How I Blog: Topics, Structure, and Time

blogworthy CCBY break things

Students in my Adolescent Literature class are blogging on their own WordPress sites as a course requirement. Most of these students are new to blogging. I love to have students teach students whenever I can, so on Wednesday, my blogging rock star, Kelsey, gave us a tour of her blog, taught us how to do some cool stuff, and answered a lot of great questions my newbie bloggers had about blogging. She also did a really smart thing that I’m totally stealing for next week when I do a blogging demonstration in another of my classes: she had a draft of a blog post written, and she used that draft to demonstrate some different WordPress features and to show us how to add media and links and how to publicize a post on Twitter.

Topics

As Kelsey writes in Identity: Blogger, “You know you’re a blogger when you start thinking in blogs.”

Finding topics is something that comes with experience. Now I see blog topics everywhere. I probably have 4-6 ideas for blog posts after every class I teach (8 classes per week, you can do the math). I get ideas from Twitter, from other blogs I read, from professional development books, from my children, from observations when I’m out in the schools, from my students. My problem now is too many things I’d like to write about and not enough time.

Finding topics is something that comes with focus. When I first started blogging (on another platform), I didn’t have a focus. I blogged about everything–books, movies, tv, parenting, teaching, writing, cats. I was all over the place. For awhile, I thought I wanted to be a book blogger, but I struggle to articulate my thoughts about books I read. Reviews take FOREVER for me to write, and I don’t think they’re that interesting for readers. Then I decided I was going to write a parenting blog. But doing the parenting was hard enough: I didn’t want to relive it by writing about it. Also, people on the Internet are mean to moms who are frank about the parts of parenting that really suck. And I don’t like it when strangers are mean to me. When I decided to start a new blog that would be focused on teaching, learning, reading, and writing (with the occasional cat post), I found that focus I needed. 

Finding topics is something that comes with audience. At first, the only person reading my blog was my mom. Thanks, Mom! Now, I have a small group of teachers and students who read and comment on my blog. I think about what they might be interested in reading.

Finding topics is something that comes with intentional practice. Kelsey and I both carry our writer’s notebooks with us everywhere. When we stumble across an idea, we jot it down. My notebook is filled with glimmers of ideas and half-baked future posts. I actively seek questions or wonderings that might be turned into posts.

Structure

For me, blogging is like working out: either I’m doing it every day, or I’m not doing it at all. I wish I didn’t have to be all-or-nothing, but that’s just how I work best. Blogging works best for me when it’s a daily-ish habit.

Participating in a few weekly memes has been incredibly helpful to me as a blogger. I know that on Mondays, I’m writing a post about what I read over the past week. (Incidentally, I also make sure I finish some books each week so that I’ll have something to write about in my Monday post.) I know that on Saturday, I’m writing a Celebration post. Some Wednesdays, I join other bloggers in highlighting nonfiction picture books as part of the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge. Some Tuesdays, I join Slice of Life. Every Sunday, I do a Salon highlighting some of my online reading for the week.

Girlxoxo.com has an incredible resource for new book bloggers: The Master List of Book Blogging Memes. (As well as a lovely clear explanation of what a meme is. I’ve tried to explain about four times in class with absolutely zero success. Even I’m confused by the time I’m done.) There are more ideas for blog posts here than any book blogger could possibly write during a week. Note: memes are a terrific way to increase your audience and drive traffic to your site.

Time

I wish I had something reassuring to say here. “Oh don’t worry, it doesn’t take that long to write a post once you get into the habit of blogging.”

Actually it does. Blogging is incredibly time-consuming. 

write in my notebook a few times a week, collecting and beginning to develop ideas for posts. I try to have a few ideas for shorter posts in case I don’t have much time to write. Each post takes between 30 minutes and 2 hours to write, once I block out time to work on it. It would be nice to be able to write more quickly, but this is my process: I do a lot of thinking and gazing out into space as I’m writing. I also often start writing about one thing and realize I actually want to blog about something else. It’s not efficient. It’s not ideal. But it’s what works for me.

