How I blog

I’ve had a couple of people this year express admiration at the frequency and quality of my blog posts. I know the quality isn’t always where I’d like it to be, but I appreciate their sentiment.

It occurred to me that I’ve been doing this a little more than 15 years now–I don’t remember anymore exactly when I started and that early material is long gone, but I know it was sometime in October 1999–and in the last couple of years I think I’ve finally come up with a method that works reasonably well.

Yes, I have my methods.

For many years I wrote the night before and post-dated it, whether I could schedule it to appear the next day or not. That’s a holdover from my college days when I wrote for newspapers. I generally write best in the evenings, and of course the newspaper appears the next day. It worked in college, so why wouldn’t it work now?

So, no matter when content arrives on the blog, more often than not I wrote it some evening.

Here’s my dirty little secret: I don’t write every day. Conventional wisdom says I should, but I don’t have time to write every single day due to all of the other stuff I have going on. So I do most of my writing during the weekends. My ideas come in bursts, and in a really good weekend I can crank out a month’s worth of usable material. It won’t all be completely ready to go after a single weekend necessarily, but it’ll be close, and the weekends like that really help during the times when I’m short on ideas. I’ll grab something from one of those bursts, finish it, and run it.

But my goal is to produce 4-5 days’ worth of posts in a weekend, then schedule them. When something happens during the week that I want to write about, I’ll write it, inject it into the lineup, and rearrange everything.

What runs when depends on timeliness and quality. If I have an opportunity to be timely, I take it. If I have five things in the hopper that I can run at any time, I’ll order them based on the quality. That gives me a chance to improve the quality of the lesser material, or write something that keeps pushing it off. Sometimes I’ll have something in the hopper for several weeks or even months before it finally runs. But when I’m short on time or ideas, at least I have something that can run.

And if I write something that’s better than anything that’s already scheduled, I’ll put it at the front of the line.

Sometimes I’ll get an idea and can’t finish it, either because I don’t have the time or the energy to finish it all the way. When that happens, I’ll write a draft and save it, then come back to it. I may come back later that day or I may come back in a year. If it’s a good idea, I’ll get back to it eventually. If I’m short on ideas and running low on reserves, I’ll look around for unfinished drafts to see if there’s anything promising there. Sometimes I find 500 words and sometimes I just find a title, but I’ve been able to pick up stuff in either state and turn it into something I was happy with.

Not all of them are usable though. Right now I have 235 posts in draft. Probably half are are unfinished backup copies of stuff that already ran. Perhaps half of what’s remaining never should be finished. Some of the other half is salvageable, and some of it is good stuff that’s just waiting for the right time.

I also backed down from feeling the need to post something every day. I took flack for not posting every single day early in my blogging days, but none of those guys are posting every day now either. Some of them aren’t blogging at all. In those early years I did try to post every day. Then for a few years I only posted a few times a month. More recently, I was able to keep up a pace of posting every day for a while, but I eventually cut back to five or six days a week. Posting five days a week with the occasional sixth is much more sustainable, and I find there’s little difference in traffic if I post five days a week instead of seven. Either is way better than posting only occasionally.

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