It’s also profoundly valuable to helping boost my and my client’s rankings.
Step Four: Publish
When I’m done, I hit publish. Then, after a little bit of promotion on social media, I move on…
… because there’s always another interesting in-depth topic to write about and the next big idea isn’t left up to what’s coming up next on my publishing calendar. It’s what makes me feel jazzed in the writing moment so I can pour my heart into each post I write.
Have you tried keeping a publishing calendar for your website? Has it helped? Or have you nixed it too?