I have long teaching days this semester, so I try to block out time for blogging on days when I don’t have classes. I block out small chunks of time (1-2 hours) on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday to write. I try to write Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s posts in advance and schedule it for publication. 

Shelby asked Kelsey how she finds time to blog, and I loved her answer: “We make time for the things that are important to us.” Yep! (If you’re wondering why someone might want to commit to blogging, Kelsey has some smart answers in Why Blog?.)

Blogging is an important part of my thinking, learning, and teaching. When I first started blogging, it was hard to find time for it. I had good intentions but didn’t follow through. As blogging became more important to me, as I connected to other bloggers, as I developed an audience for my blog, it has become easier to find time for blogging because it’s now a priority.

I’d love to know more about how others manage their blogging.

Photo CC-BY break.things

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10 thoughts on “How I Blog: Topics, Structure, and Time

  1. Great post. Comprehensive and thoughtful. I appreciate your dedication. Funny, I just wrapped up a miniseries How to Succeed as a Blogger which many bloggers found helpful. Would love to know if anything hits home.

    Best,
    Diana

  2. I really enjoyed reading your post! I like the idea that you prewrite posts and schedule them to publish when you have your longer days of teaching, it is something that I will schedule on doing.

  3. I really appreciate you giving me the opportunity to come to class and talk about blogging. Hopefully everyone took something away from it. Also, thanks for taking the time to write this! I can always find something helpful in the blogs I follow. That’s why I take the time to read them. I love that you don’t sugar-coat the truth that blogging is time-consuming. It’s refreshing to know that it’s completely normal to spend an hour on one post.

  4. Pingback: It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 1/27/14 #imwayr | the dirigible plum

  5. Great post! I really like the structure you added–Mondays–what you’ve been reading, Saturdays–a celebrations, etc. How did you decide upon this structure, and when did you know it would work for you?

    • Thanks for your comment, Renee. It really helps me to plan out my blogging week and to produce more content if I have certain days bookmarked in advance for certain types of posts. It also makes writing posts in advance and scheduling them a little easier–though I don’t do that nearly as often as I intend to. I really like the blogging community that participates in the Monday reading meme and the Saturday celebration, and that’s a huge part of my motivation for blogging about those topics on those days. It’s a way to connect with other teachers and librarians whose work is valuable to me. I love your question about when did I know that structure would work, because I hadn’t thought about that before! I have definitely experimented with other weekly topics that just haven’t worked out–things I haven’t felt motivated to write about week after week. Again, I think the community aspect is key: I know that certain bloggers are going to read and comment on my Mon and Sat posts, and I do blog partially with those readers in mind. Every part of blogging got easier and more rewarding when I developed a regular readership!

  6. what a wonderful post. I only found my focus about 7 months ago. I had a blog before that I considered my “random musings” and it simply didn’t work. However, I’m still trying to work schedules for myself, decide if I want to include books that my daughters haven’t actually read, lists versus reviews etc. I’m going to bookmark this great post for future reference! I especially like the idea of carrying around a notebook and constantly jotting down ideas. My only problem is that my youngest is 3 and every time I start a notebook, she gets her hands on it and destroys it. But it is a great goal!

  7. This is a great post. I’ve been reading your blog for a while and always take away something. I, too, am an all or nothing blogger. I’ll go in a streak and then nothing for weeks. I need to have some kind of weekly structure like you do so I can develop more of a habit.

    And, I love Kelsey’s words that tell us we are real bloggers when we start thinking in blogs. I find myself constantly saying in my head, “Oh, I have to blog about that.” And, I write it down. 🙂

    • Thanks for commenting, Shari. Weekly structure means everything to me! I think I often fail to post on Thurs and Fri because I don’t have a particular weekly idea for those days–or rather, I allow myself not to designate those days for any particular type of post. I don’t like to be too meme-heavy on my blog, but memes really do help me stay consistent with blogging. Though I think that may be from community more than anything else. I know I have readers and commenters on my Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday posts!

  8. Pingback: 10 Tips for Bloggers: Finding Topics and Motivation | Get Outside Yourself: English @ CSC

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