My Blogging Boot Camp with CounterspaceBR is officially a month away, and I’ve been thinking about all of the different topics the Bootcamp will be covering. One of the topics promised is specific writing tips to help with search engine optimization (SEO).
I’ll save those tips for the Bootcamp itself, but I thought I would go ahead and share my writing tips today for a few reasons. One, this is a question I get asked a lot: How do you make time to write? Or sometimes even, how do you make time to blog?
Over the years, I’ve started to perfect my writing methods, so I’ll share what I know with you, today in hopes it will help any writer out there, whether you’re an aspiring blogger or a seasoned journalist.
When it comes to blogging, writing, or sometimes even just cleaning my bathroom, making it a priority is what works for me. This may mean putting it in the top spot on your planner or writing it on the mini-chalkboard on the fridge. If you work well off a reward-system, maybe you get that afternoon La Croix once you’ve written 250 words for the day. Whatever works!
The thing is, once you make writing a priority in your mind, and ultimately in your life, you won’t have to move things around to make it happen. For some people, it works to write at the same time each day. I had an English professor who told me she wrote every morning right upon waking, because she was closest to her dream state. Her books are very Southern and dreamy, so it fascinates me that she told me that.
Create a Comfy Writing Space
Even if you don’t have a home office, find a place you can easily access that’s comfy and conducive to writing. If it’s a table you have to set up every day, you’re not going to do it (I wouldn’t, anyway). This could be a chair and a TV tray, or maybe you have a desk with a full computer setup. Perhaps you just want to journal on your front porch. Stephen King famously wrote in his laundry room because it was the only place in his house he could go, close the door and get work done.
Don’t be afraid to make the space your own, even in small ways. I don’t have an office, but I do have a small desk with a comfortable chair and a pink lava lamp. Get a candle you love, or invest in some noise-cancelling headphones if needed. This should be a place far from distractions that’s easily accessible.
Take a Step Outside
The craft of writing, I’ve found, often doesn’t involve ACTUALLY writing. Writers hate to actually write — haven’t you heard? What I mean is, it’s really important to step away from writing sometimes and do some thinking. This might depend on what you’re actually writing, but you’re not going to be able to offer much insight if you’re always hunched over your computer.
Get outside, take a walk, tend to a plant, take a bath (without your phone). When I make an effort to get away from my electronics, I can let my brain wander a bit and that way, when I come back to my computer, I’ve worked out some of my thoughts and can write more clearly. So on a day when you feel like you can’t write, or can’t write much, do some “mind work”.
Keep Track of Your Ideas
I forget things in a second, so I’ve learned the hard way to always write things down, even if it’s not a fully-thought idea. If you’re out and about and think of something, jot it down in your phone or take a picture. Use these notes and photos to jog your memory the next time you’re in your writing space and you feel like you’ve got writer’s block.
If you start training your brain to always be thinking about possible writing ideas, you’ll be saving yourself some time when you actually sit down at the computer. Years ago, I had a coworker who was pretty great at improv. He told me he did lots of observing whenever he’d step into public, and then use his people-watching observations during improv shows. It seemed to do him really well!
Don’t Ask for Permission
It took me years of being a writer before I actually referred to myself that way, and certainly told other people I was a writer. Don’t wait. You’re a writer. Once you give yourself permission to be a writer, things will fall into place. It’s cheesy, but I’m a firm believer in putting things into the universe.
Keep this in mind, too, every time you sit down at your keyboard. It’s easy to get lost in the details or start to worry that what we’re doing isn’t good enough. Nah. Shake it off, and go for it. Do not ask for permission. You’re doing this for you and (insert your mission/goals here)! What keeps people from writing often isn’t the time or the place, it’s a mindset that they’re already not good enough. The answer is always no until you try.
I live and will die by the advice I got from an Indiana high school newspaper advisor: if you don’t make time to read well, how can you expect to write well?
Reading is crucial. It doesn’t have to be complicated books or Pulitzer Prize winners; it can even be a newspaper. But you need to read. Without realizing it, you’ll start to recognize writing patterns, sentence structure, proper dialogue… plus, it’s fun 🙂 If you’re looking for a good book about the craft, my recommendation is ALWAYS “On Writing” by Stephen King. I hear the audio version is fantastic, too.
Get Some Rest
I think people think writers stay up all night, coffee cups littering their desks, pencils stuck in their hair… this may be some writers, and I think I’ve been there before, but that’s certainly not the goal.
If you have to stay up, of course, go for it. But make sure you’re getting sleep. Quality writing and brainstorming is not going to come from a tired mind. I am a horrible sleeper, so I’ve invested in essential oils, teas and supplements over the years to help me get the rest I need.
Just Do It
When it comes down to it, you’ve got to just DO THE DAMN THING. As much as I would love to sit here and think these tips are revolutionary, I know the real trick is to just get right down to business. Saying this little mantra to myself has gotten me through all kinds of things, whether it be getting out of bed on a cold morning or walking through a doctor’s office to get a blood test.
Even if it’s just 15 minutes a day, just do it. Sometimes, I use a little kitchen timer and set it for 20 minutes to read on a busy day. If your days are anything like mine, it seems impossible to add another thing to your to-do list. But, it’s all about making the time for things like writing — things that are likely not paying all the bills or paving the future (not yet, anyway), but they’re important to you.
If you set the timer and you only get a few words out, that’s OK. Or heck, maybe find an app or a book that offers a daily writing prompt and just do one per day until you can skate all on your own. Just DO it.
I hope these tips helped! If you’ve got questions about the Blogging Bootcamp, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment or send me an email at Holly@thebitterlemon.com. If you don’t live in the Baton Rouge area, but are looking to brainstorm or for further writing help, you can always schedule a 45-minute creative session no matter where you live. Happy writing everyone!