Some of my friends, what have started blogging, feel lost and see a vaccuum when they want to write something. They feel that they have something in mind, but they are unable to articulate it. This usually leads to disappointment and finally they give up on the blog. I ask them on what do they read, and they get a bit confused. Let me explain.
Reading oils the machinery
Blogging is one the practices that has the least amounts of musts and shoulds. So much so that calling it a practice is an overkill, it is more of a natural thing, like talking and walking. Blogging, like other modes of communication, helps you discuss your thoughts with others. That is why it cannot be forced upon and there is no value in artificial conversations. However, it is important to keep it regular, otherwise your thinking muscles might start getting stiff. The best way to keep it regular and natural is to build a well-oiled machinery by reading, and reading well.
I used to read before I started blogging, but it used to be difficult to put down my own thoughts. When I started blogging, I started with a handful set of core blogs and web sites. If you already do not have a list, there are many ways of building one. This set led me to discover more content I could read and more people who’s thoughts stimulated mine. This stimulation helped me build my own well-oiled machinery.
Build placeholders for your thoughts
I have developed a way of marking articles that I want to refer to later or follow up on. I use a tool called BasKet to quickly jot down my ideas or thoughts on other articles. One other technique I use is of saving draft posts in my blog. They are usually start empty other than the URLs I want to refer to, but they are work as good placeholders for the future posts. There are many more ways like bookmarking or using micro-blogging tools like Twitter/Jaiku/Pownce or Tumblr to build these placeholders.
Additionally, I try to find conversations rather than just one blog post or article. Tools like Talk Digger, Technorati or just searching in other blog search engines help. If I can add my input to it or even if I want to archive the conversation in my blog I write about it. A lot of times these posts build into multiple ones as the topic starts expanding.
I also blog my original thoughts. In spite of being original, I acknowledge that subsconsciously they have been influenced by people whom I have been reading. As Doc Searls says, we author each other. Surprisingly these original thoughts are the most difficult to remember. You usually think of something while driving or riding a bus, and by the time to step into your house or office you have already lost it. A timely note can help in such cases. There are mobiles, PDAs, notepads and for the ones like me who are not gadget freaks, there are handkerchiefs!
Reading also tells us something we do not learn anywhere else. It helps us understand what makes a good post or an article. It helps us identify flaws in our writing. Sometimes even a two-line blog post is more effective than a research article. Reading helps us build this effectiveness, or at least helps us realize what we lack. In a nutshell, reading improves our writing.
The key here is to keep reading, building your own thoughts about what you read, and just blog it. I do not think there is any better way to keep blogging natural and regular. Next time to ask yourself the question on what to write, check your reading shelf. You might find the answer there.
Abhijit Nadgouda is a software engineer who wants to use software to solve problems and contribute to the software development world. Blogging is the medium of his choice for developing and conveying his thoughts.