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blogging

blogging planning & productivity writing

How to write a blog post when you have almost no time

August 14, 2017

blog post

One of the challenges of blogging is keeping up the commitment over time. You need to be organised with your planning and also productive in actually getting the work done. I’ve certainly found it to be a challenge but one I get better at over time.

Today’s article is from content marketing expert, blogger and writer, Benjamin Brandall, and covers seven ways to get your blog posts written more efficiently and productively.

Seven tips to help you write a stellar blog post

Time is precious, and writing (especially when you’re starting out) can take a lot of it. If you’re juggling other responsibilities like a full-time job, family commitments, and capping it all off with keeping up a personal blog, the strain can quickly seem like too much.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

You don’t need to be an expert to write quickly, and you don’t need several hours to write your blog posts. I’ve learned seven tips in particular over the past two and a half years of blogging and guest posting that you can use to help you quickly write a stellar blog post, even when you don’t think you have the time to do it.

I’ll be covering why you need to:

  • Let everyone know when you’re writing
  • Make writing a part of your regular routine
  • Plan your points before writing
  • Write with tools that won’t distract you
  • Write in one sitting (when possible)
  • Have separate writing and editing times
  • Try using dictation software

Let’s get started.

blog post

Let everyone know when you’re writing

Writing a full blog post after a full day of work or family commitments can be daunting, especially if you don’t have a quiet place where you can work without distractions. Thankfully, if you let everyone know when you’d like to be left to your own devices, this can solve many of your problems.

In my two years of writing for various sites like TechCrunch, Fast Company, and (mostly) Process Street, I’ve learned that one of the worst things you can do is interrupt your workflow. To write anything quickly you need to be able to sit down and get into a flow of writing, and every time you stop to answer a family member’s question or have a quick chat you’ll have to waste time getting back up to speed.

It’s not always possible to completely stop people from distracting you from writing, but by letting them know when you’d like to be left to work you can take some of the pressure off your own mind.

Make writing part of your regular routine

Habits are incredibly powerful. By making something part of your daily routine you can take the effort out of starting it – eventually your body runs on autopilot. Not to mention the fact that even 15-20 minutes of something every day can quickly add up to hours of practice a week.

It might not be possible for you to write for an hour every day, and some days you might not have time to write at all. That’s fine.

Just make sure that you fit a regular writing slot into your current routine, whether that means writing for a half hour after work or after most of your household have gone to bed. Don’t go crazy and slot in writing to the point where you’re dropping from exhaustion, but instead go for a regular routine which you can settle into and easily replicate.

Practice makes perfect after all, and if you can fit a half hour or more of writing at least every two days you’ll be well on your way to writing fantastic posts in a flash.

Plan your points before writing

I used to absolutely despise planning my work before I wrote it. It seemed silly to me to plan out my ideas beforehand when my posts usually evolved as I wrote, and especially so to waste time planning when I could instead be making progress on the meat of the post.

Unfortunately for me, writing without a plan is the biggest way to get tangled up in your own train of thought and waste hours when it comes to editing your content.

If you want to be able to write a post quickly (or just to efficiently use whatever spare time you have), you need to be planning your posts before you actually write them. At the very least you should have a set of headings, sections, or topics you’re going to cover, the points you’re going to make, and some research to back those points up.

I know that seems like a lot of work, but all you’re doing is changing the order of how you write a post. You’re spending exactly the same amount of time researching your content as you would be without the plan, and while you’re writing for maybe an extra five or ten minutes before truly starting, you’ll save that time tenfold later on.

If you don’t plan, you’re handing your work up to the whims of your mood and environment. If you get distracted or have to stop writing before you’re finished, it’ll be incredibly difficult to find your train of thought again, which can leave your post reading in a very disjointed way.

The only way to solve this would be to heavily edit the post and rewrite at least a couple of paragraphs to segway into your new argument better.

Don’t waste that time. Spend five minutes or so jotting out a quick outline so that you have something to aim for when it comes to actually writing your content.

blog post

Write with tools that won’t distract you

It’s hard enough to stay focused on writing when you have everything going your way, so why let your writing tools be another thing to stop you?

We all write best in different ways, and above all else you should use the tool that suits you. Whether you’re a pen-and-paper person, write on a computer or tablet, or even dictate your work (more on that later), you should use whatever best encourages you to get into that all-important workflow.

However, if you haven’t already, I’d recommend trying Quip, Dropbox Paper, and Google Docs. These are the best productivity apps I know when it comes to writing, for the simple reason that they provide a way to write while limiting the distractions on your screen as much as possible.

Quip is the best writing app I’ve found for purely writing with minimal distractions. While it doesn’t quite match up to the other two in terms of sharing and collaborating, the app is boring to the point where the most interesting thing you can do is keep writing. With little to catch your eye (and even a full screen mode if your browser itself proves distracting), you’re free to pick up the pace.

Google Docs is like an online (and much more useful) version of Microsoft Word. Not only can you store all of your documents automatically in Google Drive (keeping your computer clear and letting you access them from any device with an internet connection), but you can easily share the document with anyone else who might need access.

So, if you have a proofreader, editor, or team that you want to work with, you can just send them a link to the document and then work on it together in real time.

Finally, Dropbox Paper is sort of a cross between the two. It’s got the shareability of Google Docs with the minimal design of Quip, even if it does both of these worse than the other two. Essentially, if you already have a Dropbox account then you can use Dropbox Paper to avoid any hassle with setting up a new cloud storage system.

Write in one sitting (when possible)

Now, I know that I said you should be planning out your posts in case you have to stop writing them part way through. That’s still true. However, there will be times when you have the time to sit down and write your entire post in one go, and you should absolutely aim to do that as often as possible.

Even if you plan everything out in full, there will still be a disconnect in the tone of your writing if you take a break halfway through. Meanwhile, if you write everything from start to finish in one sitting it will give you a much more coherent argument, and can even let you develop your points more fully as you go along.

