Four Quick Steps to a More Creative Blog

post-its
image courtesy of Krissy.Venosdale

These steps make up a non-negotiable practice you must implement if you’re serious about making your blog great. I learned/am still learning it the hard way, and I’d bet plenty of bloggers can relate.

1. Pause EVERYTHING to Record a Post Idea

YOU WILL NOT REMEMBER. Never, ever ever. If you don’t get it out of your head and into writing, the idea will be gone and will never return. It blows my mind how easily a “perfect” blog post topic can leave me. Accept the inconvenience and commit to interrupting anything and everything–your workout, a fancy dinner, a nice shower (write that shit down naked, I’m serious. It’s worth it.)…

I’m caught jotting down ideas in the weirdest of scenarios.

2. Use Your Phone

You can keep a notebook or something to physically write down your thoughts if you prefer, but using my phone is much easier for me–who doesn’t always have their phone on them? No one I want to be friends with, that’s who. If I have the time and patience, I’ll open the Google Drive app, and record my musings in my “Post Ideas” doc; otherwise, I just email it to myself.

I know a lot of bloggers rave about Evernote for collecting and organizing their notes, but I’ve yet to give it a try. I hear good things, though.

3. Keep it to Two Places, Max

Have designated “potential post topics” areas, and use them consistently and nothing else. If you’ve got post ideas on your phone, in your inbox, in a notebook, and on pieces of scrap paper on your desk, you’re going to lose your mind trying to keep track of it all.

I mentioned I use a Google doc–this is my master list of ideas, and it’s (sort of) organized by category. Ideally, I’d always stop to consider the best category and angle for a new topic, pull up my list, and record accordingly…but fuck that, you know? Emailing a messy bundle of thoughts to myself is much easier, and when I have time, I sort them out a little and transfer a slightly better version to the Post Ideas doc. (“Slightly” being the key word here. It’s way more important to be thorough with the details than to aim for something well-written, which brings us to…)

4. Leave No Detail Behind

Completely empty your brain of all thoughts associated with this idea you have. You’re not going to remember these either, I promise. You think you’ll look at the topic you wrote down and recall precisely how you wanted to present it and the points you wanted to make, but you’ll actually remember like a quarter of what you were originally planning. WRITE ALL OF IT DOWN, and don’t stop until you can think of nothing else related. Realize you can throw out any of the crap you’re recording later. It’s much better to have too much to work with than not enough.

***

Discuss

How do you ensure you never forget a post idea? What method(s) do you use to keep track of potential topics?

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Your thoughts?
  1. Chris says:

    You hit the nail on the head with point one up there. I don’t know how many times I have forgotten a GREAT idea because I didn’t record it. “I’ll remember” I tell myself…yeah, that didn’t work.

    I have tried to convince myself that perhaps the idea might not have been that great; perhaps I just believe it was great because I can’t remember it.

    I’ve decided that train of logic is rubbish. Even if it wasn’t a great idea, the stress of believing it was kills me.

    Therefore I personally use the following system (currently):

    I write everything on my Trifold Inbox
    I dump my inbox into Evernote, everyday

    I know you mentioned Evernote up there, but it really can be a great tool. I clip web pages, audio notes, pictures, sketches, outlines, etc… All of it becomes searchable and cloud accessible.

    Also, I am a shower thinker. I don’t know why, but I get the GREATEST ideas ever in the stupid shower. During college if I was having a hard time understanding some complex algorithm I would jump in the shower and BAM, instant epiphany. It became such a thing for me that my wife got me the following for my birthday:

    Crayola Bathtub Crayons

    Just write that thought/diagram/comic/whatever on the wall and then take a picture when you finish. Lather, rinse, repeat. (yeah, I totally just said that).

    • Chris says:

      So apparently the comment form doesn’t like lists. The above is a little less formatted than I had hoped, but I think the idea comes across. I also had a link to my “Trifold Inbox”, which should have directed you here:

      http://rekl.us/trifold

    • Cassie says:

      I totally tell myself any forgotten ideas must not have been worth remembering, too. Who knows how true it actually is?? Also, I’ve read it’s pretty common to have ideas in the shower. I think it has something to do with lack of other mental stimulation–there’s really not much to look at and the process is so routine that you can zone out…and then your mind wonders and brilliance ensues. I have considered the crayons before. Perhaps I need to consider them again, along with this process and these systems you’ve suggested…

      I’m equal parts scared and excited.

  2. Absolutely.

    I need to write everything down. We’ve worked together, you’ve seen my desk. Notepads, post it notes, whatever. If it’s not written down I will not remember it.

    It started years ago with me leaving messages on my answering machine, then emailing myself. Evernote is indispensable for me. Siri and Reminders are as well. Whether it’s take out the “trash when I get home” or “read more about password security” Future Mike will never do it unless Past Mike bugs him about it.

