How does your website affect the story you’re telling? Maybe you’re a personal blogger, maybe you’re a creative entrepreneur. You did all the right things, followed every ten-step checklist on Pinterest for how to start a blog – self-hosted WordPress. Responsive theme. SEO plugins.
Check, check, check.
But when you sit down to write a post, it doesn’t come easy. You have an editorial calendar, you know your topic inside and out, and you schedule your blogging time rigorously. You’re doing everything right, right? Where are the words? How come you keep getting up to make another cup of tea or check your phone?
Last week I talked a little bit about the process that lead me to today’s TechnoSiren, and the goals behind the Pattern Library. Today I want to help you find a storytelling workflow that works for YOU.
I have a fancy camera, years of blogging experience, and a serious problem sitting still. I have an editorial calendar, weekly themes, an archive of kickass photos and quotes that I pair up for Pinning purposes, and yet if a blog post takes me longer than a half hour to write, that’s it. I’m done with it. It loses its luster and I’m off on another tangent.
How do I get into the flow?
1) Ambience – I get my candles lit, my hot cup of tea, and the movie I’ve seen ten thousand times so that it can’t distract me on in the background (or Enya. Shut up, I went to high school in the 90s, I love Enya. And hair wraps made with embroidery thread, Birkenstocks, and muslin sack shirts). My blogging time is now inextricably a part of my self-care routine, so I look forward to it instead of dreading it as a chore.
2) Smartphone – I’ve finally figured out that I need to be able to do as much from my phone as possible. Maybe not the actual writing of the blog post, but notes on topics I want to cover, DEFINITELY the photo part (my camera is gorgeous and made an excellent travel companion back before I had kids, but now I need a diaper bag over my shoulder, not a camera bag. I take all my photos with my phone), and as much of the social media stuff as possible. I still look at my phone too much when I’d rather be engaged with my kids, but it’s one step better than being locked in my office surfing Sherlock Tumblr blogs and feeling terrible guilt that I’m procrastinating during my precious childcare time.
Getting the low-hanging fruit out of the way with my smartphone makes me more focused at my desk.
3) The Theme – I mean the one you built your website with, not necessarily an editorial theme. If your theme is working against you when you try to quickly add content, you’re going to take that resistance and eventually let it pile up into a veritable obstacle. Don’t let your theme work against you. Find your pain points – are you trying to spice things up on individual posts and it just takes forever? Are you using a visual composer that gets in your way most of the time? Here’s a few tricks for getting around that:
A) Post by email – you can set this up with Jetpack or another plugin (it used be core functionality, but it’s been removed from core so, plugin it is!). This is really handy for starting drafts you can pick up later when you’re ready to publish a post. It’s also great for sending images as events happen.
B) Kill the visual composer – There are a lot of reasons that themes that use visual page builders are not ideal, but the biggest one is that they store a lot of data in your post with shortcodes. And those don’t translate when you want to update your theme later. Your posts are your content, and your content is your GOLD. Don’t let some theme dirty up your post data. Chris Lema talks about this and makes a few recommendations.
C) Importing your posts from social media – Shoemaker’s wives go barefoot, and sometimes web developers can be working for clients for years before they get their shit together and actually put their site up (cough). I was announcing completed themes on Pinterest and Facebook for a year while this site was just a coming soon page. And when I was ready to get rolling over here, all I had to do was import those posts from my Pinterest board to get a jumpstart on my content.
Are you a Pinning monster? Do you spend all day on Twitter or Facebook and feel like you have a comfy groove going there? Use that to your advantage! Those short tweets or status updates can be auto-posted to your WordPress blog and expanded into bigger posts later or just left as is, as a stream from all the activity you’re engaged in elsewhere.
It’s really easy when you’re just starting out to assume that you’ll learn the software and you’ll work with whatever constraints the software puts on you, but that’s not how WordPress was designed and you have way more power than that. Take a minute to ask yourself a few questions about how you really like to engage with the web, and know that you have the tools to design a blogging workflow that works around you, instead of the other way around.