I don’t mean that you have to write everything perfectly in one sitting or that you should double back on yourself or edit as you write. All of these practices will slow you down and ultimately force you to rush the later sections of your writing.

Instead, quickly check over your plan to make sure that you know where you’re aiming for and what points you’re going to make next, and then don’t stop writing until you have your first draft.

Don’t stop for spelling, grammar, or even formatting errors. All of these can be fixed in the edit. Focus solely on getting the initial writing done – you’ll find that you work much faster if you do this.

blog post

Have separate writing and editing times

Following on from the last point, you should never (and I mean never) edit your content before you’ve finished writing. It’s almost difficult to describe the full extent of the damage this can do to your writing productivity, but I’ll list off a few reasons quickly.

First, it stops you writing. Anything that stops you writing is taking time that you can be spending on getting further into your post. If you’d rather have extra time to focus on other things (spending time with family, promoting your blog, creating other content, etc) rather than stressing about fitting in an extra writing session for the same post, you need to just keep going.

Second, it takes you out of your writing workflow. I’ve mentioned this already, but anything that interrupts your workflow doesn’t just ruin your productivity by stopping you from writing. It takes around 25 minutes to get back to full speed after a distraction, meaning that even on can be devastating if you have a limited amount of time to work on your writing.

Third, writing and editing require completely different mindsets, meaning you’ll have to spend even more time adapting to the skills and style of thinking that the tasks require. This isn’t a problem if you only edit your work after writing the whole thing, but if you’re regularly flitting between the two then you’ll likely never work at your full speed.

Personally, I’d recommend separating your writing and editing into slots on completely different days if possible. That way you have a set barrier between your tasks to encourage you to stick to one or the other, and you also have a decent break between each session. This gives your mind time to process everything you’ve written (even subconsciously), which will make you more effective when it eventually comes time to edit.

Also, try setting up an editing checklist to run through to give yourself a consistent method. You’re spending a little time in the short term to set up the checklist in return for a massive payoff further down the line, as you won’t have to worry about forgetting a step or waste time worrying about what to do next.

Try using dictation software

So far I’ve given fairly standard advice – you may have even heard these points before in many different forms. However, one thing that many (myself) don’t consider is that you don’t have to type a single word in order to write a post. You don’t even need to have your hand free at all.

Instead, you can speak your post and let dictation software write it for you.

If you’re using a computer, both Mac and Windows have native dictation software which you can use to both navigate your computer and type directly into apps. The problem, however, is that these aren’t accurate or responsive enough to warrant using them for long-form writing (you’ll have to spend an extra chunk of time editing).

Alternatively, if you want to make a professional habit of dictating your text, you can invest in software like Dragon. It’s a little pricey at $75 for the Home edition, but Dragon learns your accent, dialect, and slang as you talk, meaning the more you use it, the more accurate it becomes.

Finally, if you’re out and about, you can install Dragon’s Dictation app (or a similar voice assistant from the app store) for free, which will allow you to dictate text to then either send in an email or as a text message. You can also edit the text using a touch keyboard and copy it to paste in another app.

In other words, you can write in a digital format when you’re out and about, without even needing to type with your hands. If that’s not a great way to fit in some extra writing time, I don’t know what is.

How do you fit writing into your day?

Whether you’re writing for fun or trying to build up a personal brand, the time it takes to create a successful post can be daunting. However, with a little practice and ingenuity, you can fit your writing habits into your regular routine without having to sacrifice anything else.

You don’t have to have endless free hours to write your posts – try using the tips above to make your time work for you, rather than the other way around. I’d also really love to hear how you fit writing into your busy schedules in the comments below!

Benjamin Brandall

 

Benjamin Brandall is the Head of Content Marketing at Process Street and runs his own blog on the side. He also writes at TechCrunchThe Next Web and Fast Company. You can find him on Twitter at @benjbrandall 

 

 

Keep in touch

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If you enjoyed this post, please share via your preferred social media channel – links are below.

You might also enjoy:

Practical tools to increase writing productivity

How to read for more creativity, pleasure and productivity

Making blogging easier – a note to self

The value of howling into the wind

blogging creativity planning & productivity

Practical tools to increase writing productivity

January 30, 2017

writing productivity

Getting organised to write and create

Writing productivity techniques are the best practical strategies for directing creative overwhelm into output. This post explores some options including Scrivener, the Pomodoro technique and other tools for breaking through.

It follows on from a previous post, Overwhelm, Intuition and Thinking on creative overwhelm and initial strategies to turn inspiration into action, especially for intuitive types. This post focuses on the practical, doable tasks to make organised creative work happen in an environment of self-care.

Scrivener – the writer’s friend

First up, and the centrepiece of a writer’s toolkit, is the Scrivener software writing program. Scrivener is a content-generation tool for writers that combines writing and project management. Being project-based, you can have multiple writing projects on the go. This means you can be gathering research information, capturing ideas, drafting and revising your work all in the one application across multiple projects. It’s especially good for managing long-form work such as novels or non-fiction work, both in the production and the preparation stages for publication.

No wonder it’s so popular! Designed by writers for writers, it’s fabulous for all aspects of writing: researching, drafting, revising, editing and publishing. It’s a writing tool used by many bloggers and authors, notably two of my key influencers Joanna Penn and Susannah Conway, as well as many other successful creatives for whom writing is a key focus.

Scrivener has long been high on my list for getting organised with my writing. I purchased the Scrivener program a couple of years ago along with the Learn Scrivener Fast program which provides a great introduction to how to work with Scrivener. I went through many of the well-structured lessons but being busy with work and not applying it directly, I had forgotten it all over time.

So recently, I went back to relearn. I’ve found it’s best to work through the Learn Scrivener Fast lessons and apply the learning straight away, organising your projects as you go. After a solid effort, I’m using Scrivener as planned including while writing this post. It’s been quite easy to set up various projects and get moving, learning the finer points as I go.

