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Friday, March 18, 2011

"Incredible" Me: How I Blog (More or Less) Every Day

Somebody who found out that I write a daily blog the other day said to me "That's incredible! How do you do it?"
Is he planning his next blog topic or thinking
about Michelle Ryan running in slow motion?
Maybe both.
Well the truth is, I kind of don't. I miss days (which I make up later), and not every entry is terribly prolific - sometimes it's just me sharing a video and making a few comments about it. Still, I suppose in a 31-day month, I do manage to come up with at least 31 separate blog entries - each with relatively fresh content - and I do have a few tricks up my sleeve that allow me to accomplish that.
First, a little history: I started this blog back in 2006, primarily as a way to promote theatre in Denver. Before long, two things happened: First, I started to be seen as a theatre critic which was really not my intention. I don't believe that an authentic and ethical critic can be actively involved in the field he's critiquing, and I definitely was. I didn't like my recommendations being regarded as reviews, so I mostly just abandoned them. Second, other people began to follow suit, which actually helped me to solve my first problem, and I was able to put my focus back on writing as an insider. A general disenchantment with the state of theatre (Exhibit A: Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark) and, in particular, the copycat nature of much (but not all, haters) of Denver theatre soon had me struggling with ways to come up with things to write. I've actually quit this blog twice, but not for very long. The latest relaunch was in a daily format covering a variety of topics.
So, that's Tip #1: Write about what interests you. If you find it interesting, you can make it sound interesting to other people. Also, it won't feel like as much of a chore to research and write. It's kind of a no-brainer, but it works. I write this blog as a hobby, and I really don't spend much time thinking about what I'm going to write tomorrow. Choosing topics that are interesting to me - movies, superheroes, theatre, wildlife conservation, charities, and music - make it easy for me to just sit down and start writing in just a few minutes. Obviously, my multiple-topic blog may not be practical for your particular blog, but I'll just bet that there are many different aspects of your topic that you may not have thought about yet. Have fun with it. I will say that my readership has increased significantly since I went to a daily format. It's a microwave world, my cherubs.
Okay, that's the one and only philosophical tip for content. Here are some nuts and bolts. If I'm stumped for a topic (and sometimes even if I'm not), these - in order - are the steps I take to find content:
Tip#2: Every day is somebody's birthday.
There are lots of places that like to post famous birthdays. The one I check first is also the most prosaic: Let's look at today, March 18th, for example. Born today are Dane Cook, Irene Cara, Vanessa Williams, Queen Latifah, Charlie Pride, F.W. DeClerk, Grover Cleveland, and John Updike, to name a few. Today is my Friday Film Buff topic, in which, I try to write about a great movie I've seen that maybe not everybody else has. Well, nothing jumped out at me there, so I looked at tomorrow's birthdays: aha! Wyatt Earp! Can I write about Wyatt Earp movies? Well, I did. I honestly had no idea that I was going to write about Hour of the Gun when I sat down to my computer, but there it is.  If I hadn't found anything on tomorrow's birthdays, I'd have gone one day further forward, and, if still nothing, I'd have gone to yesterday's birthdays before going to my next step.
Tip #3: Every day is an anniversary.
Something happened today in history. Somebody wrote a book. Somebody invented something. Somebody did something exceptionally bad or exceptionally good. I like to check out for additional inspiration. In addition to important days in history, there are sometimes birthdays that weren't listed on the other site. Between tips #2 and #3 you now have a list of people and events that you can probably find are related to your topic in some way. Never underestimate the power of the segue, and even if it's a stretch, you're not after a pulitzer here, you're trying to put some content up for your readers. When you're stuck, staring at your computer and trying to be brilliant will not accomplish that. Be pragmatic today. Be prolific tomorrow. (Okay. I snuck in a little more philosophy there.) Still stuck?
Tip #4: What ribbons are people wearing?
Every month is an awareness for something and usually for several somethings. March is Red Cross awareness month. It is also National Kidney month. A simple wikipedia search for any given month will show you most of the awareness events or you can go to Then check out for the best charities working toward those causes. Maybe you think that your blog has nothing to do with anything there. Maybe it doesn't. So? Mix it up. Go off-topic today, and as long as you're going to go off-topic, you might as well try to do some good in the world. Hey, you're stuck anyway, right? Now I know that some people like to call this "slactivism," but I think it's only so in the absence of action. (I hate that term, by the way.) Ralph Waldo Emerson said "The ancestor of every action is a thought." People cannot act on something that they don't know about, so let them know about it. Besides, it reminds people that there's a human being behind your blog. Afraid of being phony? Fine. then don't be phony. If you don't care about feeding starving people or finding a cure for cancer, then don't write about it. (Really? You don't care. Dude. That's harsh.)
Tip #5: Go back to the news
This presumes that you were aware of at least the top news stories before you even sat down to your computer, so now I'm suggesting that you go back and dig into the secondary news topics for more inspiration.
And that's it. I very seldom ever have to go beyond Tip #2 myself. (Birthdays are great. Everybody has one.)
I could throw out another tip, but it's philosophical.
Okay, here you go:
Tip #6: If the first five tips still don't have you inspired to write, maybe you just aren't supposed to write today.
Obviously, your heart's just not in it today. Don't agonize about it. If it happens a lot, well, maybe you need to analyze why you're writing a blog at all, but sometimes you just need to take a day off.
I won't profess to being a blogging expert by any means, but I do manage to pull it off, and that's how.


Prof. Jenn said...

That's how I do it, too (I mean not the birthday thing, but then I have one basic, albeit very wide topic for my blog). I have, however, heard that I need to be doing at least 2 posts per day to really be a good active blog.

I actually have a daily (what I call) News Feed; basically all the sites and blogs I follow myself--usually once I've "read the newspaper" in the morning I find some interesting things to write about.

The other thing I do is kind of what you do--I have a couple little "gimmicky" things I can do when I can't think of anything to write about: the Random Picture, Sketch, and Fight Clip Club.

I just wish my readers would comment more.

Brady Darnell said...

You know, I saw a blog post yesterday called "The 11 rules of blogging" and it was numbered 1-11. All 11 numbers were blank. (I don't recall who authored it, I'll have to look that up later.) The point was: there are no rules. Everybody has a different reason for writing a blog, a different target audience, and a different measure of "active" or "successful."
Honestly, my daily topics are kind of an experiment. Will I have some people who read every day? (I do.) Will I have people who only read the Friday Film Buff and nothing else the rest of the week? (I may.) Will I have people who check in once every two weeks and read the last weeks' entries? (I have a few of those.)
The answer to why I write a blog is "it keeps me sane." If the answer was "I'm selling a product" or "I'm promoting something" or "someone's paying me," I'd probably take a different approach.
In fact, I've got a couple of things coming up with the blog that will change the way I do things yet again. (Also an experiment.)
I just wanted to share some of my content-generating ideas.