Jul 312016
 

I ran across a marvelous list earlier this week that arrived by email. The list, 107+ Blog Post Ideas for a Rocket Start, was assembled by Helen Nesterenko to jump start blog posts when you’re having a tough time coming up with something to write. It’s an excellent list, really, but it occurred to me that you could take one of these 107+ ideas on the same topic and give it to five writers, and come up with five entirely different blog posts. What’s the difference? I think it comes down to your writing voice. In the end, you can’t really get a post started unless you know where you’re going, and that direction accompanies a clear writing voice.

Photo by Jason Taellious (https://www.flickr.com/photos/dreamsjung/5836430369) via: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Photo by Jason Taellious (https://www.flickr.com/photos/dreamsjung/5836430369) via: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

What in the world is a writing voice, you ask? It’s the way you tell a story, a story that only you can tell. You hear the story, and you know right away who is telling it. Paula Munier tells us in her book, Writing with Quiet Hands, that you can “Tell a story in your own strong and authentic voice, and you may win readers based on that voice alone.”

One of my fellow Blogging Business Artisans friends, Rose Clearfield, recently started a lifestyle blog at Rose Clearfield after years of writing about her jewelry creations at Randomcreative Art. Although she is an experienced professional writer, she took time off from blogging to regroup and generate a new blog. The result is a blog where you’ll clearly recognize that Rose writes about what stirs her—her love of southwestern Wisconsin, photography, cats, family and friends, and—once in a while—the jewelry she makes. The earmark of a writer who has discovered her writing voice is that the content is unique and authentic; it reflects who that person really is.

Red Gray Sneakers Jeans Through a Wooden Bridge - Fine Art Photo Print Home Wall Decor by Rose Clearfield on Etsy, https://www.etsy.com/listing/161239365/red-gray-sneakers-jeans-through-a-wooden

Red Gray Sneakers Jeans Through a Wooden Bridge – Fine Art Photo Print Home Wall Decor by Rose Clearfield on Etsy, https://www.etsy.com/listing/161239365/red-gray-sneakers-jeans-through-a-wooden

Finding your writing voice is not something that happens instantly. Often a blog that starts out as one thing ends up as something entirely different when the writer finds his or her voice. In Rose’s instance, she decided that an entirely new blog was in order, but other bloggers might re-title their blogs and shift their focus. Their blog reflects the inner transition that is taking place inside the writer. Whether you re-title your blog or start a new one that more accurately reflects who you are, how do you find your writing voice?

Photo by Mutiara Karina (https://www.flickr.com/photos/mutsmuts/4211019754) via: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

Photo by Mutiara Karina (https://www.flickr.com/photos/mutsmuts/4211019754) via: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

Jeni Elliott of The Blog Maven suggests, in Finding Your Blogging Voice, that you take five minutes to identify your real reader by writing a description of that person, and that you address your blog posts to this individual. Although I suspect my blog appeals to a wider audience than the “real reader” for whom I write, she is a woman somewhere in her mid-40s or older who is married with adult children, who has worked a variety of jobs inside or outside the home, but now has set aside time to explore her creative interests. She likes to read and write, works with her hands, attends craft fairs—and loves the process of learning. She is me, in other words–although we don’t necessarily have to practice the same crafts.

Photo by Robert Easton (https://www.flickr.com/photos/13968680@N07/3152762157) via: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

Photo by Robert Easton (https://www.flickr.com/photos/13968680@N07/3152762157) via: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

Discovering your writing voice can sometimes be scary because you may feel you have to bare your innermost thoughts. To a certain extent, it’s true that you open up your private world, when you blog, to complete strangers. But keep in mind that not every blog is a lifestyle blog or personal narrative. There are marketing blogs that dispense advice, DIY blogs that provide tutorials, travel blogs that extol the pros and cons of various venues, interior design blogs that highlight decorating styles and/or design skills, political blogs that likely have agendas, and the list goes on. Not every blog reveals family secrets—nor should it, I might add. Courtney Carpenter, in Learn How to Recover Your Voice When Writing, says it may be necessary for you to get comfortable with private writing before you broadcast your words through a book, a magazine article, a blog, or some other public platform. What comes immediately to mind for me is the advice my writing instructors recommended: keep a private journal, and write every day to find your voice.

This is a journal I made for a friend’s daughter several years ago.

In a best-case scenario, the tone of the writing, the focus of blog posts, and the uniqueness of the content align with each other best when the writer has a strong self-vision. Another Blogging Business Artisans writer whose writing reflects a clear blogging voice is Natasha Nunez of The Artisan Life. Her lifestyle blog reflects her creative interests—photography, the products she develops for her Etsy shop, reading, healthy eating, essential oils, yoga and island life. Every post is a pleasure to read—whether you’re a yoga wanna-be or not, crafter, creative photographer, island trekker, or playful cook. Whatever Natasha writes, you feel she is speaking directly to you. You connect with her, even if her interests and yours are not exactly alike. The moment you create that feeling in your reader, the moment you cause your reader to feel a personal connection with your content, you have succeeded in making your writing voice be heard.