The key writing projects I have set up include:

  • blog posts
  • articles
  • poetry
  • tarot study and readings
  • various larger works such as novel ideas and non-fiction works

As I said in the last post, I have no shortage of creative inspiration at present! Scrivener makes it easy to have these multiple project pieces where I can add research information and write wherever I wish to focus on any particular day. This process reflects what I have been doing on paper but is oh so better organised and easier to work with. Plus you feel like you are making real progress which is encouraging.

Further reading and viewing on Scrivener:

This article, ‘8 Ways Scrivener will help you become a proficient writer overnight’ by Joseph Michael, creator of ‘Learn Scrivener Fast’, is an excellent overview of the benefits of Scrivener.

Writing Tips from Joanna Penn is really valuable viewing on all aspects of writing fiction and non-fiction books and focuses on the practical use of Scrivener.

Scrivener project

The Pomodoro Technique

I was lucky enough to win some coaching sessions with the fabulous Rae Ritchie late last year. I won’t go into all the confidential aspects of our first wonderful conversation recently. However, one thing we touched on was the Pomodoro Technique as a way of working in more concentrated bursts to get writing done.

This conversation sparked something I was aware of but had not acted on. So this week, I applied the Pomodoro technique to my writing and learning activities. I downloaded a fantastic app called the Tide Focus Timer to help manage the ‘pomodoro’ times and worked with the approach. The app is great as it has different options for background music and sounds to help you concentrate.

Pomodoro helps you focus and is a really valuable self-care aid when writing and sitting for long periods. The technique and app remind you to get up after the 25 minute ‘pomodoro’ period to move and stretch.

It’s interesting that the Pomodoro Technique has popped up for me on two podcast conversations in the last few months in relation to self-care:

  • In an excellent Creative Penn podcast interview, Joanna Penn talks with Ellen Bard on ‘Self Care and Productivity for Authors’. This wide-ranging discussion includes tips on morning pages and the Pomodoro Technique as well as encouraging an attitude of self-compassion as we create.
  • In a recent Secret Library podcast, Caroline Donahue interviews Amy Kuretsky about being a healthy writer. The discussion emphasises self-care as being more than just care of the body. The Pomodoro Technique is one of a number of practical tips recommended for writers in honouring our body, mind and spirit in the process of creativity.

My experiences this week have shown me that I can gain much from working with this technique, both in terms of output and feeling better whilst writing.

Productive Flourishing – productivity tools

Another area that is critical for writing productivity is scheduling, prioritising and capturing any ideas and actions that come to us. I recommend Charlie Gilkey’s Productive Flourishing Planners to help with this.

There are various planners and tools including Momentum Planners (monthly weekly, daily) and Blog Post Planners. One of my favourites is the Action Item Catcher which is a single sheet to capture thoughts that arise or actions from meetings. It helps to corral these to-do items and stops the distraction of moving away from focused activities like writing. It can be combined with the Pomodoro Technique to capture things that pop up as you concentrate on the priority work at hand.

I hope these practical ideas are useful to help concentrate your writing effort where it can be most effective – that is, getting the words and ideas on the page and out into the world!

I would love to hear about any productivity tools and experiences you might have found useful. Please share in the comments below or on the Quiet Writing Facebook page.

Keep in touch

Quiet Writing is now on Facebook so please visit here and ‘Like’ to keep in touch and interact with the growing Quiet Writing community. There are regular posts on creativity, productivity, writing, voice, intuition, introversion, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), tarot and yes, passion!

Subscribe via email (see the link at the top and below) to make sure you receive updates from Quiet Writing and its passions in 2017 – including MBTI developments and other connections to help express your unique voice in the world.

If you enjoyed this post, please share via your preferred social media channel – links are below.

blogging introversion writing

Welcome to Quiet Writing

September 13, 2016

Quiet Writing

Hello and welcome to Quiet Writing

I’m so excited to be launching my new look blog. I’ve been preparing, quietly writing and crafting in the background for the longest time and it’s time to dust off this blog, formerly called Transcending, and transition it to reflect my focus for writing and new ventures going forward. It’s the heart of a new life and business and and I hope that you will join me here as I move through this time.

I’ve kept Transcending intact within Quiet Writing with its history over more than six years, as that journey has led to this one, coming out of pain and grief as its core. The spirit of Celebrating the extraordinary power of the ordinary self: strategies for rising above, cutting through and connecting will continue in Quiet Writing as its secret power. So if you have signed up to Transcending previously, I believe you will have transitioned over here to Quiet Writing and I hope you will stay for the next part of the journey.

So what is Quiet Writing about?

It is the summary of my passions and Core Desired Feelings of:

creative, intuitive, flowing, poetic and connected

To explain, I love the words of Monicka Clio Sakki, creator of the Sakki Sakki tarot deck:

The Artist is still an Artist even behind the closed curtains. Being an Artist is a process, not a state.”

Quiet Writing is about the strength that comes from working steadily and without fanfare in writing and other spheres to create, coalesce, influence and connect. It’s an opportunity to muse and reflect on my core values and the interplay between them.  In this, I draw on and connect my various experiences and interests as well as connecting with others who share them.

Many of us have been on what Elizabeth Gilbert calls, in one of her wonderful Magic Lessons, ‘the long runway’ and it’s valuable preparation we need to acknowledge. I want to honour the process as much as the product here; the being, becoming and journey as much as the arrival; the artistry behind the closed curtains and doors.

The Artist card in the Sakki Sakki Tarot deck beautifully symbolises this potential and opportunity:

the-artist

This is not to say that publication, product and stage are not important and a desirable outcome; but we can focus too much on that external validation and not value our work and its process as it evolves in the present. The act of quiet writing and the solitude to capture ideas and craft them, especially for introverts who so need this, is the space from which so much can flow, connect and be created. The conditions, environment, relationships and influences which enable our creative endeavours to flourish are also crucial shaping factors.