    Past/Future Mike is a thing. I leave myself notes all the time. Sometimes I curse Past Mike, but mostly, he knows how much of an idiot Future Mike is.

    Evernote is GREAT for blogging. I have several notes started for each blog as I mentioned on my Just Get Off of Your Ass post. Anywhere I am, if I have my computer, iPhone or iPad I can open up Evernote and write down a thought or two or bang out a few paragraphs. Every blog post that I have written in the last 3 years started in Evernote. Use it Cassie. You’ll love it.

    • Cassie says:

      “If it’s not written down I will not remember it.” Yep. Me too. You could also replace “remember” with “learn”–I have to write things out for them to make sense in my brain.

      So OK. I’m convinced. Will be giving Evernote a try…

  3. laurievarga says:

    All of these are golden. Of course, I STILL eff this up and neglect to write things down. I just did it two nights ago as I was drifting off to sleep. Hmmm, sleep or another hour of mental gymnastics? Tough decision for an insomniac.

    As for note taking; I didn’t like Evernote, it’s very complex and recently had major security issues. I’m a mnmlist so I find Notational Velocity and the Notes app on my iPhone to do the trick. I also use an actual notepad and pencil (yes, a pencil). That combo works for me plus I don’t like to have too much raw data online for security reasons.

    • Chris says:

      If you’re into Notational Velocity I can TOTALLY understand why you would think Evernote was complicated. I do like NV and I played with the fork nvALT for a while, but I really wanted something a little more robust and all encompassing. I take a lot of notes that include diagrams/pictures/sounds/etc… and that would be next to impossible with NV (OK, I guess I could create links to filesystem objects, but yuck). If your workflow is mostly text, NV can be a great solution.

      I also love using a paper and pen for getting ideas down quickly and then I just input them into Evernote during my daily review. As for security…yeah that is something I thought long and hard about. I understand the risks and implications, but at this point having my data accessible to me wherever I’m at far outweighs the potential risk in someone discovering that I’m collecting a bunch of recipes for Cuban food. That is a bit oversimplified and I recognize some professionals (i.e. doctors, lawyers, etc…) may have legal need of protecting information, but for me I don’t worry too much. Anything that requires security is encrypted and saved on my personal fileserver.

      Speaking of encryption, if you are worrying about having too much personal/raw data online then you should seriously consider using GPG/PGP to encrypt and sign your email (if you aren’t already). The IRS is currently making a move to establish email as a non-private form of communication. No expectation of privacy == no warrant required for requesting data from your email provider.

      • Cassie says:

        this is great info, Chris, thank you! This: “If your workflow is mostly text, NV can be a great solution.” is particularly helpful–my workflow is definitely mostly text.

    • Cassie says:

      insomniac–me, too. Def want to check out Notational Velocity now. “it’s very complex” re: Evernote was enough to scare me away. πŸ™‚

      • Chris says:

        Awesome! Grab Notational Velocity or the fork nvALT and get to work! I would definitely learn Markdown if you haven’t yet and get a text editor for your phone that supports Dropbox. I’ve heard good things about Byword for the iPhone.

  4. Alex says:

    I came up with some amazing lyrics a few months ago and am still regretting not writing them down straight away. I was only distracted for 10 seconds and the words were gone. I remember what they were about, but not the words, which were rhythmic and perfect to my inner ears… :/

    I think this is the perfect little guide. It’s all about discipline isn’t it? And not being afraid to seem rude if you need to write something down at an inopportune moment. If I’m about to go asleep and feel noting the idea down will be too disruptive I find doing something strange helps me remember the following morning. So I’ll turn my alarm clock upside down, or put a book on the floor, or something else. The same could apply in the shower.

    On the same theme if you were with someone and didn’t want to seem rude, you could move something to another pocket, or rip your clothes, or break a finger – depending how important an idea it seems. If you didn’t have a pen or a phone to note the idea down and it was a really good one you could slap the person you’re speaking to. They’d be really shocked and you could just say “oh, I had a good idea I needed to remember.” You’ll never forget it.

    Number 2 is probably the only reason I do usually keep my phone on me. πŸ˜› That and taking photos.

    I REALLY need to commit to number 3. I have years worth of paper scraps, notepads, Google Docs, e-mails, phone notes – all sorts, everywhere…I will fix it this year…

    • Cassie says:

      OH. I came up with the most clever couple of lines to add to my About page the other day–just brilliant–and I totally forgot them. I was SO SURE I wouldn’t forget, because I loved the way it flowed, and now they’re gone. I don’t ALWAYS take my own advice… πŸ˜›

      I do the “moving an object” thing, too! OMG! I always reason that by seeing it in a weird position or place, I’ll remember what I was thinking at that time–it almost always works! This is one of those times when I’m like, god, I love the internet. I get to meet people just as weird as me…

      LOL at slapping someone mid-convo. For real, NO ONE would forget that idea.

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