It’s happens more than I care to admit. It’s Sunday afternoon and in-between laundry, getting something together for dinner and possible relaxing for a little bit, I realize I don’t have anything ready to post on my blog for the coming week. Cue the march up to my office to sit down, stare at my computer and think, “Now what?”
I have been blogging since 2005, save for that one time I threw a hissy fit and canceled my Typepad account for two months in late 2006. Nearly every week since I have posted three times (or more) a week. I’m going to be completely honest with you: sometimes I have no idea how I have kept this up.
I would like to come out publicly and tell you all about my editorial calendar and about how I plan my posts out weeks in advance. I’d like to show you all the notes I have that keep me on track and guide my writing and posting process week in and week out. I’d really like to do this, but I can’t make shit up that doesn’t exist.
So here it is: I am winging this, people.
Okay, maybe that’s not altogether true. I have developed a series of different types of repeating blog posts over the years, most popular among them has been my Make a Page Monday series. Designed to be both inspirational and educational, this series has helped me to come up with content in a way that doesn’t take too much thought or planning. I just need some shots of a layout and I can write about the story and design stuff for paragraphs. Why? Because I know scrapbooking and I know design.
This leads me to my first tip for successful blogging and that is: write about what you know best.
I think this approach drove a lot of content in my early blog years. I wrote about scrapbooking (duh). I wrote about my family. And I wrote about design and how to do stuff.
There are many things I do not write about. For example: fashion, books, pet care, math, html coding—you get the idea. I don’t write about stuff I don’t know. Makes sense, right?
But back to the idea of a blog series, my second tip, while not new or groundbreaking, is to come up with a few topics you visit time and again and create your own blog series. In the past year, some of my regular series have been:
A Few Things I Bought (Okay, I’ve only done this one time but you get the idea.)
Each one of these topics gives me something to write about when I’m thinking to myself, “Hmmm… what can I write about this week?” They help to guide my content.
But my third tip for successful blogging is probably the most important one of them all: practice writing.
Good blogging requires good writing. Last week, I was working on some posts and was noticing just how many revisions my Word Press dashboard had logged on each one. 17 on this one. 22 on this one. (Who knew writing about an egg cooker was so involved?) I tell you this because I care about good writing that communicates clearly. I care about your experience in reading the words I write. Sometimes a sentence can take a hella long time to get just right. Successful blogging requires the blogger to fall in love with and truly care about the process of writing. And that includes editing.
I also tell you this because I work at it. I don’t just sit down and make perfectly written blog posts. I wish that were the case.
One of my goals for 2015 is to have an editorial calendar. To truly have it all mapped out, one month at a time, so when it’s time to create blog content, I am ready to roll. Other than shooting for a column about scrapbooking every Monday, I’m not quite there yet.
But there’s always February.
Finally, when I said earlier that I have no idea how I’ve kept this thing going for so long? That’s not true. And that leads me to my final tip: you have to love doing it. If you don’t, it’ll show in your writing.
I love this kind of writing. You never know when your next post will be the greatest thing you’ve ever written. I love playing those kinds of odds.
This blog post went through 13 revisions.* Talk about efficiency.
To read the story of how my life in this business—including starting a blog—began, click here.
*I also edited it two more time after I hit the publish button. Sometimes it takes publishing it to really see the poor sentence constructions.
Ha, you are bang on with this! I sat at my desk to write today’s post and, bam, brain dead. So I refreshed bloglovin’ and there you were with this post … marvellous timing!
Oh, and this comment was edited twice!
And I thought I was the only one who went through multiple revisions/edits when I write. 🙂 You’re obviously doing a great job because you keep readers like myself coming back. Keep up the great work!
*1 edit to this post before hitting the submit button. 🙂
Kim Jackson says
Thank you for this post! I needed to hear that it does indeed take work & editing. I thought I just wasn’t cut out for it.
Jenny S says
I love your posts. They are awesome and honest and vulnerable in all the best of ways. Thanks for sharing with us.
And PS I read “math” as “meth.” 🙂
Cathy Zielske says
Well I also wouldn’t be able to write about that either! 😉
I struggle with what to write on my blog and I’m just adding info about cards and other crafty things I make. I would love some ideas on how to revitalize a blog that has sat dormant forever (at least a year) but honestly I know it just requires posting it everywhere and hoping people will come and check it out. Speaking of checking it out, come on over! http://www.live-love-laugh-create2.blogspot.com
I love that you put such time and attention to detail in crafting something well written for us readers. Thank you.