I’m interested especially in the gift of writing and finding our unique voice to articulate our place in the world and express the artistry of everyday life.

This is something I’ve been interested in and committed to in my working and creative life for a long time. One of my earliest blog posts from 2010, ‘The value of howling into the wind” captures this:

So ‘howling into the wind’ is about running with the wolves and the ‘longing for the wild’ as (Clarissa Pinkola) Estes calls it. It’s about stoking the creative fire with winds that might feel a bit uncomfortable and cold at first. It’s about the strength that might come from tuning into such intuitive sources, making connections and finding that to which we belong.

And through whatever means – writing, photography, a business idea, a new perspective, the shape of a poem – forming something unique that is your voice that others may also tune into, relate to and take something away from. So let’s keep howling.

It’s funny how we resonate more deeply with our own themes over time; though sometimes we need to learn to listen to ourselves a little more and honour our enduring passions as they play out.

You can learn more about me here but in short, I gain great heart from reading about the journeys of those who seek and enjoy things like creativity, the gifts of introversion, authenticity and celebrating a reading and writing life, and especially hope to celebrate the lyricism of this in my own journey and in connecting with others on similar journeys.

So what can you expect here at Quiet Writing?

  • Reflections on my experiences of quiet writing as I negotiate it as a central value
  • Ideas on the writing process and how to grow, express and value your unique voice
  • A focus on the strengths of quietness and introversion to cultivate depth and connection
  • A lot about the art and value of living quietly – creative spaces, our environment, relationships
  • Conversations about books, reading, influences and podcasts that celebrate this kind of life
  • Thought pieces on creative connections: tarot, astrology, symbols, Jungian psychology
  • An exploration of contexts such as leadership, innovation, productivity, planning, strategy and managing introversion in public roles.

And into the future, I am planning much more, with Quiet Writing being the core of a heart centred gathering of like minded people with sharing of influences and connections to bring us all alive.

Key influences:

In starting anew here, I’d like to express gratitude and acknowledge the key influences, connections and reading, writing and personal development projects that have brought me here. They include:

  • Susannah Conway’s e-courses such as Blogging from the HeartJournal your Life and The Inside Story and her inspiring journeys on building a heart filled creative life and business that have supported and nurtured my own;
  • Danielle LaPorte’s everything and especially The Desire Map Core Desired Feelings and Style Statement work, her energy, passion and constant encouragement in creativity;
  • Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn and her generous and informative blog, resources and podcasts and for the powerful and inspiring role model of her business and writing life;
  • Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking and The Quiet Revolution which have helped me make sense of so much and which I hope to build on in my own unique way here as a voice empowered by this strength;
  • Sage Cohen, writing mentor and author, whose books including ‘Writing the Life Poetic‘ and ‘Fierce on the Page‘ are always close at hand and who has helped me get back to writing and to navigate some very difficult times with courage and grace;
  • And finally, my creative buddy, Victoria Smith, who inspires me always with her mojo, wise words and practical magic and who has been such a valuable support in recent times as my life coach as I navigate new horizons.

I’ve written about my influences previously in this post and you can see that Susannah, Danielle, Joanna and Sage have been strong influences since 2010 so I owe them enduring gratitude for their inspiration and support.

Acknowledgements:

I also want to acknowledge my family and friends at this time of making a new start, for without them and their sacred place in my life, I would not be writing quietly here now:

  • To my partner Keith, for supporting, enabling me and loving me for who I am. Strong, independent women can make it on their own but it can be lonely; having the support of a strong and independent man who lets me shine is a rare and valued thing. I am lucky enough to have had two such men in my life: my Dad and Keith: Thank you, Keith, for your support and for our ability to negotiate tough times with humour and grace. Our love is deepening as we enter this new time.
  • To my daughter Caitlin, who embodies the spirit of quiet writing in her beautiful being with her love of language, reading and solitude: It’s the greatest of treasures being your mother and watching you grow into the independent and strong woman that you are. You teach and inspire me constantly in so many quiet ways as you always have and I love you so much.
  • To my father and mother: My father taught me so much about the strength of quietness without me even realising. No longer with us, I realise now that he was probably an INTJ just like me and my quiet strength, love of books and reading and so much more comes from him. And my beautiful mother who is the bravest person I know, who has loved me and my brother so fiercely and managed the most challenging times with such quiet resilience I can only wonder at. To both: the fiercest of love and gratitude back to you.
  • To my little brother Martin, who left us so tragically and suddenly by his own hand in 2007. The impetus of much of this blog and its creative work stems from the time of his death. I wish it had come to me another way than through the grief and learning from such terrible loss: The hole in my heart is so large and I try each day to fill it with light. I know you visit in the butterfly spirits that come by so gently and we need to learn to speak of you more. I will keep your spirit alive here, transcending into quiet writing and as I said at your funeral, in the words of ‘Crowded House’:

And if you choose to take that path
I will play you like a shark
And I’ll clutch at your heart
I’ll come flying like a spark to inflame you.

  • To my family, friends and especially my creative friends in real life and on Instagram and in other special places like the Mojo Lab Inner Circlelinking with you gives me such great heart for the journey and I love our connections each and every day.
  • And to my ancestry, my lineage, especially the women in my family who scribbled poems that I have found, tucked into recipe books and who signed their names as an X: I am sure you wrote quietly in your heads, hearing your own voice, and who knows what might have been in different circumstances. I thank all those who have gone before me to enable this room of my own to be able to have the voice that I have and the ability to use it. May I use it wisely and with passion and influence to likewise blaze a trail for others.

Thank you for staying to read to this point. I know it’s long but for reasons I don’t fully understand yet, these things need to be said here as a threshold piece in moving forward. The card I drew today, the Six of Swords (shown here from the Sakki Sakki deck) is a clue I think – there is a passage, a crossing over, a heading into and a leaving behind at this time.

Six of Swords

So let us begin here.

