For years, I’ve had a bunch of drafts sitting in my blog’s “draft box”, a list of posts at the top of my Write Post and Manage Posts panel that remind me of unfinished work. I’ve written reminders to you to clean out your post draft list once in a while, but I’m still as guilty of this procrastination as anyone.
It’s not just my drafts but my idea list that haunts my nights with the guilt of unfinished business. I have long lists of post title ideas and a few word summaries of things I thought of to blog about that were brilliant in the moment, but now, I have no idea what “WordPress Comes in Many Hat Colors” meant. It meant something at the time, and it’s a neat line, but what the heck does it mean now, three years later?
Still, I keep coming back to it, staring at that title on my list, thinking that one day the light bulbs will go off, trumpets will sound, and the brilliant reasoning behind such a title will flow into my brain and out my fingers. Until then, it’s blank, blank, blank, and I feel rather stupid.
Do you have this problem, too? I can’t be the only one.
As part of my ongoing series on Blog Struggles, discussing the hard work and challenges of blogging, I want to address this ode to procrastination that plagues all bloggers: ideas and drafts.
Making Your Notes Count
I’ve now stopped using the built-in WordPress draft feature unless I get stopped in the middle of editing a post before publishing. I was abusing it too much and the look of all those posts sitting there, staring at me, I couldn’t take it any more.
I write all my blog ideas down in my text editor, using techniques which I covered briefly in my series on converting a newsletter to a blog, introducing the text editor as a blogger’s best friend.
I store all my ideas in one text file per blog. Each one is divided by a row of equal signs (
= = = = = ). Using the search for the equal signs, I can move from idea to idea to find one ready to work on and publish.
I stopped writing cute or snazzy blog post titles, left over clues of inspiration. As my WordPress hat example shows, it doesn’t work. Instead, I write everything I can think of about the topic at that moment, good or bad, notes, outlines, or full thoughts. When I run out of steam, I review it, add a little more, and then round it off with a row of equal signs.
It’s not about writing the whole post. It’s about capturing the essence of the idea, preserving the thoughts, the motivation, and the concept I want to convey. I know I’ll clean it up later, but for now, the magic of the thoughts in the moment must be preserved before they are lost to time and memories unclaimed.
When I return to that idea, a day, month, or year later, I find more than a few words for my brain to puzzle over. Instead, I find whole thoughts and ideas on the points I want to cover. I can now put my energy into writing the piece and not wracking my brain for the reasons I wanted to write about this subject in the first place, which, at least for me, involves a lot of self flagellation (what were you thinking – this is dumb – you are so stupid – useless, totally useless).
Not all of the parts and pieces will stay, as now I may have a new perspective and angle on the article. This is just part of the process. I might totally change my mind and approach the subject from a totally different point of view. I might not. I may enlarge upon the subject more, or shrink it down to its essence. I might even decide that with time, this isn’t as important an issue to me or my readers as it once was, and delete the idea. But at least I know what it was that I wanted to write about. No more hunting through my cobwebbed brain.
Instead of creating a to do list of posts to write on an idea list, turn your idea list into a crafted list of thoughts and ideas, not keywords and brilliant titles that will be lost once the creative moment passes.
Most of all, be nice to yourself. Even if you come back to your notes on a story idea and they don’t make sense, leave it and return later to see if it still makes sense – and stop beating yourself up if it never does. It can sit there, fermenting, doing no one harm, and when the light bulbs of inspiration return, it’s still waiting there for you to dig in and turn the fertilizer into a garden of a blog post.
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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.