The Top 5 Uncommon Timesavers for Bloggers/Writers (Plus: Video of Me Kissing a Hairy "Coo")

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Greetings from a jazz bar in Sardinia, Italy! If you’d like to see what I pack when I also hit cold weather like the pelting rain of Scotland — while still keeping it under 20 lbs. — check out my recent post on Gadling here.

The Monica grape wine here is excellent and a new taste for me. In the spirit of trying new things, I wanted to share a few tips for the would-be bloggers/writers out there (that’s you at some point). Here are five timesavers to save you grief and suffering:

1. Decide how you’re measuring success before writing a post. What’s your metric? Form follows function.

Is it Technorati rank? Then focus on crafting 1-2-sentence bolded sound bites in the text that encourage quoting. Quotes can be just as important as content. Alexa or other traffic rank? Focus on making the headline and how-to appeal to tech-oriented readers on Digg, Reddit, etc. Number of comments? Make the topic either controversial or universal and end with a question that asks for opinions (slightly more effective than asking for experiences).

2. Post less to be read more.

No matter how good your material is, too much of it can cause feed-overwhelm and unsubscribes. Based on input from close to a dozen top bloggers I’ve interviewed, it takes an average of three days for a new post to propagate well in the blogosphere. If you write too often, pushing down the previous post and its visibility, you decrease the reach of each post, run the risk of increasing unsubscribes, and create more work for yourself. Test posting 2-4 times per week — my preference is two — and don’t feel compelled to keep up with the frequency “you have to post three times before lunch” Joneses. Quality, not quantity, is what spreads.

3. Define the lead and close, then fill it in.

This is a habit I picked up from John McPhee, a master of writing structure and recipient of the Pulitzer Prize. Decide on your first or last sentence/question/scene, then fill in the rest. If you can’t decide on the lead, start with the close and work backwards.

A good formula for the lead, which I learned from a Wired writer, is: first sentence or paragraph is a question or situation involving a specific person, potentially including a quote; second paragraph is the “nutgraph,” where you explain the trend or topic of the post, perhaps including a statistic, then close the paragraph explaining what you’ll teach (the “nut”) the reader if they finish the post.

4. Think in lists, even if the post isn’t a list.

Separate brainstorming (idea generation) from synthesis (putting it all into a flowing post). I generally note down 10-15 potential points for a post between 10-10:30am with a double espresso, select 4-5 I like and put them in a tentative order from 10:30-10:45am, then I’ll let them marinate until 12am-4am, when I’ll drink yerba mate tea, craft a few examples to match the points, then start composing. It’s important to identify your ideal circadian schedule and pre-writing warm-up for consistent and reliable results.

5. The best posts are often right in front of you… or the ones you avoid.

Fear is the enemy of creativity. If a good serious post just isn’t coming, consider trying the obvious or ridiculous. Obvious to you is often revelatory for someone else, so don’t think a “Basic Confused Terms of Blogging” or similar return to basics would insult your readers. Failing a post on something you take for granted, go for lighthearted. Is this self-indulgent? So what if it is? It might just give your readers the respite from serious thinking they secretly crave. If not, it will at least give them an excuse to comment and get engaged. Two weeks ago at 3am, I was anxious because the words just wouldn’t flow for a ground-breaking post I wanted to finish. To relax, I took a 3-minute video of me doing a few pen tricks and uploaded it as a joke. What happened? It promptly hit the Digg frontpage the next morning and was viewed by more than 120,000 people within 24 hours. Don’t take yourself too seriously, and don’t cater to readers who have no sense of humor. If blogging can’t be fun at least some of the time, it isn’t worth doing.

[Originally posted late last week at Problogger.net]

If you didn’t like this post, perhaps you’ll like this video of me kissing a hairy “coo” in the Scottish highlands:

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Posted on: September 26, 2007.