I look forward to connecting with and learning from you and I encourage you to connect with me.

You can sign up at the top so you receive ‘Quiet Writing‘ posts and information via email. I promise I won’t bombard you and I’ll respect your space. I’ll be aiming for about 1-2 posts a week that I hope will inspire you and this way, you can also keep in touch with new developments here as they unfold.

In the spirit of connecting and commencing here, I’ve opened up about ‘Quiet Writing‘, its background and how it expresses my unique voice. I’d love for you to say hello and tell me in your special two words (or more, given I’ve taken so many!) how you express your creativity and uniqueness in the world.

Let me know your thoughts as I start out anew. I’d love to hear from you so I’m not just howling into the wind, as valuable as it is.

Terri x

Terri Connellan

blogging

I blog

October 11, 2014

beach painting

“I blog. Writing about what I’ve been learning about, and my successes as well as my failures, has been an amazing tool for learning. I highly recommend it, even if you never want to be a writer or make a living as a blogger. Don’t worry about growing your audience, but just blog and share it with friends. Why? Because to write a blog post, you have to reflect on your life. You have to push yourself a little and experiment. You are motivated to learn something useful, so you can share it. You dig deeper and find new things you didn’t realize before. You hold yourself accountable for changes, because other people are watching.”

from Leo Babauta, ‘My Most Effective Learning Tools’, Zen Habits

I so wholeheartedly agree. As a blogger of some four or more years now, sometimes you do wonder why you bother. With the big gaps in my blogging patterns, because of managing a full-time job and a long commute, it’s so easy to give up, think of giving up, put my feet up and not blog but I love my blog and what I have created here over time and the act that is blogging.

It’s the ongoing creative heart of my days. Sometimes when it’s hard going at work, I find a few minutes to look at my blog, this almost other self it seems when I am in the work realm. I breathe more easily seeing my creative other self there in words and images on the screen, the pink blossoms shining out.

As Leo Babauta sums up, it’s about learning, about creativity, about reflecting and pushing and making deeper connections. It’s finding the right photograph for the words that you are pulling together. It drives you to take those photographs in the first place and see the world differently.

I had a rare mid-week day off from work recently and took a long walk around my local streets and beaches. I took 150 photographs on that walk of what I saw and experienced. I’m thinking how to pull them into a photo-essay here. The act of thinking about that is making me reflect on my love of where I live, the value of time to recharge, what standing in the water looking out means to me, the therapy of walking and the recharging power of sunshine and solitude.

Leo is so right when he says: “…to write a blog post you have to reflect on your life.”

Whether it’s what it’s like being an introvert, the importance of family history, the struggle to write and publish poetry, the value of what you choose to read and what it means to you, the symbols that keep recurring in your life that you are noticing, learning what sustains you, the travel to new places and what you feel there, thinking about how you can be more productive, the images that inspire you or the act of blogging itself, the act of catching those random thoughts and crafting them into a piece of writing, a blog post that becomes public is a creative, reflective and life-affirming act.

One of my earliest posts, ‘The value of howling into the wind‘, still holds so true in my experience. It’s so easy to fall into focusing on the size of your audience (or the lack of) and feeling like it’s just not reaching very far and has no point. But to blog, to write creatively and publicly is an act that has great personal value of heightening experience, digging, discovering, connecting, tuning in and shaping something that might not otherwise find itself.

Blogging might, and still does for me, feel like howling into the wind but it has its own intrinsic value of strength and uniqueness that just might be of value to others as well:

So ‘howling into the wind’ is about running with the wolves and the ‘longing for the wild’ as Estes calls it. It’s about stoking the creative fire with winds that might feel a bit uncomfortable and cold at first. It’s about the strength that might come from tuning into such intuitive sources, making connections and finding that to which we belong. And through whatever means – writing, photography, a business idea, a new perspective, the shape of a poem – forming something unique that is your voice that others may also tune into, relate to and take something away from. So let’s keep howling.

beach walking

blogging reading notes

Beaches and books

June 11, 2014

at the beachIt’s been such a busy time these past months…this the continuing mantra of my life. And the posts here are so infrequent when I had planned so much more this year.

In between the busyness, beaches and books have sustained me, my Instagram feed has mostly reflected the books I am reading and sights from walks on the beach. (Until recently heading to Japan and that’s another story to come!)

On the beach, walking, the sun setting, the cool sand and the water rushing or lapping depending on the day.

And the books, mostly Australian Women Writers lately though not exclusively – I’ve read Michelle de Kretser’s ‘Questions of Travel‘, Carrie Tiffany’s ‘Mateship with Birds‘ and Hannah Kent’s ‘Burial Rites‘ as well as Elisabeth Gifford’s ‘Secrets of the Sea House‘ plus enjoyed a reread of a gentle favourite, Rumer Godden’s ‘In this House of Brede‘. I’ve eagerly entered these worlds and stayed there for my 30-40 minute train journey on most days.

Both beaches and books have sustained me.

The beach grounding me as it always does, my feet in the sand, the act of walking, the water cooling my thoughts, my breathing calming.

The books keeping me connected to my love of words, my creative heart that is somewhat languishing. The part of me that wants to write more poetry and the novel that I imagine but cannot quite get to that other creative desk of the heart at present.

Words that have come to me lately:

The spirit of her invincible heart guided her through the shadows.

from Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’, and:

for whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

from e e cummings loveliest poem, ‘maggie and milly and molly and may’.

And my own beach walking poem on this theme:

 Narrative

She starts up high, facing north
towards slow mist,
watching the sea wash
into the rain’s drift below.

She is called to the beach
as if to a baptism, bride-like,
white as the air, stepping
down the rough rock stairs.

She narrates her life,
writes as she walks,
as if the sand and shells are
the bones of her story.

And the pieces connect her:
an imperfect white oval shell,
a fig leaf from a canopy,
the sketched black lines
of a creature’s moving home.