Flamingo Wood Sign by Natasha Nunez of MermaidsWhispers on Etsy, https://www.etsy.com/listing/274769350/flamingo-wood-sign-flamingo-crossing

Flamingo Wood Sign by Natasha Nunez of MermaidsWhispers on Etsy, https://www.etsy.com/listing/274769350/flamingo-wood-sign-flamingo-crossing

One of the ways we learn to write, and in the process develop our voice, is by reading widely good writing from others. Jeff Goin, in 10 Steps to Finding Your Writing Voice, recommends you jot down five books, articles or blogs you like to read, describe what they share in common, what makes them unique, and why you enjoy them. This may give you some insight into what your voice might or could be like, since we tend to admire that which reflects our ultimate goal.

If you’re not sure where to begin reading, I recommend you sign up for Bloglovin’, a free aggregate reader service that allows you to follow blogs, then emails you lists of posts to explore, such as the screenshot shown below. For added convenience, you can install a Bloglovin’ app on your smart phone or tablet. Click here to download either the Apple or Google app.

Bloglovin' Email Screenshot

Bloglovin’ Email Screenshot

You can also discover excellent bloggers by reading the quarterly Somerset Studio magazine called Artful Blogging. This magazine is available in most local bookstores.

IMG_7516

To develop your blogging voice, or to rediscover it, below are several tips that will set you on the right path:

  1. Identify the reader for whom you’re writing, and write the post as if you’re speaking directly to that person.
  2. Keep a private journal, and write daily.
  3. Read other blogs to experience the diversity of blogging voices on the Web.
  4. List five blogs, books or articles that you enjoy, and describe what they share in common, what makes them unique, and why you admire them.
  5. Every blog has its own tone, tied to its content. Make sure you match your diction, syntax and punctuation to that content. For example, if you have a personal blog, don’t write formally, as if you’re delivering an academic paper.
  6. Read your post out loud. Does it sound the way you speak?

Writer Cris Freese, in Voice in Writing: Developing a Unique Writing Voice, summarizes best, I think, what discovering your writing voice is all about: “To set your voice free, set your words free.” Let your personality shine through your words so that no one can mistake your writing for anyone else’s. It takes time to develop your writing voice, but when that moment arrives, your blog post will write itself.

© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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Jan 232016
 

If you had told me, back in August when I started a full-time job, that my life would turn upside down, I wouldn’t have believed you.

“I’ll have time to blog,” I told myself. “After all, I’ve been working at home the equivalent of full-time—writing, crafting and volunteering.”

What I hadn’t counted on was how tired I would be at the end of the day, and how few hours would be left before bedtime for household tasks, socializing with my husband, and running my Etsy business.

My number one goal this year is to try to get back into some semblance of a blogging schedule, which means old strategies need to be reviewed, and new strategies may be in order. Time management is a topic I have discussed previously in these posts:

I must admit, however, that things look different when you’re on someone else’s clock for the better part of the day. After giving this some thought, here are three strategies that I think will work for anyone who wants to blog while working full-time away from home.

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Find your focus

When you have limited time to write, knowing ahead of time what your focus will be is invaluable. In her article, Tips for Creating Catchy Headlines, Lauren Hooker of Elle & Company suggests you direct your attention to the title of your post.

It’s helpful to have a goal in mind as you’re writing your post. Creating your headline first helps you set that goal and maintain your focus; it gives you a reference point and a purpose to work toward.”

If you’re stumped for ideas about a title for your post, Lauren includes a handy list of title-starters that will solve that issue:

  • How to (Desired Result)
  • (Number) Reasons __________
  • What Every __________ Should Know About __________
  • Why __________ is __________
  • (Number) Ways to Avoid __________
  • My (Adjective) Way for __________
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Save the leftovers

You’ve probably heard it said previously that people today want their information quickly in short bursts, which leads to a recommendation that you keep your blog posts short, with short being defined many different ways. On the other hand, according to Shelly Pringle in Blogging Best Practices: The Ideal Length for the Perfect Blog Post, “After a lot of research I eventually found the answer: longer content tends to rank higher in search engine results pages, attract more inbound links, get more social shares and convert better.” But in terms of the time you have to write versus the length of your blog post, it probably serves your purposes well to say what you have to say, and if you have a lot more to discuss about your topic, save it for another day and another post. Find another point of view, an angle you haven’t covered, or a connection to something else, and spin that into another post. You can even promise your readers a follow-up post in the near future, giving them something to anticipate. Your posts, especially if you have limited time to write, don’t need to be encyclopedic in length, breadth and depth.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Throw out the “buts”

When you lead a busy life, it’s altogether too easy to tell yourself you would write more, but you simply don’t have enough time. Very few people have the luxury of large chunks of time that they can devote to writing. In her book, Writer with a Day Job, Áine Greaney says that the word “but” signals what we cannot do. In other words, it’s negative thinking. She says you should instead challenge yourself with but’s opposite, the word “can.”

