How to write consistently

It’s tough to write consistently. Take a look at the amount of people who start blogs and abandon them after a few posts and you will see what I mean. What makes writing hard?

These are likely three common reasons that people find it hard to write.

1) They lack ideas.
2) They find it too time consuming.
3) They are self conscious of releasing something “bad”.

I think point number 1 is unlikely to be true. We all have plenty of ideas, but you may not have a habit of capturing those ideas. I’ll get into how I do that personally and maybe it will help you with your own idea brainstorming.

Point number 2 is a fairly common reason.

Computer check. Coffee check. Time to write...?

Computer check. Coffee check. Time to write…?

People start blogs. They spend plenty of time picking out a theme and perfecting their about pages. They have their first few blog posts lined up and perfected well in advance. A lot of friends are excited to read their new blog! They release their first posts to lots of praise. And then…

They realize that it takes a lot of effort to keep this up. Writing well is time-consuming. The initial scoping of the post to the numerous edits that follow (the most time-consuming portion) can easily take several hours for a simple 500-600 word post.

I have over 100 posts on this blog. It’s quite obvious which ones I spend more time on and subsequently which ones are higher quality. I would say less than half fit in that category. I am okay with that because I think it’s more important not to leave a post sitting as a draft for too long. I don’t think you should aim for perfection; you should aim to increase the overall quality of your blog by writing more.

This leads into the last point very well. I believe you have to write garbage before you can write well. It’s more akin to writing code. The first code you typically write is quite bad. Your goal should be to get a working solution, not to write a perfect first solution. Then you refactor. You review it. You refactor again. This is similar to writing. You write poorly to form the basis of the post. Then you edit and re-arrange until it’s “good”. You will notice that writing is actually more editing than writing.

If you’re looking for new ideas on how to approach writing, here is how I do it.

  1. I have an ongoing list that I revisit weekly to add new ideas and topics to consider. Regardless of your blog’s topic, I recommend regularly (read weekly) mind dumps. The ideas are not meant to be your finest ideas or even fully flushed out thoughts. It’s only a habit to help you think about writing topics.
  2. When I feel like writing, the first thing I will do is take a topic and mind dump about what I want to communicate. I write everything in point form without worrying about order, relevance or how it will fit together. I sometimes do this during step 1 if I have good ideas that I don’t want to lose. The key is to write it down! You may forget later! Bonus tip: Start from the end/main idea you are trying to communicate. This can help you shape the direction of your post.
  3. If I have time after mind dumping, I will start to write. I will follow my list and transform most of my point forms into sentences. I’m not concerned about great writing, how it all fits together or even proper tone. The goal is to get down on paper (or on the computer). Sometimes I start to see how the post will fit together better and will rearrange small parts on the fly.
  4. After step 3, I will usually take a break. I need a fresh mind to tackle step 5: editing. I will often revisit the post days, if not a week later.
  5. Coming back, I complete my first edit. My goal is to fix up the tone of the sentences and start rearranging sentences to create better flow.
  6. There is no magic number of times you should edit a piece, but I typically find that I will do 3-5 edits for a good post. When I don’t want to commit as much time, I may only edit once or twice. I will often take breaks between edits and come back on other days to see it with fresh eyes.
  7. After doing a full re-read and I’m happy with the message of the post, I will attempt to tidy up any final spelling and grammar issues before posting it. My posts here tend to be fairly conversational so I try to find a balance between formal and conversational. I think it’s more important to be happy with the message of the post than the finicky details that you can obsess over in writing (Refer to common reason number 3 above).
  8. Repeat on a regular basis! As you can see, this process can easily take me two weeks or more depending on how many breaks I take. It’s no wonder I only release posts a few times a month nowadays.

And that’s how I write!

How do you write?

What works for you? Can you share any tips with any fellow writers or readers to help get started?

P.S For demonstration purposes, this was a 1 edit post that I wrote during 2 train rides. Compare that to a post like “The long goodbye” which was a multi edit post.


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