Cool and tight limbed,
she ends in another place,
as if washed by waves,
her contours, clear and shell-lined
as the Borromean grottoes
of Isolabella,
her white shining lights
coming home.

blogging

Making blogging easier: a note to self

February 1, 2014

CBD courtyard

One of my goals this year is to tend this blog and post more regularly. It’s a great love and so important and rejuvenating for me to write and create here. But it gets squeezed out with work, with other life and people priorities and currently, with the joys of renovating!

So I am looking to see how I can make blogging easier and how I can make it less onerous to be here writing, creating, connecting and communicating. What’s the secret?

I’ve been scouting the net for clues and found some great posts full of ideas. I’ve also revisited my own thoughts on this issue.

Some sites that have provided valuable tips:

100 tips and tricks professionals use to make blogging easier

5 tips to make blogging easier

5 techniques and 10 tools for making blogging easier

My post on this previously:

Shorter posts, smaller steps

These sites reinforce that blogging is hard work but that the job can be made easier.

Here is some distilled wisdom from these instructive posts, the strategies of other bloggers I admire and my own experiences:

1. Get organised with your time

Make time to blog and schedule time for planning and writing even if it’s just short grabs of time:

Treat your blogging like a friend. Schedule a regular amount of time where you can completely focus on your blog. It might  be 30 mins every Tuesday lunchtime or an hour every second Thursday at 9pm.

from: 5 tips to make blogging easier

Part of this is planning your blog posts and scheduling your time. See Charlie Gilkey’s ‘Productive Flourishing’ for some useful blog planner and calendar tools with tips on how to use them.

2. Collect your thoughts

Make sure you capture those fleeting thoughts that might result in a blog post. Brainstorm, mind map, make notes – find ways to capture those treasures on paper or digitally. It’s amazing how you think will remember something later but you often can’t. The random notes and clipped articles can be a rich source of ideas but you have to catch them and collect them like a bower bird.

A tip from 5 techniques and 10 tools for making blogging easier:

When capturing ideas for a post try to write more than just the title. Also write down the key points of the post. This will make life easier when writing later.

And here’s a really useful post from ‘The Mojo Lab’ on capturing creative ideas.

3. Be organised with the equipment and inputs

Try to be as organised as you can with the inputs: possible imagery, links, quotes, clippings and with the equipment: your computer, printer, browser and apps. It’s amazing how a fabulous idea can become a nightmare time-wise as you try to gather your resources. Some things are beyond our control but being organised with all the supporting technologies and resources can make the process so much easier when the times comes to write.

I find evernote the best for clipping articles, tagging them and making notes. I love feedly for managing online reading and keeping track of favourite posts and bloggers.

See ‘The Mojo Lab’ again for a great toolkit post and tips on all sorts of useful creative inputs and technologies.

4. Don’t make the task bigger than it can be

Yes, this post is getting long! But you don’t always have to write the long, well-researched, extensively redrafted blog piece – though these are important. Don’t defeat yourself mentally before you start. And don’t get hung up on having to write ‘x’ number of words.

In tip 89 of 100 tips and tricks professionals use to make blogging easier we are reminded to:

Chill out about length.

People are always in a tizzy about how long posts should be. It really doesn’t matter. Keep writing til you’re done.

5. Mix it up

Find different ways to blog: quotes, images, photo essays, short pieces, lists, poems, links to what you have discovered or enjoyed. Your blog posts don’t always have to feature lots of words. This is not to under-estimate the time investment and creativity of primarily visual posts or posts that share valued reads on the net – they all take time and care. But just to encourage an attitude of mixing it up so it’s not always writing time intensive pieces that require a lot of research, drafting and editing.

Some of my favourites:

Olivia White’s Sunday Reflections

Susannah Conway’s annual break from writing-focused pieces: The August Break

Tammy Strobel’s beautiful photo essays

6. Be more spontaneous

Try to write from the heart more without feeling that every piece has to be referenced, reworked and crafted over time. Try to learn to write and blog anywhere, not just at your special spot at home.

I am loving Ellen Nightingale’s Choose your own Journey for posts that have a spontaneous feel – coming from the flow of her days and thoughts as a creative working mother.

And I highly recommend Susannah Conway’s Blogging from the Heart e-course for learning about this special skill and art from one who has led and modelled its development, especially in terms of the emotional courage required.

7. Just do it…blog more often

And finally in a somewhat counter-intuitive approach to making blogging easier, Gretchen Rubin suggests do it every day and put yourself in ‘creativity boot camp‘:

Whenever anyone asks me for advice about how to keep up with writing for a blog, I always say: “Post every day.” Although this sounds arduous, many people find, as I do, that weirdly it’s easier to write every day than just a few times a week.

This is sound advice – I can see that the things that slow me down are because of the spaces in between. I am just not organised and it’s like starting over again each time. By being more engaged with blogging on a regular basis, it’s easier to pick up the pieces of all the tips above: capturing ideas, mixing it up, ensuring my systems and processes are up to speed, finding resources and being spontaneous.

I know some of my blogging buddies are working on this right now with Ellen Nightingale working on a 30 day challenge for her blog. And I am so loving the work that she is producing! I’m sure it’s not easy with all that she is juggling but Ellen’s blog is a great example of how engaging in a ‘boot camp’, committed way can result in beautiful outcomes.

So tell me, what makes blogging easier for you?

Would love to hear your tips and experiences! And I have to say this post took the longest time to write, managed to break all its own advice and everything went wrong whilst writing it including a glass shower screen shattering into a million pieces over my head today ( cf the joys of renovating above!) – so yes, a note to self if ever there was one. Would love to hear your thoughts to fuel my journey! Clearly there’s a long way to go!

blogging transcending

Keeping transcending

December 3, 2013

Keeping transcending Yes it’s been quiet here…nearly three months to be precise but who’s counting.

I’ve missed it here, creating these pieces of me to put out into the world. It’s been hard to get back to it, a combination as always of work pressures, plus more travel time. I am working further from home and in a new, exciting and intense job role that has required my highest attention and priority.