“Okay,” she writes, “what can you do? Can you write for 10 minutes every morning?”

I decided to accept Áine’s challenge by taking my laptop to work several days of the week to write this post. I usually have 10 to 20 minutes left after I eat lunch, and discovered you can write an amazing number of words if you allow yourself to focus on nothing but your writing, even if you only have a few minutes each day.

For the typical nine-to-fiver, Áine suggests you set objectives for yourself that are achievable, measurable, and clearly stated. For example, you might promise yourself that you will write a single blog post each week during your lunch hour. Even if you’re only writing for a few minutes each day, your post is getting longer and you’ll eventually finish it.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Blogging is tough to fit into your schedule even if you don’t work full-time at another job. Your life may simply be filled with many other demands. “The key,” according to How to find time to write while you work, “is letting go of the idea of a perfect, unblemished block of time for your writing and looking for new strategies that will give you 30 to 60 extra minutes per day.”

If you work full-time away from home, how do you fit blogging into your schedule?

© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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Jun 262015
 

Last month I wrote a post about How to re-discover your passion for blogging that helped some of my readers to generate posts for their blogs. It’s a topic worth revisiting, however, especially during the summer, when the sunshine beckons and motivation to write can flag. Even if you choose to spend your time indoors, it’s easy to become distracted by e-mail, an interesting book, a craft project, online shopping or surfing, or just a general feeling that you want to do something else. You can beat the summer blogging blues by checking out the blogging inspiration links below, reading about better blogging practices, and learning how to blog effectively despite the lack of a standard routine.

Blogging Inspiration

Looking for more topics or ideas for your blog beyond the ones provided in How to re-discover your passion for blogging? No problem! Check out the following additional sources of inspiration:

Image courtesy of jscreationzs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of jscreationzs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Better Blogging Practices

Robert Lee Brewer’s eight-part series on better blogging practices began on June 22nd and continues to the end of this month. Robert is the Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Community who writes for the online column There Are No Rules, blogs at Poetic Asides, and has a personal blog titled My Name is Not Bob. If this isn’t enough to pique your interest, his Writer’s Digest profile reads, “Robert Lee Brewer writes, reads, and makes babies.” So far this month, the better blogging series includes the following posts you’ll want to read:

Visit There Are No Rules for the remaining posts in this series.

Another site that provides links to building blocks of a good blog is CoSchedule, which tells its subscribers, “Each week, we strive to give you the Internet’s most actionable content marketing tips for writers, bloggers, and social media marketers.” Especially helpful is its post, How To Write A Blog Post: 5-Point Checklist To Rock The Perfect Post.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Blogging Without a Standard Routine

Is your blogging routine consistent? Do you have a routine? One practice that is useful for all types of bloggers is keeping a blogging planner and editorial calendar. I keep track of post ideas through a blogging planner, and then transfer tentative post titles via narrow sticky notes to an editorial calendar whose blocks are the same width as the notes. This allows me to change the date of the post, or to remove the post and substitute another. The blogging planner I use is from Productive Flourishing, designed by Charlie Gilkey. Each month he releases a new one for free, and you can get it by subscribing to the site. Visit Free Planners to download Charlie’s July Blog Post Planner and Blog Post Calendar, or whatever month of planners is shown, based on when you read this post.

You may find that the simpler the system is, the more likely you will be to use it. CoSchedule has some similar organizational tools in the form of an Ideas Worksheet and Calendar Worksheets that are uncomplicated and work well with a sticky note system. Visit Get Our Free Editorial Templates to download the Ideas Worksheet, Monthly Calendar Worksheet, and Annual Calendar Worksheet. You’ll need to enter your e-mail address, and CoSchedule will send you an e-book with the templates and instructions for how to use them.

What are some other strategies, besides a blogging planner and an editorial calendar, that you should keep in mind if you don’t have a standard routine for writing posts? In Tips for the Writer With No Routine, Erin Entrada Kelly points out, “Some of us are less organized, less tidy. As writers, we are as diverse as our stories.” She says that for her, she equates a rigid writing regimen with worry about the minutes that are ticking away, but when she has something to write (which is frequently), she simply dives in and gets the job done. Erin has some tips for writers who lack a standard routine:

  • Keep writing, even if all you are doing is mulling ideas over in your head. That means keeping your senses open, always being aware of what’s going on around you.
  • Always keep a notebook or journal on or near your person for when inspiration strikes.
  • If you’re not writing, read. The two activities are interrelated and feed each other.
  • Resist the urge to share your ideas with others before you’ve actually written them down. The best way to not write is to talk instead about your ideas.
  • Figure out what works best for you, and stick to it. For every rule that’s out there for how to write, there’s a good reason to break it.
Image courtesy of nuchylee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of nuchylee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When the weather is nice, do you find yourself avoiding your blog? How do you cope?

© 2015 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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