BTW, If I recall correctly, at least one of your kiddos had a long Montessori education, yes? I’ve always been curious about that choice and how you helped your kids figure out their learning styles. If you’re ever planning ahead on things to write about. Just sayin.
Melissa O. says
I would definitely be interested in this topic too since we just applied to get our son into Montessori school for next year (we’ll find out if he got in come April). He’s in 2nd grade at a regular public school now. He gets bored extremely easy. If something doesn’t interest him he simply will not do it. I’m hoping that having the chance to explore how all the usual class subjects tie in with the things he IS interested in will help a lot with keeping him interested in school because he’s a sharp kid, no doubt. He’s just not interested in constantly sitting & doing worksheets. In truth, I would most prefer to home school, but financially that’s just not possible for us right now. Even if I could I would do it with a Montessori-like approach. His personality type & learning style just needs something different from traditional school. So, yeah, any insight you have about the Montessori experience would be awesome.
I am a writer at heart, too, Cathy, and I know that because 1) I love to write and 2) I love to edit / re-write / re-publish!
I once heard that if you love doing something, actually love the process of doing something and not just the finished product, then it won’t feel like a burden or a task. I often pull my hair out trying to get that written word to sound like it does in my head, and to read well, and to engage, but once it comes together, it’s magic. I could sit for a LONG time editing and revising, and still love the process.
Your posts echo that sentiment – they read clearly, transparently, and reveal the true author behind them.
Probably why we all love coming to CZ.com and keep returning….
Well, that and the yucks!
I love this blog. I look forward to it every day. Just sayin’.
Maria H says
I really appreciate all the hard work that goes into your blog! I’m a scientist, not a writer by any stretch of the imagination, so I’m always impressed by your posts. They’re interesting, they flow well and damn, they are just plain funny a lot of the time! I love that you keep things real and don’t sugar-coat stuff. I can read “fake” writing anywhere – I love coming here and reading about real life – the kind we all live. Thanks!
Amanda B says
All of this is exactly why I gave up blogging in 2007 – just too involved and, at the time, not something that I could justify into turning into viable income. Especially considering the time I was spending on it was starting to effect my actual paying job. And my relationship. So, I had to say goodbye to my typepad account and move on.
But, you are so right. It’s work. It’s not just writing something and hitting publish. It’s taking time and care to craft your words to engage the reader and encourage them to return. It’s writing a sentence, erasing it and rewriting and rewriting it again to get it just. Right.
I applaud those of you who do it day after day, year after year. And to do so without becoming stale.
P.s. This comment took me 10 minutes to write without about 5 revisions. See? I spend all that time on comments…imagine how I’d be with an actual post? Yeesh.
Amanda B says
And, if I could go back and edit, I’d fix a couple typos. Because, yeah….nothing helps you find grammatical or spelling errors better than hitting submit.
I didn’t know how arduous it is to blog because you make it look easy. I suppose that’s the point of good writing, and good writing is what you put out week after week, year after year. I have followed everything CZ since my first Simple Scrapbooking magazine. The classic beauty of your designs was the first thing to catch my attention, but it is your writing that keeps me in the ranks.
Thanks for being who you are and doing what you do. In my humble opinion nobody does it better. Your inspiration, instruction, motivation, entertainment and humor enrich my life.
Joanna Henriksen Bjerga says
I’m with Marilyn. You make it look so easy! Which is how I know you are really, really, really good at what you do! Also I’m super relieved that you are winging it! Yay! Just promise you never stop!
Audrey V says
Whatever you are doing is working, because your blog is one of only 3 that I read on a regular basis. I’m never disappointed. GO YOU!
Kim L says
I love this -thank you!
My writing goes something like this – write – read – reread – edit – reread and edit some more! Some days I actually wonder how I used so many words in my first draft. Yes, I can be awful wordy at times!
I have never started a blog and I keep thinking I would like to – just for me – for fun – somewhere to post my photos and ramblings, who knows maybe one day….
I’ve said it before and I’m going to say it again – I love this series that you put out there. I love your honesty and your insight and the fact that you keep it real on all aspects. That’s what keeps me coming back day after day. Oh, and make a page Monday is a definite favorite of mine because you explain the hows and whys of each design instead of just listing what products you use. Thank you for all that you put into your blog.
