Blogging

This Step Might Be More Important than Writing Time

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When newbie bloggers compare notes with more experienced bloggers, the issue of a blogger’s writing time often comes up.

How often do you spend on a blog post? I hear that question from time to time. But writing time is only part of the real picture when it comes to writing a blog post.

You see, I’ve been writing professionally — in one form or another — for 30 years. I spent some of that time writing promotional copy. I spent some of that time writing news stories. And for the last 17 years, while doing some of both of the above, I’ve been blogging as well.

Each represents a different writing discipline. What works for one style, after all, won’t necessarily work for the other.

Sure, you will find areas of overlap. For instance, my primary goal when I wrote promotional copy was promoting a news story. That meant my promo had to be journalistic. I couldn’t promise things the story couldn’t deliver. A wise old sage in the business once told me something I always kept in mind: News promotion is journalism first, advertising second.

But you don’t write a promo for a news story the same way you write the news story. Likewise, you don’t write the news story the same way you write the promo for the news story.

When you add the blogging element, well, there’s a third style. Blog posts can be opinion pieces, when news is not supposed to be opinion-based at all. Bloggers have license journalists don’t — and should never pretend they do.

I say all of this to point out that in the three decades I’ve been writing professionally — and a good deal of time spent writing before that — I’ve learned to pound out copy fairly quickly.

That “talent” didn’t come so much out of skill and brilliance. Frankly, it came out of necessity. We no longer have the luxury of time these days. We can’t spend eight hours writing a single story, or a single promo.

Even some bloggers will tell you they don’t necessarily have eight hours to devote to a single post.

Writing time gives you a false picture of my process.

If I had to nail down a specific amount of time I typically spend writing a post, I’d guess it was about an hour. In some cases, the actual writing may take me about two hours, although that time likely involves writing and then subsequent rewriting when I feel the post doesn’t meet the mark it set out to reach.

I post four days a week, down from what used to be daily posting.

If an average post takes me an hour, you can guess that I spend four hours a week on blogging.

But I can assure you that’s not the case.

Even if I don’t include the other functions of blogging, like reading and responding (where applicable) to comments; social media promotion and web maintenance, I spend more than four hours a week on this blog.

That’s why I have to explain an imaginary asterisk whenever I talk about blog writing time.

I spend far more time on a post before I type its first word.

I like to describe it as taking a recipe, mixing the ingredients in a pot and letting it simmer for a while.

When I come up with an idea for a post, it needs a good bit of time to simmer. At least, that’s the way I blog.

As I’m fond of pointing out, your mileage may vary.

If it takes me an hour to write a post, it may have taken two additional hours — or four — or even eight — of simmering time. I think of a blog post idea in terms of a Crockpot.

Have you ever prepared a beef stew in a slow cooker? When I do, I take the beef roast and place it in the bottom of the Crockpot. Then I add seasoning, soup and vegetables and turn it on slow cook.

This goes against my relative level of patience.

But the Crockpot is a brand name of slow cookers. Note the word slow. By cooking the food slowly — in my case, I let it cook overnight — the recipe winds up being great.

I like to think of a blog post in the same way.

By the time I sit down to type up the post, then edit and hopefully catch any errors, then re-read for clarity, the concept for the post has been slow-cooking for a good while.

Some don’t need to slow-cook for very long. Some might need to slow-cook for several days. While I’m doing other tasks, as I get a moment, in the back of my mind, I’m still pondering what I want to say and the point I want to make.

That way, when I actually start typing up the post, I’ve already been sorting out in my head the important points I want to make.

For me, I find this makes the empty white screen less intimidating. I already know how I’m going to open the post. I almost always know how I’m going to wrap up the post.

The process of typing it up, then, becomes an exercise in literally getting from Point A to Point B in a coherent way.

I even spend time pondering the graphics. In this case, I found you a nice Crockpot full of beef stew to add a bit of curb appeal to the blog post. I knew I wanted that type of image before I typed the first word.

There’s no single correct answer here.

I know many will find that answer frustrating. Too many newbie bloggers want a definitive answer for questions like this.

You might have come here hoping to find some grand secret about blog writing time that would increase your efficiency. You might have hoped that a single, easy answer, in units of time, would provide it.

I must apologize for any disappointment.

Blogging doesn’t work that way.

Every blog is different, just as every blogger is different.

But the best “grand secret” about blogging that I can provide — and one that I think will make a difference in how you write — involves the planning phase.

If you sit down and start writing a post without having thought anything out, you might be disappointed with the result. Even worse, that result might disappoint your readers.

I know I’ve posted things that were less than they could have been. I still kick myself for not dropping the frequency of posts sooner.

The point is, I finally reached that point.

I’m spending more time planning and less time writing.

I think that has helped me, and I hope you’ll find the notion helpful to your blogging efforts as well.

Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.