The first topic I want to cover in this new series on Blog Struggles, discussing the trials and tribulations of blogging, is about the issue of finding content for your blog.
Finding content. I have a problem right off the top with that phrase. Blog content can be found anywhere, but saying you have to “find content” implies a hunt, investigation, and a lot of work. Why work so hard when the best source of content is in your head. I recommend you start with a shovel. A mental shovel to start digging for content on your blog from within, not without.
Dig Up Brain Cells
Dig into your brain. Explore your history, experiences, education, lessons learned and unlearned, the things you already know, and blog about them. Think about this. You don’t have to go very far, and you don’t have to work very hard, to get content from inside of your head.
By starting with the information, tips, ideas, and knowledge in your head, you create original content. Content unlike what others are offering as this comes from you, not someone else. Honest, sincere content will attract honest and sincere readers looking for the knowledge and insights you want to share.
This doesn’t mean you can’t include links to other resources, tips, or information, just start with the stories in your head and then add to them as you develop them.
I love blog posts that share experiences, lessons learned the hard way. Rarely do I ever just think “I need to write an article about tags in WordPress”. I run into a problem with tags in WordPress and struggle through the process of learning how to overcome the problem. This is what I share with my readers.
My popular article I Hate My Web Host came from three years of dealing with the web host from hell, and turned into a series of posts over months that asked and researched the key questions and features you need to consider when choosing a web host. One of the most consistently popular posts on this blog, What Do You Do When Someone Steals Your Content, came from my expertise, but more from my experiences learned over years of protecting and defending my writing and images against those who use it for their profit without permission.
Converting a Newsletter Into a Blog was inspired from a project I did with a business women’s association to convert their printed and emailed newsletter into a blog. When I took on the contract, I thought it would be as simple as following the newsletter format, turning columns into categories, and transferring content. It was a nightmare as the group took “print think” and had trouble converting it to “web think”, even to the point of titling all their blog posts for that month by the month and year – no text to tell which post contained what information. On print, this worked as the eye would scan down to the content, letting them know what the article contained. On the web, May 2007 looks like May 2007 and just May 2007, without any explanation until you actually open that post. Many were helped by the lessons I learned working with this group through this article series.
You have experienced much in order to get to this place and time. It doesn’t matter if you are twelve or sixty-four, you have experiences to share with others to help them learn how to do it better, faster, cleaner, and with class. Some of us have to fall on our own faces a few times before we get it right, but the smarter folks learn from those who have fallen before, so they don’t have to fall so many times.
Serendipity as Blog Content
It’s part of my work to hunt and find content for my blog posts and articles, but the best found content comes from serendipity. While searching for something, I run across something else that tickles my fancy. It gets me thinking, and triggers new thoughts and ideas.
Sometimes leaving the beaten path leads to adventures and treasures you would have never found if you stayed focused on your path. I didn’t start out writing online about web publishing, blogging, and WordPress. I was drawn into this, away from my well trod path.
Keep your mind open to all the possibilities. Stay focused, but if your instincts keep turning your feet down a different path, why not go with the flow instead of fighting the current. See what happens. It might lead to your blogging passion. And find some blog content along the way.
Tell The Stories of Others
Your story may be interesting, but often it is the lesson learned from the stories of others that is the most fascinating. The lessons and experiences of others can be used on your blog to make your point, to teach a lesson, and share a technique. I often call this the “Reader’s Digest Writing Method”, as the popular mini-magazine often features reprinted articles that start with stories from “real people” to introduce the subject, and then moves into the topic.
My article, Blogging About Disabilities, and other follow-up articles on how those with physical disabilities work and communicate on the web help web designers, developers, and typical bloggers understand that unless you take this good-sized population into account, you are missing out on valuable readers and restricting their access to your blog.
Over the years, I’ve introduced my readers to many different types, kinds, and groups of bloggers, including some fascinating individuals. I use their words and experiences to showcase their lessons, and then add my own.
Why not look around and find your mentors or examples of those blogging and working with your blog topic and industry. How can you use them to help tell their story, thus add to your blog content and improve your own story?
Let Blog Content Find You
Similar to serendipity, much of my blog content finds me. Does your blog content find you?
I don’t just sit there waiting for it to arrive and knock on my door. As an expert in my subject matter, people often contact me with story ideas and links to interesting articles on related subjects. These often inspire me to blog.
I monitor specific tagged and categorized content feeds on various social bookmarking and site submission services, thus literally bringing related content to my door through my feed reader.
I also use Google Alerts to get emailed news alerts based upon specific keywords, bringing all kinds of content ideas and suggestions to my email inbox.
Another source of post content ideas and inspiration comes from your readers and their comments. In When Your Comment Inspires Posts on the Blog Herald, I wrote about how a comment I left on another blog inspired that blogger to write a blog post, which inspired me to write about how comments often inspire blog posts.
Recently, I just finished a two month anniversary celebration with many guest bloggers who filled my blog with their fantastic ideas and energy. From them, ideas flooded my head, faster than I could write them all down.
Any time you get together with others, at meetups, conferences, regional meetings, or even with friends and family, or listen to the radio, watch television, read the paper or magazines, there is always plenty of blog post ideas floating around, just waiting for you to reach out and draw them in. Let them in.
Make Found Content Yours
If you do decide to go hunting for blog content instead of letting it find you, make it yours. Feature quotes, blockquotes, and tiny excerpts, but add to the content to make it your own words.
Continue the conversation. Add to the intent. Find meaning and perspective beyond the points the author made.
I love the idea of the Olympic Torch passing from hand to hand around the world as it travels to the next Olympics site, a symbol and metaphor of the many lives touched by the international Olympic Games. Many may imagine that it burns perpetually, but it needs more fuel all the time. You have to keep adding more or it will burn out. An unlit Olympic torch isn’t very inspiring.
Quoted and referenced blog content is just like the flame of the Olympic Torch. Without a continual source of fuel, it will burn out, so add your words to the flame to keep the subject alive.
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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network, and author of Blogging Tips, What Bloggers Won't Tell You About Blogging.