You’ll need a plan
In May 2018 I published every day on Medium (and my personal blog 2squarewriting.) I blogged about the results here.
Then Courtney Corboy reached out to ask, how did I choose what to write about? That sparked this post.
In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.
You must have a plan
As the picture shows, the plan did not survive intact, but I won the battle. That’s the only thing that matters. What to write depends on what kind of writer you are, and what you hope to achieve. When I did the same challenge last year, I had less time and energy. Simply finishing was the aim. This year I wanted to test out different content, and see how publishing in publications changed the results. I was confident I could finish, because I’d done it before.
Bullet journals and spreadsheets are great, but they don’t work for me. And that’s okay. Messy can work too.
You may have a theme that informs your posts, for example self development or parenting or living with an illness. You can find a niche within these umbrellas; single parenting, self development for retirees, or life with anxiety. Even so, you might run out of steam. The trick here is to write what interests you, seen through the lens of your theme. How does a single parent navigate dating? What does the latest political event mean for a person with anxiety?
Seen through your eyes
Everything has been said, over and over. There is no such thing as originality. But it hasn’t been said by you, with your unique experience and perspective.Especially when first blogging, there’s a lot to be said for using other writing as your springboard.
You can only find your voice by using it, and imitation is a great start. Even Picasso began by copying the great masters such as Rafael. The more you write, the better your skills. Let your personality come through. By sharing we create connection. What we are comfortable to share will vary by subject and individual. Readers want and appreciate honesty.
Catch your ideas before they escape
Whenever you have a question or an idea, capture it. You won’t remember it in five minutes or a day’s time. Notebooks are great, and lots of writers love their physical notebook and pen. The notes function on your phone is practical, and more importantly, usually at hand. Even if it’s just a title, grab it. One day when you’re out of ideas, you can look at notes and a few words can spark a whole piece.
But — what do you actually write about?
Ah yes, the original question. Anything at all. I please myself. I don’t have a huge following to service, and I want to gather people who like what I write. I write fiction and poetry, and I write about writing, and about life in general, sometimes as it pertains to writing.
But what I write is not just about me once I hit publish. So it must fill a need for someone else; inform, entertain, or problem solve. (Fiction can do all three, but that’s a post for another time.)
Look at the blogs of writers you admire, and see how they address their niche. Notice how their personalities come through, how much personal stuff they share. Think about where you’d like to be on the open — closed spectrum.
Keep your eyes open when you’re away from the screen. Turn the irritation of sitting in traffic into your thoughts on public transport, or electric cars, or how hard it is to meditate in real life.
Challenge yourself to come up with ideas every day. It gets easier with practice, like every skill.
It does not have to be big. Haikus are just seventeen syllables long, and usually fewer words. In this case the image I choose is very important, and must convey more than the words while complementing them.
My non fiction pieces are often short, from three hundred to a thousand words. I edit ruthlessly. That’s another skill I’ve improved upon.
You can re-use old content. Rewrite if needed, update facts, and you’re good to go. And edit!
- Gather your ideas together, at least 5–10 to prime the pump.
- Decide if you will have themes for days or weeks. I found this helpful, in my case poetry on weekends and short stories etc. on weekdays.
- Write out the days and dates in a list or chart, digital or analogue, whatever suits. If a month is too much, try two weeks.
- Pencil in the pieces you already have, scattered through the time period.
- Consider what you need to write to fill the gaps.
- Write something every day. Start drafts even if you can’t immediately finish. As little as 150 words daily adds up, and that has worked for me.
- Spend a few minutes thinking up new ideas. Write everything down without censoring.
- Try to be at least a couple of days ahead. This might mean writing more when you have more time. A buffer is a wondrous thing.
- But if you miss a day, don’t sweat it. It’s not life or death. Begin again the next day, catch up if you can.
- Write it, edit, let it go. Done is better than perfect.
- Concentrate on your goal and don’t worry (too much) about claps. You can only control what you do, not how it is received.
- When someone takes the time to comment, respond. This is what we all want; for our words to reach someone. Start a conversation and reciprocate. Give what you hope to get.
- Creativity is a remix. Ideas come from living, reading, and often from connecting with others, just like this piece. You just have to notice them.
- Write as though no-one will read it. In the beginning, that’s true for all of us. By the time they’re listening, you’ll have honed your craft and your voice. You’ll have something to say.
You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.