Kathy Sierra has often talked about the idea of Hi-Res learning. The idea being, as you learn more about a topic, you begin to see and notice things that people that are new to the topic, overlook. For example, if you are an architect, you notice the lines of a building, the characteristics that define the structure in certain ways. While all I notice are 4 walls and a roof.
And after almost 5 years, I think I could qualify myself as a ‘hi-res blogger’. But that’s often a problem for me, and the actual blogging process is much more difficult for me than it was when I started. The reason why is that I now KNOW what a good post and a good post title should look like. I know (usually) when a post I’ve written will be valuable to the reader, and when it might not be. So I am finding that the biggest problem I have in blogging isn’t writer’s block, it’s in writing posts that are ‘good enough’ and that I feel will be valuable to you guys. So often I get an idea for a post, but once I start fleshing out the post, I realize that I can’t make it worth your time, so I scrap it.
But I’m trying to get better about fighting through this and actually making drafts work, instead of abandoning them. Since some of you might be facing the same roadblocks, I decided to share what has worked for me.
1 – Put a new spin on an old idea. A couple of weeks ago I wrote this post on why Lady Gaga has fans, and you don’t. The post has gotten more RTs than any post I’ve ever written here, and it easily has the most views of any post I’ve written in the last month, and is in the Top 5 for all-time here. And I came THIS close to not publishing it. The actual ideas in that post are ones that I’ve written about several times. In fact, the first dozen or so posts I wrote for The Viral Garden back in early 2006 focused on the same concepts. I knew these were smart ideas, but when I blogged about them previously, they got a polite golf-clap of a response.
But by attaching the ultra-popular Lady Gaga to the ideas, and tying it into the rockstar metaphor of customers/fans, the idea took off. Gaga’s name in the title got people’s attention, and that got them to pay attention to the ideas. And I got more compliments on that post that any other in the last few weeks. So I guess another lesson here is, don’t give up on an idea whose time has come.
2 – Pull back the curtain. One of the things I love doing is sharing with you what I am learning here from my own blog. I do this because I think it has value for you, PLUS, it communicates the point that even experienced bloggers don’t have all the answers. This was exactly why I wanted to share the results of my one-day Twitter experiment with you, and then the results for the entire week. And yes, I get that a lot of bloggers don’t like to share their numbers. Look, I get that many bloggers have bigger numbers that I do. Who cares? What’s important to me is, can I share my numbers with YOU, and help you improve your own blogging efforts? If I think the answer is yes, I run with it.
3 – Let your readers bail you out. This is one of the best blogging lessons I ever learned. Often, I will have an idea for a post, and realize that I’m not confident enough in the issue to take a stand on either side. If this is the case, instead of scrapping the post till I can, I will try to post it and ask my readers what THEY think. Great way to let your readers claim ownership over the content of your blog AND their ideas are usually better than any you could have come up with. At least they are if your readers are as smart as you guys 😉
4 – Let a popular post breathe. Ideally, I would have a new post up every day from Monday through Friday. But that’s REALLY tough for me to do. And sometimes when Wednesday morning comes around (like today), and it’s 8 am and I am trying to get up a post for the day, I’ll notice something. That post from Tuesday has sparked a vibrant conversation and is still getting comments and RTs. So if I don’t have a great post idea for Wednesday, then wait till Thursday to post again, and do your best to keep the conversation flowing on that post from Wednesday.
5 – Sometimes you just have to post it. How often has this happened to you; The post you spend a week carefully crafting gets almost no response, but the post you pecked out in 5 mins after waking up at 3am from insomnia, THAT thing gets 30 comments. Sometimes we overthink this blogging stuff. I often do my best writing after midnight, and I think part of the reason why is I just let the words flow out and don’t worry so much about the ‘filters’ that they pass through. The chips fall where they may, and a lot of my best blogging work has come about this way.
But for you, which is your bigger problem; writer’s block, or not writing posts that are ‘good enough’ for your readers? For me, it’s the latter, I can get post ideas, but I often struggle to turn those ideas into something that I think has value for y’all.
Which is your bigger problem area?