Minimal Blog Post Cycle: My Workflow
I try not to overcomplicate my writing workflows. Here’s my current creative process.
I think of myself as a pretty fast writer. But, I am slow to publicly post my blogs. To give myself more unstructured time to sit with my writing, I’m posting monthly blogs in batches, normally around a common theme.
To help get into the habit of a publishing workflow, I developed a ritualized blog writing process. I try to commit to six basic steps. The process loosely follows this order: 1) brainstorm and draft, 2) revise and refine, 3) illustrate, 4) post, 5) announce, and 6) engage.
- Brainstorm and draft your blog.
This is the fun part. The idea is where the excitement begins. This is the part where we can easily play with information, and the blog draft has immeasurable potential (Is it a blog, even? It could be a book). At this point, we decide what we want to do with a topic.
Austin Kleon recommends that writers start with paper before moving to digital platforms. He leans into the initial mess of analog ideation and drafting. These days, my ideas typically start in my physical notebooks or handwritten notes in the Goodnotes app. In any case, the ability to get “messy” with your ideas is important. The idea stage is where you want to use your hands, move information around, play with sticky notes and index cards, highlight, color, underline, etc.
Then, once you have a solid and contained idea, you draft your piece. I normally start with an outline, either drawn out by hand, mind mapped, or typed up.
- Revise and refine the content.
Revisions are not quite as fun. During revision, we start to get serious. We have to take a critical look at our writing. We criticize the prose. In doing so, we refine it, remove unnecessary text, and restructure it. This often takes considerable time. Some writers revise for a day. Others, like myself, take months, but the revision may even span years, depending on the project and external circumstances.
Revisions can feel the most draining. I question myself. What should I say? What needs to be left out? I try not to waste my readers’ time with needless minutiae, but I want to give enough context so that the message is clear and the writing, interesting.
For help with answering these questions, I often rely on my friends and my partner to read over my writing. Given that these are people in my personal life, they are far from objective, but they are not as close to the writing as I am. Because of this, their opinions will be less biased than mine.
In addition to letting others read my work as a part of the revision process, I also intentionally give myself distance from my writing. I set it aside for days, sometimes weeks, at a time. When I come back to revise, I may wonder “what was I thinking?” I rarely cancel publishing an article completely (though this does happen). Sometimes, I restructure the idea entirely. Oftentimes, I make a tweak here and there, delete extraneous text, and send it to my team of good friends for a final look. Then, after discussions with them, I get back to the fun steps.
3. Illustrate the blog: make it clear, make it attractive.
Illustrating the blog is about helping the reader to see what you want her to see. That may be strategically placing **bold** text to isolate important sections or using italics to emphasize the point that you want to make. For example, if you want to add extra stress to a word or phrase, you might italicize it.
Apart from adding emphasis to the text itself, you may also want to **add photos, drawings, diagrams, or graphs**. Hand-drawn images give a personal touch and could facilitate a deeper connection between your readers with your writing. If you aren’t a visual artist, there are many sites that provide free photos, including Unsplash and Pixabay.
Negative space, photos, and drawings give readers a visual break from text. Illustrations could help a reader reach the end of your post instead of leaving early from mental fatigue (or worse, boredom).
4. Post it publicly.
This step may be the most difficult. It’s not the technical aspects that are daunting, but the idea that something that you carefully crafted and dedicated focused time to is now going out into the world and open to criticism from whoever visits your article. Accepting that is sometimes difficult for me and perhaps for you, too.
I don’t have much of a strategy for making the posting step feel less difficult apart from adding the step to post as a part of your routine. Just like after you put toothpaste on your toothbrush, you brush your teeth — after finalizing revisions, you post your blog. It’s just something that has to happen as a critical step of the writing process. Posting your writing also helps cultivate community and shows others that it’s there, that you’re contributing too.
5. Announce that you posted a blog.
After I post my blog, I try to make it a habit to announce that I posted. Twitter is supposedly the app for writers. I tried it before, but I’m not an active Twitter user for several reasons (maybe we can chat about why later).
Reddit is the only social media platform that I’ve been able to commit to. I post my writing there in specialized subreddits. Given that Reddit has countless groups with specific interests, I can normally find a place to squeeze in a post and chat with others about the topics that I often think about.
This post, for example, will probably get posted on the “blogs” subreddit where anyone with a blog link can post about their site. It may also go to subreddits on writing, creativity, and workflows, perhaps even Craft Docs. Most of this post was first written in Craft after all.
6. Engage with other writers.
The final step of this process is to chat with other writers. To build an active community, you’ve got to read others’ work and meaningfully engage with them. Comment on other people’s stuff. Send emails. Tell them about how you felt when you read their writing. Talk to them about how their writing relates to something that you’re working on or have worked on in the past. In other words, engage with authors’ work and connect with them. And, of course, whether you’re writing to maintain a career or simply to feed your creative drive, give yourself permission to be playful and have a good time.
These steps help me to guide my blog writing process. They give me a roadmap, starting with my ideas, reflections, and engagement with others’ work. At the end of my blog writing process, the cycle repeats itself. I am constantly inspired by others’ works, spanning from books and blogs to Reddit threads. One way that I develop novel ideas is by connecting with existing ones through personal reflections.
This process is, of course, just one method of getting from the drafting stage to posting a polished piece. The steps will need to be tailored to your specific writing needs. This minimal process is still a working draft for me and will continuously evolve, but I hope that the steps may be useful as a basic blog writing framework.
- I send this sheet to my friends to help guide the review process. In Craft Docs, I share the draft with them, and they make comments to answer the questions that I outlined.
- I’m reading the Daily Rituals books by Mason Currey, and it’s really cool to learn about the different practices of artists. I recommend giving both books a read. Everyone’s creative process is different, and the books help normalize diversity within the creative space.
- I also recommend reading Austin Kleon’s books on creativity. I’ve read three of them, some multiple times!
- Connect with me on Reddit at sleepyResearcher.
- Disclaimer: I am an academic researcher (who writes a lot of scientific text), a blogger (emilyhokett.blog), and a freelance writer (who has a lot of fun!). These are the minimal steps of my current writing process (like all things, it changes). Your mileage may vary.
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