And then there’s ‘Transcending’ itself, as the blog, as the practice it talks about: ‘strategies for rising above, cutting through and connecting…’ In the strangest of ways, the practice of writing the blog itself enacts this, how I have to keep coming back and revitalising it.

Many times I have nearly stopped writing here altogether especially after a break such as this. I’ve nearly given up on it so many times.

But it’s important to keep going, to keep transcending and to think about what I have achieved, why I do it and write here, the reasons for it, who has helped me and been on the journey with me and what I hope for ‘Transcending’ into the future.

So what have I achieved?

I started this blog in May 2010 and in between busy job roles, I’ve kept writing and creating its content, even if there have been gaps at times. The wonderful ‘Blog in Review’ report for my blog for 2012 sent from WordPress is insightful. I have revisited it now to help me see what I have achieved and what else I can do to keep the momentum and to do it better and more often.

The report told me there were 2400 views in 2012 alone. That might not seem many to some with bigger audiences but to me, it is staggering. I have now created an archive or body of work of 88 posts since May 2010. That’s probably about a post every three weeks. I could be more regular in my work here and write shorter posts more often, but in the circumstances of my life and full-time work role, I’m claiming it as an achievement.

My busiest day so far yielded some 197 views of a single post and I am proud of this and grateful – it was thanks to mentions posted by friends in the blogosphere and especially Tammy at RowdyKittens and a flow on from her extensive readership. It reminds me of the continuing need to visit others and spread the pleasure of their work as well, repaying the kindness. And to be thankful.

My top posts of all time are:

Poetry: into the light

Working your introvert

The value of howling into the wind

Poetry: Optical Illusions

About stillness

My 2012 ‘Blog in Review’ report tells me:

Some of your most popular posts were written before 2012. Your writing has staying power! Consider writing about those topics again.

This is good advice that I need to heed. Especially the posts on poetry, one of the major loves of my life, seem to have resonance, so this is something I can work on in moving forward. This can move both loves forward: poetry writing and blogging.

One of the main search terms that found my blog was: “theme +passion to create”. I am thrilled that I came up as a reference point under “passion to create”.

I am grateful for my blogging buddies, my referring sites, my new and enduring friends developed through Susannah Conway’s ‘Blogging from the Heart” and “Unravelling” e-courses as well as the Australian women writers and blogging communities I connect with. I am especially grateful to:

Victoria at The Mojo Lab who continues to inspire and support

Liv at When Ideas Fail for all our connections and her beautiful reflections

Tammy at Rowdy Kittens who gave me the first thrill of a flood of readers and a taste of what could be

Ellen at Choose Your Own Journey for connecting on choice and authentic journeys

Evan at Living Authentically for being such a faithful reader and commenter especially in the quiet times and for all those readers who have stayed the distance quietly

Sage at The Path of Possibility, my poetry teacher and muse who encourages me here still and to whose writing I return regularly for poetic encouragement and structure

Susannah Conway – for her blog, books, inspiration and fabulous e-courses which have kept me renewed and alive and connected with kindred souls across the world…and for being the best role model for enduring creativity ever: “using creativity to set us free”, being one of her core mantras.

I am also really grateful to all the recent people who have subscribed to my blog in the midst of its current silence – you have come from all different places especially my current Unravelling team – and I am honoured. It’s been a real spur for me to return. Thank you for your faith in me to write again.

So it seems this blog is as much about practising transcending as it is anything else. My spiritual name given to me by my yoga teacher is turiyamani – ‘transcendental jewel’ and that is very much what all this is about, finding a way to keep it happening, here and elsewhere as creatively and positively as possible. And in that, to shine.

There’s a sense of keeping on, resilience in writing here so I am going to keep transcending and not give up. I thank you for sharing the journey and hope you will stay and keep transcending also in whatever is your journey and passion, keeping the faith and the practice of what you love.

blogging transcending

Thought pieces #1

June 23, 2013

IMGP5388

‘Transcend’

Verb:

to rise above or extend notably beyond normal limits

to triumph over the negative or restrictive aspects of: OVERCOME

Middle English, from Latin transcendere to climb across

from www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/transcend

That’s what this blog is about and it seems one of the biggest applications of this has been trying to overcome the challenges of writing the blog itself. In the context of a busy work and life schedule, to be able to carve the time and headspace for reflecting and writing here.

If that is all the blog does: document the attempts to carve this unique space then perhaps it has served a useful purpose.

One of the pressures I unwittingly place on myself is the sense of having to write full-blown pieces, fully researched and documented, edited carefully and dense in texture.

I am an INTJ, a Virgo and an Ox – so no surprises there that this should be my natural inclination with such perfectionist tendencies, shoulder to the plough approach and an introverted analytical approach to life.

Yet some of the blog posts I love are more elegant and less dense but have more impact because of this: a photograph or series of photographs and none or few words; a quote with a perfect visual image like Liv White’s wonderful Sunday Reflections; or perhaps a poem or a sequence of more random thoughts like this leading to a new direction (or not).

It’s time for some release of intensity here. I’m currently doing Susannah Conway’s ‘Journal your life‘ e-course and that may be a subtle influence in this direction towards the more natural and spontaneous.

I’m calling this post ‘Thought pieces #1’ – always scary as you don’t always know what is next with #2 and beyond, but here’s to randomness, elegance, spontaneity and more simple flow here to find a stronger and more frequently heard voice between the spaces of an otherwise busy life.

blogging planning & productivity

Setting the scene

January 26, 2013

setting the scene

There’s been a certain amount of scene setting for 2013 going on here at present. I’ve moved my roll-top desk, the centre of my creative universe, from the back of the room where for some reason I had my back to the window and trees. It’s now closer to the window where I can see the trees and feel a cool afternoon breeze wafting in. My room is less cluttered, still busy and full of books and papers, but more organised so I can see and find things. It feels cooler, calmer and a more relaxed place to be.

