Breaking Blogging Down into Manageable (and Tasty) Chunks

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of co-presenting a session at PodCamp NH with my fellow NWHN blogger, Wendy Thomas. Our 45-minute talk was called Sanity-Saving Secrets of Seriously Prolific and Successful Blogging. We enjoyed sharing some of our best tips and tricks with such a hip and fun audience. (They loved all Wendy’s chicken stories, but then again, who doesn’t?)

The flurry of tweets during and immediately following our session was full of kind words and thanks, but one comment stuck in my head. @ellenrossano tweeted, “I like the way they are breaking blogging down into manageable chunks.”

As someone who writes for seven different blogs, blogging has become a way of life. But even for my fellow writers, the thought of having to craft and publish something worth reading on a regular and frequent basis can be the stuff of nightmares. When you look at a successful blog – one that’s all grown-up and chock full of juicy content – the discouraging little voice in your head starts to sound less like your inner critic (who should be smacked down immediately) and more like the voice of reason. It’s easy to become overwhelmed and just give up.

That’s why I was so tickled by Ellen’s comment. If we were helping the future bloggers in the room to feel less anxious, we’d done our job.

We broke blogging down into four parts using the metaphor of preparing a meal for a dinner party:

  1. Building Your Platform (Planning the Menu and the Invite List)
  2. Idea Generation & Organization (Ingredients and Tools)
  3. Creating Content (Preparing the Meal)
  4. Networking & Promotion (Sitting Down to Enjoy the Party)

Taking on each aspect of a blog this way makes it feel less like scaling a sheer cliff face and more like walking up stairs. Each of the four parts builds on the previous ones, creating a natural progression:

  1. Decide who you are and who you’re writing for
  2. Figure out what you’re going to write and how you’ll serve it up
  3. Create the content
  4. Share, promote, and discuss the content

When you look at it this way, it seems to make perfect sense, right?

The most important piece of blogging advice I give people is to remember that one size does not fit all. There are as many different ways to blog as there are bloggers. If you are considering starting a blog, don’t jump to any conclusions about how it “should” be done. Instead, spend some time considering each of the four elements above. Have fun with it. Color outside the lines. Throw out any assumptions – like having to post five times a week, or only writing posts of 600+ words. Your blog is not your boss. You are the creator. You get to decide which ingredients to use, how to season them, and what the finished dish will look like. You’re in charge of whose coming to the table and how you’ll engage them. Make your blog the celebration it should be – good food for thought among good friends – prepared and served your way.

What do you find the most daunting about starting or maintaining a blog?

For a buffet of blog posts relevant to our presentation, visit the PCNH2010 page at Suddenly Marketing.

Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who, among other things, works as a marketing strategist and copywriter. She helps creative entrepreneurs (artists, writers, idea people, and creative consultants) discover their “natural” marketing groove so they can build their business with passion, story, and connection. She also blogs. A lot. She is a mom, a singer, and a dreamer who believes in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Look her up on facebook or follow her on twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

8 thoughts on “Breaking Blogging Down into Manageable (and Tasty) Chunks

  1. Thanks for the mention in your blog!! That tweet was in response to a friend who tweeted from afar during the session – “Don’t they (your audience) just want awesome?” I could see his point, but it’s been such a struggle for me to “just do it.” I like your approach breaking things down into manageable pieces – I think anyone who blogs can use this advice.

    I also want to say thanks for preparing a real paper handout for everyone! Every person at our table commented positively about it. The resource link you prepared is awesome as well.

    Thanks again for all of the work you and Wendy put in to the session!

  2. @Ellen – Hello, again! :)
    Yes, the “tweeter from afar” was right – your audience does “just want awesome,” BUT in order for you to deliver it, you’ve got to find a process that works for you. I think it’s also fair to say that your audience may not know what “awesome” is until you show it to them … and that’s what gives you the flexibility to “play” with different ideas until you come up with your own definition of awesome … one that will resonate with the perfect reader you’ve defined for yourself.

