It’s a little hard to believe, but today marks five years since I wrote my first blog post here at Zen & the Art of Legal Networking.
Since the traditional gift for a five year anniversary is wood, in honor of my five years of blogging, I made a donation to American Forests. The donation will allow American Forests to plant 25 trees in my name, which will result "in cleaner air and drinking water, restored habitat for wildlife and fish, and the removal of millions of tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere."
Also appropriately for today, I attended Kevin O’Keefe’s (@kevinokeefe) webinar on "Daily Habits for Highly-Effective Bloggers," for which I’ll be posting a recap early next week. Since that has me thinking about my own blogging habits, and because it’s our five year anniversary, I’m offering you my own five tips for effective blogging:
- Create an editorial calendar: I started with this one from HubSpot, and I can’t tell you what a difference it’s made in my blogging. I used to be one of those "do as I say, not as I do" bloggers who would recommend the calendar, but didn’t have one myself. But now that I do, I have a daily writing prompt, it’s encouraged me to think outside the box on a regular basis about what I want to write and where I draw inspiration from, and it motivates me to write daily, which I struggled with last year.
Rather than wait for inspiration to strike, or a block of time that you have free to write (is there such a thing?), give yourself assignments. It makes a HUGE difference.
- Look outside your industry/expertise: While I draw great inspiration from the smart people I know in legal marketing and the legal industry, it can often be very limiting to focus just on the things and people I know. When I step outside of legal and look at what other industries and companies are doing, and then figure out how that translates to what we’re doing, it makes me a better marketer and sparks my creativity as a blogger.
Take a look at current events and what’s popular to see how it might impact companies in your area of the law, or what lessons people can learn from some new idea or topic of conversation. We can all easily get sucked into writing the same thing over and over again, just using different words, and looking outside the industry can give us a fresh perspective (and on the plus side, it’s also different to what everyone else in your field is writing about).
- Read, read and read some more: Listening is key, and that’s part of what Kevin talked about in his webinar today. When I regularly read what other people are saying (both in and outside of the legal industry), I have the opportunity to recognize the trends – I see what is important to people, and where I might have some feedback. That’s how I got started blogging in the first place – I would read other blog posts and people’s comments on Twitter, and I realized that I had a lot to add to those conversations. A lot more than would fit in a blog comment. So I started writing my own posts, referencing and responding to others.
You can look for these kinds of "conversations" in articles, in blog posts, in facebook chats, around the watercooler, with your spouse – wherever they might appear. My blog would be very boring if I was trying to come up with something original (does such a thing exist?) and always talking only about myself.
- Figure out when your best blogging happens: This will be different for everyone – some people are at their best first thing in the morning, while others need a bit more coffee before they can get started. Some people will do better using a weekend morning to blog, while others prefer to write in the evening, and schedule their post to publish the following day. I’m a post-lunch kind of gal – I focus more on the immediate needs for my day in the morning, like email and updating our website, checking in on various projects we have going, and then after lunch, my brain is functional enough for the more esoteric conversations that come from my writing.
That schedule won’t work for everyone, but it’s what works for me, and because I’ve identified that, it makes it much easier to blog more regularly. If I tried to change that and force myself to write at another time of day, I might write less often, or not be able to get at the points I want to make. So look at when you’re most comfortable writing and make it part of your routine.
- Just write something: There are many (MANY) days when I have writer’s block. I’ll sit at my computer and either draw a total blank, or not be able to cohesively translate the thoughts in my head to words on the screen. At those times, walking away sometimes helps (or having another cup of coffee), but a lot of the time, I just need to write something. Anything. I’ll take an idea I’ve had for another day and start to write about it, or focus on the post I’m doing for the following day. The posts may make no sense at all, and then I have the choice to save them to review another day, or totally delete them.
More often than not, the act of just writing something will get my creative juices flowing, and then I’m able to write the post that I really wanted to in the first place. I had a bit of that today – I started out knowing that I wanted to write about my blogiversary, but also to write a post with some substantive information in it. I didn’t know what that substantive information would be at first, so I just focused on writing about the anniversary in the hopes that something would fire up in my brain – and it did. Five habits for bloggers for five years of blogging.
And at the worst, maybe nothing comes out of your writing for that day, but maybe you’ve unblocked yourself enough to write something amazing the following day. For me, sometimes just taking action is enough, whatever that action may be.
Those are the five tips for blogging that I have for you today! On Monday, I’ll bring you the recap of Kevin’s webinar, but in the meantime, add your own tips for blogging in the comments below!