Why Writing Great Content is the Most Important Part of Blogging

I'm not just interested in blogging, but also the art of running a successful small business.  I've got a passion for learning about personal finance, specifically how our conversations about money affect how much we earn. 

I'm a big fan of both Barbara Stanny and Money magazine, and I can't remember which one of them led me to a great blog I've just started following:  Get Rich Slowly

The author, JD Roth, gives sensible, practical advice on personal finance, wealth-building and debt elimination.  He's a terrific example of how bloggers can build a big audience and a huge, loyal following by publishing great content. 

Today, for example, he published an interview with author Scott Burns, who wrote "Spend 'Til the End: A Revolutionary Guide to Raising Your Living Standard [Today and When Your Retire]".  Burns says:

The task of a personal finance writer is to write things in an
non-intimidating way so that you can reach the broadest number of
people without degrading your content. If you insist on dumbing down —
the usual route used to degrade the content — and, that doesn’t work.
What we need is to be as lucid as humanly possible, have some amount of
levity so that people won’t feel that they’re being punished, and get
people to say, “Oh, money! This is another tool for adaptation! This is
another way that I can improve my life. This is another way that I can
escape having a life that consists of a long series of unpleasant
surprises.”

Love that last line.  Roth publishes original, useful and timeless content, which is exactly what you should be striving for as a blogger.  He's also got a nice, clean, straightforward site design that's easy to navigate and isn't overwhelming.  Roth seems to know that publishing great content is the most important part of running a great blog.  Obviously he's doing a lot right here – he's recently  been named "Most Inspiring Money Blog" by Money magazine.  Congrats, JD – and please keep up the great work! 

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Getting it Down on Paper

Staring at a blank page again?  I know the feeling.  Writer’s block can be crippling, and in the blog world – where there can be significant pressure to publish, publish, publish – the stakes seem high. 

One tip is to always keep a running list of blog post ideas, so that when it comes time to churn out this week’s post, you’re not scrambling around for an idea.  Chances are, as you move through your daily life, you come across lots of great blog post ideas.   Are you writing them down?  If not, is it because you don’t have some sort of mechanism for recording them? It sounds basic, but make sure you keep a small notebook with you to write these ideas down.  In her fantastic book on writing, Bird by Bird, author Anne Lamott says she always carries an index card and a pen with her.  And that means everywhere – in the grocery store, on nature walks, to the movies – everywhere. 

Once you’ve got an idea, Anne Lamott also advises starting with what she refers to as a “shitty first draft”.  Anne says, “All good writers write [shitty first drafts].  That’s how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts.” I’m a fan of this practice. Just write SOMETHING.  Write the first draft just to get the ideas from your head to the page, then clean it up later. 

Writing teacher and author Natalie Goldberg also uses what I refer to as the “ten minute write” rule.  She advises opening the page of your journal or document and writing non-stop for ten minutes.  Don’t edit, don’t cross things out, don’t clean it up, and for heaven’s sake, don’t listen to the little critic in your head that tells you that you actually haven’t got anything interesting to say.  Just write.  Keep the pen moving, whether literally or figuratively.  You can even set a timer if it helps. 

This is how it works for me – if I want to publish up a blog post, I go to my list of post ideas and pick one that sounds interesting.  I’ll open a new document in Word (I always write in Word first and save my posts on my hard drive so that I’ve got a back-up). 

Once I’m ready, I’ll look at the clock, note the time, then start writing.  I don’t stop for ten minutes.  At the end of the first ten, I might do another ten minutes if there’s more to say.  Or I’ll grab a book or a link or some other supporting information if I need it and add that in to my post.

Once I consider the first draft pretty much completed, then I’ll read the article again and clean it up.  Sentence structure and flow usually come for me at this stage.   Then I read it again for grammar, spelling, and punctuation.  For everyday blog posts, I usually don’t have an outside editor look at it, but if I did, I’d pass it off at this stage (my editor is Toby Rogers, a talented progressive blogger and editor extraordinaire).  Then I take one last look, save it, then post it to Typepad, who are the folks who make this blog possible.  Viola!  Shitty first draft to blog post in under one hour. 

Don’t be frightened by the process of writing – it can be enormously satisfying and lots of fun.  Remember that your readership wants relevant, interesting, enjoyable-to-read content, and you’ve got more ideas than you think up there in your head.  So grab one of your ideas, set the timer and get started.  Ding!

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