    I’m so glad you found the handout and the resource page helpful. Wendy and I had a lot of fun going “old school” at a techy conference. ;)

    Thanks again for attending and participating.
    See you around Twitter!

  3. Jamie – a magnificent recap of the event. This post is a resource unto itself!

    @Ellen – to echo what Jamie has said, thanks for your great tweets and your enthusiasm for our presentation.

    The greatest of presentations is ultimately nothing without an audience that listens. :-)

  4. Here is my question/concern about blogging that I’d love to get input on. I’m primarily an essayist. So I already tend to write stuff in 500- 1,000 word chunks (unless it’s my history/memoir/cookbook/humor book I’m currently working on which is so unmanageable in every way it doesn’t factor into this post!).

    From a purely practical point of view, when I read blogs and/or contribute, as you all so kindly let me do last week, I think to myself, “this blog post is approximately the same length as something I’d send off to a magazine.” And then I think, “well why not submit it instead of blog it?”

    How do you who are regular bloggers think about that? I read a lot of what you and others write. I often think you should be publishing it somewhere and getting paid for it. Do you do that? Is the blog sort of a testing ground? Or do you use it to stir creative juices? I know some blogs do pay, but many don’t.


  5. @Wendy – Tks for being my partner in crime! ;)

    @Esther – Good question.
    In my experience, a blog is the hub of a writer’s “platform.” It isn’t so much a “testing ground” (though it can be at times) as a stage where you can put your brilliance out into the world. The goal is to attract your Right People as readers, fans, followers, “friends” so that you create a built-in audience for yourself.
    Having that audience will do a few things:
    * Help you shape and refine your work by providing real-time feedback in the form of comments and emails
    * Help you continue to spread word of your work through social sharing with their networks
    * Increase your credibility with publishers and editors

    The more time you spend in social media (including blogging), the more you’ll find that there isn’t usually an immediate ROI (return on investment). It’s not like you can immediately earn a regular paycheck from social media.

    BUT – and this is a BIG but – the dividends on your social investments can be huge. They are typically long-term investments and the pay out may come in non-monetary packages (like an introduction, an opportunity, or a little notariety), but they have big value, nonetheless.

    Does that help? Does it make you feel like blogging or like steering clear?

  6. Interesting. I think when I’m wearing my ‘columnist’ hat it makes less sense. I wrote it – and it was published and I had nothing else to say about it. My column was my version of a blog – just in a newspaper. If I picked up some regular gig at like a big blog (maybe like you do at BabyCenter?) then of course that would make total sense as well. But in some ways that’s much like writing a regular column for a paper – just it’s online.

    But, as I am starting the research portion of this crazy book, I could see having a blog that would do three things:

    1) Keep me honest – if I blog about working on research, or writing a few thousand words, I think I’d be more inclined to do it than to go do laundry (maybe).

    2) Generate pre-buzz like you talk about – that is get friends and family excited about my book idea, contribute ideas, and get the word out that it’s coming (someday).

    3) Give me a place to vent and deal with the stress of writing. So on a bad day I could blog about it, or as funny/quirky/weird things came about in the course of my research I could throw it out there. So sort of a glimpse into my writing process.

    It’s certainly food for thought . . . mulling, mulling . . .mulled cider? . . . mulling . . .

    Thanks for the thoughts!

  7. @Esther – Mmmmmm. Forget the blogging. Go for the mulled cider! ;)

    It is a different beast than journalism. That was actually one of the points Wendy made when we presented at PodCamp NH last weekend – if you’re a journalist, throw all that out the window when you come to blog.

    She and I will be putting together an Ebook as a follow-up to that session. I’ll be sure to let you know when it’s ready for download … I think it might put some structure around the possibilities and help you see what might work for you and what won’t.

    Either way, it’s bound to be some fun!

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