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75 comments on “The Top 5 Uncommon Timesavers for Bloggers/Writers (Plus: Video of Me Kissing a Hairy "Coo")

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  2. I always feel like I am wasting time in the afternoon when feeling unproductive. I end up surfing more than working. But somehow Tim makes me feel better. I am going to try his approach.

    I always find that I am very productive in the morning. Have no intrest of working in the afternoon, and then productive again in the evening just before going to bed.

    I think we all have a natural work cycle or circadian schedule as he calls it. If we pay attention to it we can get far more done with more productive time.

    Thanks Tim

    Like

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  5. As a newbie blogger, I found your tips very insightful – thanks! Will take note. Wouldn’t mind if you experts took a sneak peak at my posts and commented!

    BTW Tim, loved the hairy coo..soooo cute!

    -Monica

    Like

  6. RE: SEO for blogs

    I have just started experimenting with this. So far, I’ve experienced the least amount of frustration in writing my articles first, and then picking out the naturally occuring keywords from the article. I put these into a WordTracker seed list, and see what comes up. I sort based on KEI, and then often am able to replace words and phrases in the article with my SEO results without disturbing the integrity of the article at all.

    I’ll probably have more to report in the upcoming months as I’ve just inadvertently landed a full-time writing gig for an architectural lighting design company. I wrote a sample piece depicting a chandelier as a seductive woman and it got me the job. I’ll be re-writing all of the firm’s existing web content to establish a single, sophisticated corporate voice. After that, I’ll be blogging and maintaining microsites, forums, etc. for them.

    After years of being self-employed as a yoga teacher and designer, we’ll see if they can keep me happy at 40 hours a week. I’m not thrilled to give up so much control in my life, but I’ll be apprenticing with an eCommerce expert on staff. So, it seems like a strategically sound choice for now. Plus, segueing into life as a writer isn’t such a bad thing, right Tim?

    ###

    Not a bad thing at all :) Thank you for your thoughtful posts — I’ve been noticing and appreciating them.

    All the best,

    Tim

    Like

  7. Oh, and I meant to recommend some island hopping for your next trip to Scotland if you didn’t have a chance in your recent travels. I especially recommend taking the ferry to the Isle of Harris. As you approach the island, the starkness of the landscape is striking. It almost resembles the moon (at least as I imagine it to be) because it is rocky and there is next to no vegetation. Supposedly, park swings are locked up on Sundays because the island community observes its religious beliefs so strictly. It makes me ponder the connection between landscape and social psychology/religious observances.

    BTW… Will you be speaking at any conferences before SXSW?

    ###

    Hi R,

    Thanks for the tips. I will be speaking before SXSW and more to come in a post next week :)

    Tim

    Like

  8. Tim – Great book – thank you. As an idea and suggestion, is there any chance your team might be able to compile all of the invaluable website address links to various resources mentioned throughout the book into 1 Adobe .pdf document for reader download? Thanks for the consideration.

    ###

    Hi Mike,

    The “Tools and Tricks” resources should be available on the reader-only section of the http://www.fourhourworkweek.com main site. Thanks!

    Tim

    Like

  9. see, I needed that. I struggled with my crazy blog all day today. The suggestions are very helpful – thank you.

    By the way, I just found your website – my brother suggested I check it out – and I feel like my brain is going to explode now.

    You are a very rare species indeed.

    Like

  10. Thanks Tim,
    Great post. I agree, sometimes my best hours are in the wee hours of the morning. Thanks for sharing your tips on creativity. I also am finding that listing information helps me when I begin to craft a post or write a column, book, etc. Peace,
    Roy

    Like

  11. Hey Tim!

    Brilliant and hilarious video of you and Hamish. When were you in Scotland? I just returned from Scotland myself and met Hamish too. Did you take MacBackpackers? I did and it was magnificent — including swimming in Loch Ness!! It’s owned and managed by true Scots, and it shows. I highly recommend it if you ever find yourself wanting to explore the Highlands again!

    Cheers,
    Matt

    Like