If there is one thing I could recommend to most people, it’s daily blogging. I’ve been publishing daily on this blog for the last two months and it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made in 2018.
My mind is more active, I feel like I’m building towards something bigger every day, I’ve become a stronger, faster, more confident writer, and readership on this blog has broken records two months in a row. What’s more, through it all I’m starting to see the rough material for a book or two. As I’ve said before,
…small acts of deliberate creative work yield far better results than waiting for big wins.
Think of yourself like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. Living the same day over and over is tragically underrated.
A friend and reader I met in Reykjavik this year sent me a message today asking me for tips for how he can start blogging daily. I know first hand how difficult it can be. Most people fail in a few days or worse, never even start because they aren’t confident putting their writing out there.
Instead of answering it myself in this essay, I asked some friends who helped me get started blogging daily for their tips. They were kind enough to provide some excellent advice.
I once completed a daily blogging streak that lasted for 1,113 consecutive days. Before that, I was the kind of guy who mostly associated things like art, creativity, and entrepreneurship with feeling inspired. Writing as a daily discipline taught me how to manufacture my own inspiration. It liberated me from the illusion that I needed to be in some kind of heavenly or ecstatic state in order to do something I was passionate about. Instead of waiting around for positive emotions to whack me upside the head with inspiration, I learned how to channel every kind of mood along creative and constructive lines. If it’s truly possible to create an adventurous, inspiring, and fulfilling life, then that means you have to learn how to create even when your life doesn’t feel adventurous, inspiring, and fullfing. Daily blogging taught me exactly how to do that. And the best part is that this is a mindset and skill that transfers to every area of my life.
I think this is one of the most important statements about the creative process ever written. The paradox is that if you want to be able to write daily, you have to start writing daily. You need to learn, as T.K. writes, “to manufacture inspiration.” If you were waiting for some easy solution, there isn’t one. Just get excited and get started.
The thing I especially like about making blogging the daily commitment is that it’s public. Once you announce you’ll do it every day you can’t hide. Everyone can see whether you have.
I’ve had the same experience myself these past two months. If I let down myself I let down my readers. As Austin Kleon might say, show your work and you’ll get better results. Make it public and you’re far less likely to let up.
But what if you’re struggling to come up with ideas? Here’s my friend Chuck Grimmett, the CTO of Praxis, who blogs regularly on two sites and once blogged daily for over a year, on how to get ideas for blogging:
Take cues from daily life. Ideas are everywhere, but you need to train yourself to see them. Here is a list of questions that, if you answer them each day, will provide you with and endless well of content:
- What did I do today? (Anything that you can summarize, make a cheatsheet for, review, say something nice about, teach someone else about?)
- What did I learn today? (Write a short Today I Learned post!)
- Who did I meet today? What did I learn from them and how did they inspire me?
- What beautiful thing inspired me today? (Take photos with your phone throughout the day and revisit!)
- What did I encounter today that I have a unique perspective on? How can I explain my perspective to someone else?
- What did I find interesting or curious today? (Do some research and write about it. You probably aren’t the only one to find it interesting!)
- What did I read today? (Review it! Post a summary! Write a response!)
- What do I know that I can teach someone else today?
When you get ideas, make sure you capture them immediately. Ideas are fleeting. There is no shame in pausing a conversation or stepping to the side of the walkway to jot down an idea and a few bulletpoints. I keep mine on a dedicated Trello board that I always have quick access to. If you answer all 8 questions each day, you’ll probably have more ideas for posts than you have time to write. Save these ideas for a day when you are tired or busy and you’ll always have something to fall back on.
Chuck’s process is very similar to mine. I carry around a Moleskine journal which I use to outline posts whenever I have an idea. I also have lists in Google Docs, iPhone notes, Evernote, and even drafts on this blog with potential post ideas. The thing we’re never told in school is that the people who come up with the most ideas start by being idea collectors and by viewing everything around them as an opportunity for a remix.
T.K. Coleman also had some great thoughts to share with me on blogging ideas:
The best tip I can offer to someone who wants to write daily is this: if you want to create content, then make it a habit to consume content.
Ray Bradbury wrote “I have never had a dry spell in my life, mainly because I feed myself well, to the point of bursting.” Creativity needs fuel. Other people’s ideas are like matches that light a spark when you strike them against your own mind. Lots of people struggle to come up with ideas to write about precisely because they don’t have ideas they read about. The blank page is like a mirror that reflects back to you what your intellectual life looks like.
If you’re not reading, meditating, philosophizing, and playing around with new ideas, all of this will be made plain to you when you sit down to write. As the writer Jennifer Egan advised, “Read at the level at which you want to write.”
Something Chuck, Isaac, and T.K. share in common is the breadth and depth of their reading. I know few people who are more well read and who consistently consume so much good material.
Whenever I need ideas, I look through things that I’ve read recently or in the past for opportunities to remix something. My satirical essay Ayn Rand’s “A Christmas Carol,” for example, came out of another satirical piece I’d read. Nowadays it’s rare I sit down and think “what should I write about?” You’ve got to do this too if you want to blog daily. There’s just no way around it. Start with reading 25 pages a day. You’ll notice after a few days of blogging that you’re starting to develop an annoying habit of seeing new blogging opportunities in every page you read.
And one last word of encouragement: it does get easier. It might take you a few hours per post when you’re starting but by a few weeks in and beyond you’ll start pushing them out at a much faster pace, with more confidence, and at a higher level of quality.