Today is Australia Day and it’s a long weekend, so a wonderful time to breathe in and out, and work on the personal planning I need for 2013. Much has been rattling around my head and I’ve had the opportunity to read how others are working on their plans for this year. I  have especially loved reading about the 2013 approaches and plans of my Blogging from the Heart buddies, Victoria Smith and Liv White and so many others which have warmed and inspired my heart. Such different and wonderful approaches to thinking about this year; some more structured and others more free flowing and intuitive, and now it’s time to work though my own.

Key members of my Seven Stars virtual support team, nearly three years on, continue to be a huge influence. I will start with Chris Guillebeau’s annual review process which I have worked through for a number of years now; it’s good to have a process that is consistent to go back to and review over time. Susannah Conway is a wonderfully wise and gentle support in so many ways and her Unravelling the year ahead 2013 workbook will also be something I will work through.

In terms of participating in projects and e-courses this year, I have started off this year with blogging buddy, Flo Gascon’s ‘Time of your Life’ ecourse . It’s about refocusing so you realise the positives and ensure you are in fact having the time of your life and not some sub-standard version of what it might be. It’s the first week but already the thoughts that are being sown are powerful and I look forward to this renewal of perspective.

I’m also working through Danielle LaPorte’s Desire Map multimedia guide. Again, I’m just getting my toe in the water but it’s already enabling some refocusing on what my core desires drive me to do and understanding this better. I loved working through ‘Style Statement‘ and the power that this gave me for bringing together aspects of my core values that I hadn’t previously connected. I’m looking forward to more of this and am in no rush; I will just take this one gently and deeply and as I can.

I’m also joining the Australian Women Writers’ Challenge again this year and will post soon on last year’s experience and what I hope to focus on this year. I absolutely love this challenge, the reading and writing experiences and the community it brings with it. I have learned so much more about a space that brings together three of my great loves: Australia, women and women’s issues, and writing. Linking with people who also share these loves has been a source of inspiration and learning.

So, lots of scene-setting, physical, mental and emotional, and I’m looking forward to sharing the evolving scenes here as they play out this year.

What scene setting are you doing for this year?

blogging work life

Blogging and work

October 21, 2012

There’s a bit of a brick wall between this blog and my work role and working life; maybe not so hard as brick, but a deliberate separation. Because I’m in a leadership role in a public sector organisation with a social media policy, it’s important that I keep a clear space around this blog about my creative self and my life other than work.

I don’t talk about work or my work role, except obliquely and generally in terms of how creative strategies for life may apply to work contexts and vice versa. Some work colleagues know about my blog and keep an eye on it; I blog under my full name so it’s not secret; it’s just not so connected, sort of like two parallel lives.

But of course, in practice it’s not quite that straightforward. It was interesting when things started overlapping more than usual recently when I started a new temporary work role in a different location. Once this new work role was announced, I noticed a sudden surge in my blog stats and people coming to the blog via searching for my name. People were trying to find out about me: just who was this person who was coming to lead them?

As I moved around to meet people in my temporary job role, a number of them said to me, “I love your blog!”. They were tentative and respectful, aware of some of the silent boundaries between the work role and the rest of life, but knowing that I was blogging publicly and out there for all to see. They mentioned my creativity, and how pleased they were to see that I had another life other than work. We discussed the links between creativity and leadership and the value of thinking in this way outside the work role. They loved the links in my blog posts and were interested to see what I was engaging with.

They didn’t:

  • express horror that I had a creative life other than work
  • focus on any negative aspects or details of my writing
  • pick holes, find fault, wish for more or otherwise find me wanting

They just engaged with my blog as intended as a space where I am out in the world, alongside my work role, complementary, mutually inspiring and whole.

This made me reflect on many aspects of where work and my creative self coincide, overlap and mutually benefit each other, and where there is further potential for this. It made me think also about whether these aspects are too separate and need to come together more. Some other bloggers have been thinking about this also.

In ‘Personal Blogging at Work Increases Productivity’, a recent article in Forbes.com, Susan Adams discusses the link between personal blogging and the workplace. She reports on a new academic study that shows that:

Along with sharing information about work tasks, blogging at work pulls employees closer to one another, builds relationships, and over time, increases productivity.

The study looked at people blogging in work contexts and found that blogging also about leisure interests and other more personal aspects of life increased engagement and then translated into real life connection. Adams notes that:

We’re seeing more data that shows what we already know in our hearts: when we connect with people beyond work, we work together more productively.

For me, it’s also about bringing your whole self to work rather than leaving key parts of yourself, especially the ones that are your own personal drivers, at the door when you arrive.

On a related theme of the work and personal coming together in the physical workspace, Victoria Smith in a recent post on ‘Beautility: Making the Useful Beautiful for a Magical Work Space‘, highlights the concept of how we can ‘beautilify’ our workspaces and work tools, to make them both practical and a reflection of ourselves:

Most of us spend about half of our waking hours at work and our surroundings have a huge impact on our happiness, creativity, ability to focus, and even our interactions with others…..There’s simply too much evidence about the increase in productivity when our work environments are more pleasing to the eye and reflect us as individuals for companies to ignore the benefits.

Victoria has many practical suggestions for bringing the two together that have certainly made me reflect about my own workspace and how I reflect my creativity and personality there (or not!).

On the broader issue of creativity and work, in a recent Huffington Post piece, ‘100 Reasons Why You Don’t Get Your Best Ideas at Work’, Mitch Ditkoff suggests that the barriers we create with our thinking about the two polarities may well be the answer to where the real issues lie.

So perhaps there is less of a need for a wall between this blog, my creativity and the job role, apart from the caveats of social media policy, and that the interplay between them may result in more productivity and creative ideas in both spaces.

Interested in your thoughts on blogging and work and the interplay between!

Excellent photo taken in Singapore by my daughter, Caitlin