This was really interesting! I only blog for family (actually, I don’t think my family reads anymore, so maybe just for myself), but I revise SO many times, and often after it’s published, too! I liked hearing that you famous bloggers need to revise, too. 🙂
Abby P says
You are funny, smart, creative, and can write really well. Seriously. I wish other bloggers would take as much interest in correct word-usage, grammer, etc. It’s truly inspiring and I actually look for it. Know the stupid stuff I see on other blogs that makes me die a thousand deaths? “Alot” instead of “a lot”, “their” for “they’re”, you get the picure. My high school senior lit. teacher had a great way of making sure her class NEVER misspelled “a lot” — she took a piece of chalk on the back blackboard (yeah, BLACKBOARD) and wrote an “a”. She then proceeded to drag the chalk in a long line across THAT blackboard, onto the FRONT blackboard, and then continued onto the blackboard on the SIDE of the classroom…then she wrote “lot”. It was a great visual lesson. (I’m so hoping I didn’t miss any typos in this comment!)
Cathy Zielske says
Thanks, Abby. I will be the first to admit that as far as grammar goes, I’m not always spot on and I do have my fair share of typos, but you know… I do care. The only place I don’t care as much is on my actual layouts.
Annnnnnddddd, I just noticed I spelled grammar with an “e” – shit.
Cathy Zielske says
lol. I knew what you meant. 😉
Jenny B. says
Write what you know! I was just telling my Kindergartener this on Wednesday when his homework was to write a sentence. He wanted to write about Minecraft. He’s never played Minecraft. I tried to explain this to him, but he wouldn’t listen and insisted on writing about his made-up version of Minecraft. Oh, well… I remember my high school art teacher trying to communicate this same concept. She said something along the lines of, “If you’ve never lived near a beach or even seen a palm tree in real life, you don’t have any business trying to paint one.” I was thinking, but what if I really like palm trees? Shouldn’t I be able to paint whatever I want? Well, no. Not if you want it to be GOOD.
Thanks for sharing about your process. Your blog posts often seem like they just flow effortlessly from you. I’m glad that you’re a real person who has to think up stuff to write and then edit it over and over again to get it right. 🙂
You are a writer’s blogger!
Your tips are great and so practical, funny, informative, spot on…as is this blog. Thanks for a great read, every time!
I really want to blog but I truly don’t know how to begin. I went to blogger I think that’s what it was called and created something but I don’t know how to get it to look like I want it to look. It has all this other stuff that I don’t know how to get rid of. I give up. Any suggestions?thank you. I meant you in Birmingham, AL many years at a scrapbook convention. You were so nice. You actually walked with us to the Barnes and Noble to find the album of one of the songs that was in the presentation. I believe it was a Cyndi Lauper song. thanks again, wanda miller
Cathy Zielske says
You know, there has to be online resources for blogging and getting things to look how you like. I know back when I had a Typepad blog, I just used one of their templates and messed around with it a little bit.
I know that Elsie from A Beautiful Mess offers a course called “Blog Life 2.0” that is all about making a blog you love. You can learn more here: http://shop.abeautifulmess.com/shop/classes/blog-design-love-2-0
Cathy Zielske says
Oh man, and that scrapbook show was a LONG time ago, wasn’t it? 🙂
Kay Gregory-Clark says
Cathy, thanks so much for this blog on blogging and writing. I’ve been in a funk for a while, reading about how we shouldn’t strive for perfection—just get it down and don’t worry about typos, grammar, and spelling. That is like fingernails on that blackboard for me! So it’s good to know someone out there (and I love all these comments agreeing) still cares about such things. I always think one cannot really convey the meaning of what she is trying to say if there are mistakes. After all, language rules were invented for a reason: they help clarify the intent. So hang in there, please. I’ve given up reading some other blogs because of all the “alot” and “it’s” instead of “its” and misuse of “their” and “they’re.” Sometimes it gets darned confusing! (And now, I’m with Abby P, hoping I didn’t make some awful mistakes myself!) Keep on keeping on, Cath!
Totally hear you on winging it. When I worked as a journalist on a daily newspaper I had a weekly column and heaven knows most weeks I sat at a blank screen close to deadline. Sadly, most of my best work was done on deadline but it did nothing for my stress levels and there were times when I cringed when the column was published as how much better it could have been. I also agree on how seeing it published highlights all errors in construction! It may be an age thing but I could never review my work on screen. I had to print a hard copy to see the mistakes!